Case study

Paediatric nurse — Ewout Van Sabben

Ewout studied children's nursing at the University of West London. He now works as a paediatric nurse at Gloucestershire Royal Hospital

How did you get your job?

During my children's nursing degree I got to know many nurses in leadership roles via social media. I reached out to one of them with a question about my future career; he responded and then invited me to come for a tour of Gloucestershire Royal Hospital. I spent two hours walking round the wards, meeting many of the healthcare professionals who work there.

I was thoroughly impressed so I decided to apply for a job at the hospital. I went for an interview and that same day was offered a position as a staff nurse on the paediatric ward.

What's a typical day like as a children's nurse?

There isn't a typical day as a children's nurse, which makes it a really exciting career. Every day you are interacting with different patients with a range of conditions or problems.

What do you enjoy about your job?

It's got to be the impact that you have on your patients and their families and the relationships you build with them. Seeing a child leave your care in a better situation than when they came in and with a smile on their face is the most amazing thing.

During one of my work placements at university there was a child who was particularly distressed, and their parent was also struggling. To be able to go into that situation and help calm the child down and assure the parent that everything was ok was incredible. You really get to witness the positive impact that nurses have on patients and their loved ones.

What are the challenges?

It's hard to remember all necessary information and at times this can be overwhelming, but remember that this feeling is allowed. It's ok for you to learn, and re-learn skills. Asking questions is welcomed and no-one is out to fail you when they ask you a question and you don't know the answer. No one is expecting you to be a super nurse. First, you're allowed to be a student nurse.

In what way is your degree relevant?

Every part of my degree was designed to help me step into the world of work. University hours were a combination of interactive lectures and time spent honing practical skills in the simulation centre with a patient simulator mannequin. This is a great part of the course, which enables you to reapply the knowledge and experience gained in lectures and on placement.

I completed eight different placements in the NHS and private hospitals and every day was exciting. On placement you'll spend time working with, and learning from, a range of healthcare professionals from doctors and nurse to directors and healthcare assistants. Everyone looks after you and it's all about working as part of a team.

Placement assignments develop as you progress through the course and you'll go from observing and shadowing your mentor right through to taking control. The mentors were great and were always willing to show me things and support my learning. They were such a great resource and were so approachable when it came to answering any questions I had.

How has your role developed?

I am set to begin my preceptorship programme, which is a mentorship programme put into place to make the transition from university to work that much easier. I'm really looking forward to this and it's a great way to kick start your career.

Nursing isn't just what you see on TV. There are so many different opportunities to explore and so many different specialisms that you can go into, you can really make your career whatever you want it to be.

When you apply to university, you choose between adult nursing, children's nursing, mental health nursing or learning disability nursing. Later on, you can progress to be a researcher or a management or clinical leader.

How do I become a children's nurse?

  • I would encourage people to go to as many university open days as possible to explore all the different types of nursing that are out there. There are more opportunities than people realise. It's useful to learn about career progression and get a sense of what kind of nursing you'd like to do - with so many different areas there's bound to be something for everyone.
  • To find out if nursing is for you volunteer in a hospital or through charities affiliated with a healthcare community. Through this experience you can gain knowledge of caring for different kinds of people and discover what interests you. There are also plenty of elective placements that you can do at secondary school in one of the local hospital trusts, GP services and other affiliated healthcare providers such as residential care homes.

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