child nursing · Opinion pieces

“All you do is play with children” – A Children’s nursing stereotype

Being a children’s nurse requires diligence, passion and skill. And Play. When I told my employer that I would be leaving to go and become a children and young people nurse, I was told by one of the nurses, “All you will do is play with children”. I defended my choice, not knowing at the time how the nurse was right to a degree. Play influences a lot of the care a children’s nurse gives. We make games out of things from doing assessments in the morning to making games out of medication.

Children and Young Peoples’ nurses are not only required to be highly skilled, highly educated professionals, but also a persistent negotiator, capable of making games up on the spot and always an advocate.

As a children and young people’s nurse, we do not just watch over a child’s physical health, but their mental health and developmental health too. Play is such an important part of the role. Play is such a powerful intervention as it helps child to develop physically, emotionally and socially. Research from Sezici, Ocaki and Kadioglu (2017) determined that play helps children “lower their fear and anxiety levels, improve their communication and coping skills, and promote their self‐esteem.”

Play is an integral part of our nursing process, and we involve the entire family too, after all, part of our role as nurses is to enable and empower families to look after their children who may be chronically unwell when they go home too.

One of the biggest challenges when nursing younger children is communication, especially regarding pain. Children nurses find themselves often having to play detective, using various skills looking at reaction and ways of communicating.

An example of this is when I was back in First Year. I was on a spinal surgery and orthopaedic ward, and we had a 5-year-old girl in overnight. She kept complaining of headache and looked uncomfortable. When asked where in her head the pain was she denied any and looked slightly confused. On the ward at the time, we had some small cardboard people for a display, I brought one to her and asked her where her “headache” was, she pointed to the cardboard cut outs leg. However, as she did not understand the word “pain”, she used “headache” to describe any sort of pain. This use of a prop is a form of play. But children have an innate ability (it seems) to just “get on with it”. I have seen children fall ill very quickly, but, I have also seen children bounce back and recover quick too.

Whilst play is an integral part of children’s nursing, it does not undermine the clinical and educated side of being a Children’s Nurse. In my opinion, children’s’ nurses often use a wide range of skills which are often underappreciated and undervalued. I chose children and young peoples’ nursing as I felt like there was more to learn biologically and developmentally. I chose children and young people for the autonomy that comes with alongside it.

I chose children and young peoples’ because I enjoy the privilege, opportunity and occasionally the challenge of looking after the family to provide the best care for the child.

Dann Gooding (@DannGooding)

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