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  • 10 April 2019
  • 17 min read

Children's nursing and working abroad - a Q&A with Grace

  • Grace Barry
    Paediatric Critical Care Nurse

In this Q&A, Grace answers your questions about working as a children's nurse and working abroad in Australia!

Play video: Grace answers your questions about working as a children's nurse and about taking a career break to go travelling.

Hello and welcome!

In this vlog we are going to do a nursing Q&A, and I'm going to talk to you about taking a career break, working 12-hour shifts, becoming a children's nurse and so many other topics.

This Q&A is from my Instagram, which is @gracemariebarry - thank you all so much for your questions!

It's been a while since I've done a nursing video; if you're new here, my name is Grace, I am a UK paediatric nurse.

I have been backpacking in Asia for six months and I have arrived this week in Australia in Melbourne, and I am now looking for a job as a nurse here in Australia.

This blog is sponsored by the lovely people at Nurses.co.uk. Their website offers thousands of jobs within nursing in the UK, so if you are looking for a job within nursing or you're graduating soon go and check out their website with the link in the description box below.

You can upload your CV there and find your dream job, so go and join the Nurses.co.uk.

So, let's get right into the Q&A and all the questions that you have to ask me!

Advice on starting children’s nursing at uni

So my first question is from Jess, and she asked ‘any advice for starting children's nursing at uni?’

I would say if you're starting children's nursing at uni, try not to stress too much about reading tons of textbooks and watching loads of videos online about nursing.

Once you get there and you dive into the program and your placements you'll really find that nothing can really prepare you for the practical side of being a nurse and being a student.

So try not to stress too much about cramming loads of information into your head because as soon as you start your degree that's all they all want to do!

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A day in the life of a children's nurse

Focus on making some nice friends at uni because you all tend to have a similar caring personality.

When you're all training to be a nurse together you can make some good friends for life there and support each other.

When you get to uni, my biggest piece of advice, which I did follow most of the time, was to start your assignments as early as you possibly can, especially in the third year when you come to your dissertation.

Start it as early as you possibly can and just chip away at little bits, even if you just do half an hour a day.

It doesn't seem like a lot but when you get your first assignment, if you chip away every day it never seems as stressful and you don't have to cram the work in.

If you do want to do anything to prepare yourself for going into nursing then I would suggest just reading about or watching YouTube videos on basic topics, like taking a patient observation, how to check their vital signs, read the Nursing and Midwifery Council code because that is what you will be accountable to when you qualify, and as a student nurse as well your code of conduct and professionalism, and maybe have a little bit of a read about good communication.

Also, sepsis; I think sepsis is one of the most important things that you can read about if you're going into children's nursing because it's always in the media, it's always important and it's always going to be around sadly, and children can deteriorate very quickly when they suffer from sepsis.

So read about patient observations, sepsis, the NMC code and your communication skills, and good luck Jess!

Play video: Grace shares her advice on how to get into nursing school.

Did I miss being a children’s nurse while travelling?

The next question is from Nat, and she asked if I have missed work while I've been travelling.

Yes, I have really missed work and I've missed being a nurse.

I'm so hopeful that I'm going to be able to get some work here and I am going through the process of getting my application together, all my paperwork to go to the Nursing Board here in Australia so I will make a video for you on the process of how that is going.

I really miss my children's nurse job and I obviously really miss my colleagues as well, they are my friends and they become a family really quickly when you work shifts together.

So yeah I definitely, definitely miss work and I miss getting paid!

Read more

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What made you want to become a children's nurse?

Next question is from Milly, and she asked ‘what made you decide nursing was the career for you, especially with children?’.

I’ve always wanted to work with children and I couldn't really put my finger on it.

I didn't really want to be a teacher and I found out that my grandma was a nurse during the war.

It just kind of felt like it fitted to me to be a children's nurse.

I did work experience at a primary school with children and I so loved working with the children but I have also always enjoyed studying biology and PE.

I find the body really fascinating and I just felt like being a children's nurse kind of married the two of working with children and caring for them but also learning about the body and how we can try and hopefully try and fix things for children, and from there it just stuck for me.

That was something that was really pulling me towards being a children's nurse.

I was even thinking of doing physiotherapy for a while - I wasn't one of those children that was you know wearing a nurse costume when they were like three years old and using a little fake stethoscope on my friends, it was kind of something that came to me in my late teens that I felt like I really wanted to be a children's nurse.

For more on why I decided to work as a children's nurse, read my blog - why I decided to become a children's nurse.

Play video: Grace talks about how and why she became a children's nurse!

How do you take time off to travel in the NHS?

My next question is around my travelling and taking time away from work.

I'm not sure of this lady's name, I think it’s Lunesie? She asks ‘how can you take time off to travel in the NHS, can you do it after working the two-year bursary?’.

So when I trained and qualified there was no restriction for me to stay within the NHS at all, however, I wanted to work at least two or three years to gain experience and if we were going to come to Australia then quite often they like for you to have two years experience anyway so that fitted in really nicely. I did just over three years before we came away.

As far as I'm aware it's a lot easier to obtain a career break within the NHS in England than it is in Wales because there is more funding within the English NHS system, but people that I've spoken to who've worked in English/Scottish/Irish NHS healthcare have said that they were able to take a career break.

I did actually apply for a career break and I wasn't granted it.

I asked for eight months because initially, I thought maybe we would just go backpacking.

I can understand that probably the reason my career break wasn't granted was that I'm a specialist PICU nurse and it's not very easy to slot someone into PICU with that skill set for just eight months, so I could fully understand that.

Then we decided that we were going to come to Australia to work so it kind of didn't really matter.

But I think if you speak to your employer they will more likely than not consider a career break for you and I know a lot of places you're sort of granted or entitled a certain amount of unpaid leave or career break after you've been there between two and five years anyway.

So if you would like to take a career break don't hesitate to ask your manager, to speak to them and explain what it would bring to you and what you would bring back to the company after you have had a couple of months or six months off work, or even a year.

Don't be scared to take a leap of faith and leave work for a little bit and go and work somewhere else if you want to or need to, as long as you don't have huge responsibilities and children rely on you then I feel like, especially in your 20s, it's a great time to go and explore something else and try and get a job somewhere else or in a different speciality.

Don't be scared to do it!

I did not take a career break, I will probably be here in Australia for the next year or two depending on how the first year goes.

Play video: follow Grace around her day as a children's nurse!

How did you adjust to the 12 and a half hour shifts?

My next question is about shift work from Meg - hey Meg! She asked ‘how did you adjust to the 12 and a half hour shifts? I'm really struggling to adjust to them’.

I completely understand, 12-hour shifts are exhausting.

You do adjust over time, I think it can take it can take a good few weeks or even months to get into the routine.

I think the most important thing is to focus on looking after yourself in those first few months as you adjust to working shifts.

Making sure that you get enough sleep, and I know it's easier said than done but try not to eat loads of junk eat some good food that's going to give you energy.

I always find that if I can’t get to the gym I will do a home workout, that also gives me more energy.

There are other avenues within nursing if you are still finding that shift work is such a struggle when you finish your training.

You could always opt for maybe a clinic job, school nursing, day surgery - there's plenty of options.

You don't have to do 12-hour shifts but 12-hour shifts are pretty routine within healthcare.

So that would be my advice to kind of focus and look after yourself and know that most of the time it gets better, and you adjust to the shift pattern and things get a bit less tiring.

Your body just kind of gets used to it.

I find that because I've worked night shifts on and off for like six years now I don't really tend to get that jet-lagged but I do really like my sleep; my boyfriend calls me the nap queen!

Is nursing still your dream job?

My next two questions are from Orla, and she asked first of all ‘is nursing still your dream job?’

It definitely is, I have completed my PIC course now to be a paediatric intensive care specially qualified nurse for that area.

It’s still my dream job, I can't wait to get back to it.

My future career goals are to eventually do the advanced nurse practitioner course because I just don't see myself as a manager and I really like working clinically.

So for now, just get back hopefully to what I love doing and yes it's still my dream job but I'm really enjoying doing youtube along the side of it and also talking about nursing and talking to all of you about your experiences and your training and live that.

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How many 12-hour shifts do you work in a week?

Her other question is ‘how many 12-hour shifts a week do you work?’

So this can entirely depend on where you are, but for me my shift pattern was three twelve and a half hour shifts a week.

You can get contracted 37.5 hours a week which is a full-time contract, or you can do 36 hours a week.

So the 37 and a half you have to do a ‘makeup hours shift’, well you did where I was working.

Once every two months, you would do an extra twelve and a half hours to make up your hours and I was finding that really tiring.

I didn't have a mortgage application or anything like that riding on it, so I dropped that one shift and took my contract down to 36 hours and I would just work three twelve and a half hour shifts a week, be it days or nights.

So the answer to your question is, I was working three twelve and a half hour shifts a week and doing overtime when it suited me or when I needed the money or when the unit was really busy and needed help.

Read how I survive my 12-hour shifts for more information on this!

What is an average day for a children’s nurse like?

This might be one of the final questions and this is from Soph, and she asked ‘can you give the average day in the life of a children’s nurse, if there is one?’

Well if I'm on a day shift, the night before I would get my food and my bag ready, I would hang my uniform and get my clothes out, my ID badge and have everything ready to go so in the morning I just needed to take a shower and head to work.

I'm not really an early breakfast person and I used to practice intermittent fasting, so I wouldn't have my breakfast until at least 10 or 11 a.m. at work.

So I would get up at roughly 5:45 a.m. because I lived really close to work.

I would have a shower and get ready for work and then hop in the car.

I would park my car about 6:30 a.m./6:45 a.m. and be in work for a 7 a.m. start.

Then at 7 a.m. we would go into handover, you would see who you're working with for the day and have a handover of all the patients on the unit, a safety briefing of anything that was happening on the unit.

As a critical care nurse I would be allocated either one or two patients and then I would go out onto the unit, get my hand over, get everything set up for the day, meet my patient on their parent and then from there it's quite different.

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What does a registered nurse do?

In the ward, when I was working on the ward, I would make a list of my patients, go into theatres when they needed their drugs and their IVs when they needed ops and if there was anything that urgently needed doing, any phone calls that needed making on ICU I would start my chart, so I would chart my patients observations.

I would check them do an ABCDE observation of my patient, have a chat with them if they were awake or if they were asleep check their airway, do my bed space safety check so make sure that you have your airway oxygen etc and get set up for the day.

Then I would do any work that was needed, any drugs and have breakfast anywhere between 10 and 12 on a normal day, occasionally if it's too busy we were talking a bit later, but normally I would get breakfast about 10:30, and that was my favourite time to go for breakfast, and then come back and give patient care as and when I’m needed.

I think it just all depends on what's wrong with your patient really.

Then I would have lunch around roughly three o'clock, get ready for handover and write my notes after lunch at this point if I have enough time, and then we would have handover at 7 p.m. and hopefully go home at 7:30.

You leave work late quite a lot depending on where you work. I definitely do quite a lot.

That would be my typical day.

You might take a patient to theatre, you might take them to scan, you might have an admission, you might have a patient deteriorate and they move from HTU to ITU, or a patient that gets better and they go from ITU to HTU.

So many things!

Play video: here's Grace's advice on how to ace your interview for children's nursing!

Interview advice for children’s nursing?

The next question is from Leanne, and she said ‘I have got two interviews next week for child nursing, any advice?’

Congratulations, you've probably had those interviews by now, sorry!

But my advice for the interview would be, if you get to pick do the interview that you don't want as much first to relieve your anxiety a little bit, and then you know what to expect for the interview that you really want and you've put a bit more pressure on yourself maybe.

Try and be yourself, wear what you feel comfortable in, if you have a group interview make sure that you're enthusiastic and engaged.

I know when I went for a group interview, the more that I engaged with the young people that were at my group interview the more marks that I've seemed to get.

I'm quite a chatty person anyway as you can tell (!) so that was quite easy for me.

Make sure that you have looked at the University page online all about your course because I completely messed up my Cardiff interview.

I didn't know anything really about the course so by the time I got to my Bristol interview I was much more clued up on what we were going to be doing, and when they asked me about the course and why I wanted to do it I had much more in-depth answers.

Preparing the night before, that is something that always makes me feel the least anxious.

Know where you're going, know what you're wearing, wash your hair the night before so you just feel clean and fresh and ready to go.

Accommodation recommendations in Bristol?

The final question is from Leah - ‘where is the best place to look for accommodation in Bristol for uni, any recommendations?’

So if you're not going to stay in halls at Bristol UE or if you're at Bristol, I would say go as a student for somewhere cheap with good transport links.

So when I was a student I stayed just on the outskirts of Fish Ponds, and they had a university bus that would take you into town for free or for very cheap.

The transport links were really good and it was still like a cheap area because it was kind of a student's area.

I don't know Bristol extremely well despite having studied there for three years, so I would say you have a little look at Fish Ponds because it's a good student area and also have a look at the area around Blackberry Hill, anywhere around the smaller UE campus which is Glenside, because it's going to be cheaper but it's going to be easier to get to the big campus.

Equally, if you're in Bristol University in the centre of town you can still get into town easily on a bus.

Thank you so much for all your questions, and don't forget to go and leave your CV at Nurses.co.uk linked in the description box below.

Comment any other questions that you have below or if you're interested in working abroad or any of the topics that I have discussed, then leave me a comment and I will reply to you, or give me a DM on Instagram and we can have a little chat about nursing!

I always love hearing from you, I really hope you find it useful with me answering some of your questions.

I love you guys and I'll see you in the next vlog, bye!

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  • Grace Barry
    Paediatric Critical Care Nurse

About the author

  • Grace Barry
    Paediatric Critical Care Nurse

My passion within nursing has always been in critical care and helping teach others since qualifying in 2015. I create YouTube content for nurses and aspiring nurses to provide education with a healthy twist.