Being a Paediatric Nurse: I Wish I Knew How To Tell You…



Found this blog post and thought it was worth posting. I love my job but sometimes it’s difficult to describe how my day was. So here’s a little insight as to what it may have been like.


I wish that when asked how my day was, I knew how to give a truthful answer. I wish I could really express what a shift is like, and know I would be understood.

If I really answered truthfully, I might start off with how many times I saw a child smile. I might tell you about the tears I wiped. I could tell stories about the kids I made laugh. I could tell you about the kids I made cry.

I might tell you about the parents I consoled, reassured, encouraged.

I might tell you about the family that thanked me, and the family that pushed me away.

I might tell you how many times I grew frustrated. Or how many times I felt annoyed. I might tell you about how many times I thought my headache couldn’t get any worse.

I might tell you how I taught a new nurse, and how I learned from an old colleague.

Maybe I would tell you about the stickers I stuck, the pages I coloured, and the teddy bears I tucked into bed.

I could tell you about the call bells that rang; the IV pumps that beeped; the monitors that alarmed.

I could tell you all about the blood product reactions, the worrisome fluid balances, or the child who was fine, and then suddenly, wasn’t.

I could tell you how many gloves I put on, basins I emptied, and faces I wiped.

I could tell you about the tricks I use to sneak in an assessment on a three-year-old; the games we play so they will take their meds; and how in order to auscultate a five-year-old’s chest, I have to pretend I’m listening for monsters.

If I were to tell you what my day was like, I might tell you that my hands will always feel sticky from hand sanitizer, and no matter how much I wash, “that smell” won’t seem to go away.

I could tell you how funny it is to hear a two-year-old say “stethoscope,” and how heart breaking it is to hear a child whisper, “I just want to go home.”

I might tell you that today I heard a child’s first word. Or saw his first steps. Or watched a premie finish her first whole bottle. I might tell you about the father who fed her, who took this small victory as a sign of hope.

I might tell you how the bravest person I know is an eight-year-old. Or the happiest person I know is a two-year-old with a medical history as old as she is.

I might tell you about a moment of joy, shared with a family, a patient, a colleague.

I might tell you how many times I felt my heart break.

I can tell you about the steps I walked; the hands I held; the songs I sang to put them to sleep.

If I could really talk about how my day was, I might tell you about the decisions I made. The priorities I set. Or about my “nurse’s intuition” that told me when I should start being concerned.

I could tell you about the orders I questioned. The orders I should have questioned. The split second decision I made. The carefully calculated words I chose.

I could tell you how I fought for my patient. I could tell you how my patient fought me.

I could talk about how I taught a parent to be the nurse to their child that they never wanted to have to be.

I could tell you how that parent taught me about hope.

I could tell you about the moments of panic. The moments of empowered confidence. How smoothly our team functioned. How resourceful we can be.

I’d want to tell you about the breaths we gave; the lives we saved; the lives we couldn’t save.

I might share with you those moments when I just didn’t know what to say. Or the times I realized there was nothing I could say.

I could tell you how often we see a child and family suffering and think that maybe enough is enough. I could tell you about all the times we think that everything will never be enough.  I would struggle to tell you how hard it is to say goodbye; I’d have a harder time telling you how sometimes saying goodbye can be a relief.

I might tell you how many times I thought, “This isn’t easy.”

I could tell you about the times I feared that when I decide to have children, that they might not be healthy. I could tell you about how every time I have that thought, I wonder how my husband and I would cope – would we be like the families I meet here every day? How would we make it through?

I could tell you how hard it is to be a paediatric nurse. I could tell you how rewarding it is. I could tell you how I know I probably won’t spend my career at the bedside, but how much I know I’ll miss the bedside when I finally walk away.

I could talk about these things, if I thought I might be understood. Instead, I’ll say, “It was good,” with a smile; “I’m tired,” with a yawn.

At the end of the day, being a nurse is one of the hardest things I’ve ever chosen to do. It challenges me. It inspires me. It exhausts me. It empowers me.  I love it.

So it may sound cliché, but when I’m tired and worn, I try to remember these things. And I try to gather the strength and bravery of that eight-year-old, and the happiness of that two-year-old; and maybe next time, when someone asks, “How was your day?” – I’ll smile, and yawn, and say, “It was… Indescribable.”

by Jaqueline Hanley (RN)


About beautyforashes91

Not really very good with the whole blogging thing or introductions but here goes... I'm Becca. I'm a paediatric nurse who loves her job. I love Jesus and continually learn new things about how awesome He is. I have some amazing friends and family who help me along the way. I love music but don't play any instruments (I really need to learn!) When you first meet me I can come across as quiet but once you get to know me you wonder how you ever thought that about me. I'm sure there's loads more that I could say but I think I'll leave it at that for now. So enjoy my ramblings. I hope you find them interesting. :-)

20 responses »

  1. Hi!

    I’m the RN who wrote the piece you quoted in your blog. I’m so happy you found my writing on Facebook – it sure did spread quickly! I’m glad my words have had a special meaning to you, too 🙂

    I would, very kindly, request, however, that you quote me in your blog. This piece is currently being considered for publishing in and on some official newsletters, blogs, and journals, and I’d ask that my name remain attached to it wherever it ends up, as I retain full copy right privileges.

    Thanks again for sharing!

    Happy Nursing,

    Jacqueline Hanley

    • TO: Jacqueline Hanley RN Thank you so much for your kind honesty. I am the proud mother of a new nurse (24 yrs old) who just completed her first year in Peds Emergency. I cried while reading this, and thought of all the life skills my daughter practices every day, and of the genuine joy and sorrow she experiences. So many times, she shares her day with me, and with exhaustion, concern, guilt, and tears, closes a page. I want to scoop her up, and save her. But her happiness and courage continues to shine through…For this I am thankful. Carefree days are so much more appreciated, as she is fast forwarded. Older and wiser, she continues on. I love her, and you, for sharing your world with us!

  2. Thank you….I have a daughter who is a pediatric nurse at Children’s Hospital in Seattle, WA….and everything you stated is so very true. These little ones are so precious. It breaks your heart when they are sick, need injections, IVs, surgery, X-rays, etc, but it makes your heart sing when one or all of these procedures can bring these children home to their families.

  3. I am also a pediatric nurse, but not in a hospital, not on a unit and not with other nurses to support what I do. I am a hospice nurse and care for very ill and dying children in their homes. We, SW, chaplains and this nurse make it our mission and goal to walk closely with these families through the most unnatural circumstance, the death of a child. I have always taken away more from these families and kids than I ever give. I never wanted to be the nurse to care for dying children, but I guess God had another plan for me. Interestingly, I was a labor and delivery nurse prior to this and also had the privilege of working at a Shriners hospital. Now how in the world would that lead one to hospice nursing? Strange how similar the two most profound events of a persons life are so similar. It comes to everyone, unprepared as you may be. It is sometimes painful, taking a long time. There may be many around you to support, or you may be by yourself, but in the end one celebrates the beginning and the other endures the end. The labor room is full of energy, encouragement a of ” you can do this”! The other quiet, with loved ones whispering their love, giving their permission to leave with a reassurance that “we will be alright”. There have been many nights I call my husband to tell him to hold dinner, I am with a family and their child has died. I will cry on the phone as he listens, says it is okay and will keep dinner warm. I dry my tears and attends to the family and what they need. I do let them see that I am grieving with them, but i am needed to be supportive and calm, I will cry in the car on my way some and when someone asks how was your day , I will reply ” it was okay, it had its moments,” .because people don’t really want to know. I am honored and humbled that I was invited into a time of extreme pain and watched as silent and invisible angels minister and carry them through

    • I too, am a hospice nurse, but for the adult community. I am in awe of all that you do for the kids. It’s hard to see the parents of the children die and watch as the parent that is left try to explain it to them that “daddy (or mommy) is in heaven. All of us nurses, no matter the discipline, walk in the steps of God with his arms around us so we can do his work. Keep doing the good stuff you do, but remember to take care of yourself!!

    • Mary, I am a doctorally-prepared nurse educator with a passion for theory and research. However, I also am a pediatric nurse… and I must tell you how much I admire you and the role you play as a pediatric hospice nurse. You have experienced with families the beginning and end of life and both experiences are precious and spiritual for you, the patients, and families. I believe there are angels present at both events, unseen but nevertheless real and present. I believe you have a special, God-given purpose… an honor, actually, in both events. I pray you continue your purpose and know each day that you are special and oh so needed. May God richly bless you and make His presence known to you and through you each day.

      Warm regards and utmost admiration,

      Jo Ellen

  4. I am the Mother of a child who has spent the better part of six years in a hospital for Sick Children. I am a Mother who is so incredibly thankful every day for the nurses like you who mostly love the children they work with. I am a mother who is eternally grateful for nurses like you, with your dedication and compassion which is observable as you care for my child. I am a Mom who feels blessed to have nurses like you to care and support my child. I am a Mom who is filled with gratitude for everything that nurses like you do. “Thank You”

  5. That was the best blog I have ever read, brought a smile to my face, tears to my eyes, a lump in my throat, warmth to my heart. Best of all a proud appreciation for my daughter a NICU / PACU nurse and her colleagues everywhere.

  6. That by far was one of the most touching blogs I have ever read. Every sentence was as though I’ve heard it myself from my own daughter who is a Pediatric Intensive Care Nurse at the Janet Weiss Children’s Hospital in Danville, PA. She is forever telling her father and I how much that she loves her job. She has touched the lives of so many children and their families, through the triumphs and the tragedies of illness. She has grown, become older, wiser, but within it all continues to have a passion for her ability to make a difference in a child’s life and a parents heart. We as her parents have a proud admiration for this child of ours who as chosen this profession of a PACU Nurse. God has blessed her with compassion, love, knowledge and strength. She chose to use those qualities to impact a child’s life.

  7. My granddaughter, Keilah, is a PICU nurse at the Children’s Hospital in Macon, Georgia. She loves the children she cares for, and they love her.She is a Christian and loves Jesus. Her compassion and love for sick children is amazing. She’s a special young woman..Barbara Wynn

  8. My granddaughter Lauren is also a PICU nurse at Vanderbilt hospital in Nashville, TN. She too loves her job and the children she cares for. I hear happy stories and sad stories from her and some break my heart but in this profession there’s not always a happy ending. We are so proud of her and so happy she chose this field. Thank you Jacqueline for this wonderful article. Lauren forwarded it to us because she enjoyed it so.
    Jerry Hobson

  9. Having been a Pediatric nurse for over 30 years n a career that spans the NICU, PICU, and now the outpatient world, I have felt each of these feelings at one time or another. Thank you for expressing so eloquently the range of experiences we share.

  10. I am a parent of a disabled child who stopped breathing as I took into the hospital when he was ten days old. This peice touched my heart and made me think about all those wonderful people who saved my sons life, He is now a happy 10 yr old boy who happens to have downs syndrome. He touches the hearts of everyone he meets and although he cannot talk makes even the saddest stranger smile indulgently at him. People like you made this happen, you save my boy, you gave me hope for the future and through my son touched the lives of so many more. So through you I wanted to say Thank You. Two very small words which mean everything

    • Thank you all so much for the kind words. These words have made tough times easier for my daughter, who is a Peds ER R.N. completing her second year! Making lives easier, by sharing her spirit with folks like you, will help her remember WHY she is doing what she was meant to do!

  11. My daughter is also a PICU nurse at the U of R Galisano Hosp. She also shares her experiences with me when I ask her how her day was. I’m often in tears as she desribes her day. I am so very proud and thankful to God that she is my daughter and that she cares for so many. It takes a special person to do what nurses, doctors and medical personnel do every day. It puts into perspective when I think I’m having a “bad day at work”. Not even close. Thank you all for sharing your thoughts with us and thank you Jacqueline Hanley.

  12. Wow, you captured everything I have always wanted to say about my 38 year career as a pediatric nurse. Thank you so much for sharing this very memorable piece. I agree, it is impossible to answer the question “how was your day” unless you have been there, done that.

  13. From Dr. Ron, pediatric nurses are angels from heaven; so many happys, and so many sads. God bless those of you who are strong enough to love your work and may you feel very special. I am so proud of my granddaughter, Kaylin,. May you have a long and happy future full of love.

  14. Pingback: Being a Paediatric Nurse: I Wish I Knew How To Tell You… – Gleams of Sunshine

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