Meet our Nurses: Kookaburra

Alice (L) and Lauren (R) are nurses on Kookaburra Ward.

Up on the ‘forest’ level of the RCH you’ll find Kookaburra; our cancer care ward. Kookaburra is part of the RCH’s Children’s Cancer Centre – the largest partner in the Victorian Paediatric Integrated Cancer Services, and the only provider of complex children’s cancer care and stem cell transplantation in Victoria.

Nurses Alice and Lauren told us what it’s like to care for children and young people who are being treated for cancer.

Can you tell me about the type of patients you care for on Kookaburra?

Lauren: On Kookaburra we primarily care for children with cancer at diagnosis and throughout their treatment journey. Our patients come to the ward for chemotherapy and to manage the complex side effects of their treatment. An important part of Kookaburra ward is the Bone Marrow Transplant suite. Here we give bone marrow transplants to children with serious conditions of an oncology, haematology or immunology background. These children stay with us on Kookaburra, in isolation, for a minimum of four to six weeks; it’s an immensely challenging time for the patient and their family and we do our very best to support them during their treatment.

What makes Kookaburra unique from other wards?

Lauren: Kookaburra is busy! It’s a rare sight to see a Kookaburra nurse sitting down! You also might see a ‘smurf’ or two roaming around the ward, as we dress in big blue gowns to give chemotherapy.

Alice: Kookaburra is unique for the use of complex chemotherapy protocols, clinical trials and The Stem Cell Transplant unit.

What attracted you to working at the RCH?

Lauren: I grew up watching the Good Friday Appeal every Easter on TV and have always admired the work of the hospital. I love children and when I decided to be a nurse I knew I wanted to pursue paediatrics. I was ecstatic when I was accepted into the RCH Graduate Nurse Program. I wanted to work in a field that challenged me, and Kookaburra certainly does that!

Alice: I wanted to work at the RCH because I wanted to work in paediatrics and felt I would gain the best experience working at the RCH.

Why did you get into nursing?

Lauren: My Nanna inspired me to be a nurse. She always wanted to be a nurse but that dream was put on hold when the Second World War broke out and she instead went to work making silk parachutes for the soldiers. She was a wonderfully compassionate woman, always helping those in need in her community.

Alice: I applied to do nursing because I had two friends who had already started their university degrees in nursing. I was really interested in their stories from placements and they inspired me to start my nursing career.

What’s the most rewarding thing about your role?

Lauren: The relationships formed with the families on Kookaburra. A cancer diagnosis can be absolutely devastating. The treatment journey can be paved with fear, challenges, setbacks, exhaustion, guilt and stress. Behind every superstar patient with cancer is a superstar family. As oncology nurses we are in a privileged position to share in their highs and lows, to laugh and chat during the good times, and cry during the not-so-good times. When a parent genuinely thanks you for doing something, whether it be big or small for their child, it’s the best feeling in the world. To know you truly made a difference is magic.

Alice: Seeing patients finish their cancer treatment and transition back into what life was like before their cancer journey started is extremely rewarding. I also love working as part of the Kookaburra team, I get to work alongside some amazing people who inspire me every shift.

Is there a particular patient you’ve cared for who stands out for you?

Lauren: Every patient is a champion. One particular little girl who we will always remember, wise beyond her years, taught us about togetherness and to “make everybody feel like somebody”.

Alice: I am always blown away by the patients and their families who adapt to living with cancer so well. The kids quickly learn how to take medications and have procedures without a fuss. I also watch parents coordinate providing care for the child in hospital and managing their other children at home. I see siblings say goodbye to their mother for another week and leave with whoever is looking after them at home, accepting that mum needs to stay to take care of the child with cancer. Cancer doesn’t only affect the child diagnosed, it puts an emotional and physical strain on the whole family.

How do you relax after a long shift?

Lauren: I relax with a cup of tea and Netflix, and let’s be honest- chocolate. Or a long chat with a fellow Kookaburra.

Alice: Exercise is how I relax and wind down after a long shift.

If you weren’t a nurse, what would you be doing instead?!

Lauren: That’s a tough question! My eight year-old-self would definitely say I’d be a marine biologist because I’ve always loved whales. I briefly studied law before I switched to nursing, but that definitely wasn’t for me. Maybe a barista… because as nurses we all know coffee is life.

Alice: A lifeguard or a florist.

9 comments for “Meet our Nurses: Kookaburra”

  1. Gayle Payne (Lexi's Nannie

    All the STAFF on Kookaburra ward even the cleaners are very special people. Lexi was diagnosed with ALL on July 16th and flown down to children’s hospital from Warrnambool and has spent a lot of time on the ward. They are such caring people, even the cleaners and go out of their way to make everything as comfortable as it can be for the patient and family members, ( even Nannie). When you return after being out for a while you are always greeted with a big warm welcome back. Over the time we have met some lovely families and will be life long friends. I know they made our stay very comfortable. ❤️ ‍ ‍

    Reply
  2. Simone Lovell

    Kookaburra nurses are amazing. Every single one of them, including the very caring, kind and responsive outlier kooka nurses. We are so grateful for all the hard and challenging work the kookaburra nurses do with a smile on their faces. It is very much appreciated ❤️❤️

    Reply
  3. Blake Flynn

    I like all the nurses on kookaburra. They cared for me. My favourites were Ellie, Elly and Hannah (sugar glider before I got to kookaburra.)
    Love Blake Flynn

    Reply
  4. Danielle Anstee

    Our daughter Minni was a patient on the kookaburra ward for many many many months into years – her hospital room was her home.! & as difficult as it was the nurses / doctors & all other staff made our time on the ward pleasant/enjoyable & they loved our daughter ‘Minni’ like there own , Minni unfortunately passed away in 2013, but we still hold all the kookaburra team very close to our hearts alongside Minni xx

    Reply
  5. Lisa Johnston

    When our son Mitchell was diagnosed with ALL in 2012, our lives were turned upside down, but the beautiful nurses on the Kookaburra ward were always so supportive and caring. Mitch has now finished treatment, but we sometimes pop into Kookaburra to say hello. Mitch and I were always happy when Grace A, Clarisse and Lee were on the ward, but all nurses gave him amazing care. Thank you for all you do!

    Reply
  6. Kylie Chapman

    These nurses are absolutely amazing! Thank you to all the kookaburra nurses for helping make our treatment time more bearable! Zac and I have so much fun with you guys! It takes a special person to be a onc nurse! Thank you

    Reply
  7. Leesa Scorgie

    Kookaburra nurses are absolutely amazing. Our daughter Kate was diagnosed with (ALL) back in March 2017, Kate had a rough start and nothing was ever too much trouble for them. Loving, kind and would even stay back when their shift had finished to make sure Kate was ok. We can’t thank you enough xx

    Reply
  8. Alice Austen

    The nurses in kookaburra are truly amazing. We will NEVER forget them as they helped us deal with with all the challenges of having a grandchild with leukaemia in 2015 and being so far from our home .What a great team!

    Reply
  9. Declan McAllister

    Hello Alice and Lauren my favourite Cancer care nurses the staff at RCH Are very friendly.

    Reply

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