Donna from the Paediatric Infant Perinatal Emergency Retrieval (PIPER) service tells us about her role and her favourite memory since starting at the RCH.
What makes your ward and the patients you care for different from other wards?
Paediatric Infant Perinatal Emergency Retrieval (PIPER) service is a statewide retrieval service. We cover all Victorian hospitals by providing consultation advice, stabilisation and transport of extremely sick patients from 23 weeks’ gestation to 16 years old who are out of the scope of the ambulance service. We also provide consultation advice for in utero transfers and trauma calls. We have specialty consultants who provide the advice to the referring hospital and for the team undertaking the retrieval. Teams consist of specially trained neonatal or paediatric intensive care nurses and doctors who travel to patients by road ambulance, plane or helicopter to stabilise the patients and bring them back for intensive care at one of Melbourne’s four tertiary Hospitals.
We also have a return service for neonates where a team of nurses transport patients from the tertiary Newborn Intensive Care Unit’s in Melbourne back to hospitals closer to home.
We also assist when required for interstate and international retrievals. Darwin being our most visited interstate destination, along with overseas destinations such as Fiji, Bali, Nauru, Vietnam, and even India.
Tell us about your RCH journey. When you joined, the roles you’ve held here.
I joined RCH when it was at the old campus and worked part time in the neonatal unit (NNU) and part time in the newborn emergency transport service (NETS – now known as PIPER) as a retrieval nurse. From there I have held roles as an Associate Unit Manager (AUM) and Care coordinator on Butterfly (RCH’s newborn intensive care unit) before becoming the Nurse Unit Manager (NUM) of Butterfly. I agreed to a secondment from the Butterfly NUM role back to PIPER as NUM for 12 months, and this is where I have stayed since.
Talk us through what a typical day looks like.
There are no typical days in this job. Every day is different and sets us new challenges and complex decision-making around logistics. Today, for example, started off slow for the first few hours and then multiple calls started coming in. The weather added complications, grounding flights and flooding roads. We had referrals coming in from Bendigo, Ballarat, Sunshine and St Vincent’s – all with competing complexity, which we prioritise for urgency. Currently, we have four teams out undertaking emergency retrieval and two teams out clearing tertiary beds (returns service) they are moving babies to Shepparton, Mitcham, Dandenong and Casey. Just another day like yesterday. This is what we love about the job. You never know what you will be doing or where you will end up.
What is the most rewarding thing about your current role?
The complexity and variety of the role is challenging and knowing you have been able to assist a family in keeping their baby or child alive or improving the outcome is rewarding. We have a great team and they all bring an amazing skillset to an ever-moving ever-challenging environment. Taking intensive care to the patient is never easy and caring for a patient in a moving vehicle or aircraft keeps us on our toes.
What is your favourite RCH memory or achievement?
Bringing a baby with an extremely complex condition down from Darwin on a form of ventilation (High Frequency Oscillation Ventilation) that was new in retrieval. We had not done this before, and there was a lot of planning and complex decisions around the retrieval leg, such as team configuration and how much gas supply we would consume and need to carry on the aircraft. It might seem simple, but you can’t afford to get it wrong. It was a long retrieval, but we got the patient to RCH safely. And then to see him go home smiling and feeding, and his parents be so grateful always makes it worth it.
In five words, tell us what you love you about your work?
Making a difference to all patients.
How do you relax after a long shift?
Catch up with friends and enjoying a nice dinner out – with a wine, of course.
If you weren’t a nurse, what would you be doing instead?
Would love to do a travel show and travel the world exploring new places and cultures.
What attracted you to working at the RCH?
There is only one retrieval service for babies and children in Victoria, and it is based at the RCH