Champions for Children: Celebrating Perioperative Nurses Week

As we wrap up another year of Perioperative Nurses Week, we chat to three members of our RCH team who cover the different areas of perioperative nursing, Jacqueline Riccioni, Lucy James and Karen Scott, to find out more about their roles at the hospital.

Jacqueline Riccioni

Can you tell me a bit about your role and your team?

I am a recovery nurse within the RCH peri-operative unit! Our role as recovery nurses is to provide post-anaesthetic care for children who require surgery ranging from neonates all the way to adolescents.

It is an acute care and highly specialised area involving the care of often unconscious patients with a wide range of co-morbidities. Recovery nurses have a sound knowledge of various anaesthesia, muscle relaxants, reversing agents and the stages of sedation. As a result, a large part of our role involves airway management and ensuring the airway remains patient until the patient is conscious and their protective reflexes have returned. Another big part of our role is pain management.

Distinguishing between pain, hunger, anxiety and anaesthetic emergence is our domain. We’ve learnt that an episode of Bluey, the song let it go and ice cream all make for excellent pain relief and distraction tools. Other components of our role include post-operative nausea and vomiting management as well as addressing any post-operative surgical requirements. We also give very good cuddles while we wait for mum and dad to arrive! Ultimately, we ensure patients are as stable and as comfortable as possible before discharging to their post-operative destination.

How did you get into perioperative nursing and what do you enjoy most about it?

I very was fortunate to receive a graduate nursing position within the perioperative department at the start of 2020 which included six-month rotations in both recovery and theatre. Previous to my time at RCH, I had never had any experience in the perioperative environment! However, it did not take me long to fall in love with the area and feel as though I had already found my niche.

While there are many aspects to perioperative nursing that I enjoy, I truly love playing a small role in assisting patients have a positive experience in what can be a very scary journey throughout the perioperative department, even if that means simply being the bearer of a delicious icy pole or making sure mum or dad are there for cuddles when they wake up so they feel safe. Aside from this, I enjoy the variety that comes with working in the department and nursing patients with a wide range of conditions and co-morbidities. There is always something to learn! Furthermore, the opportunity to be involved in life-changing surgeries for children during my time in theatre was a privilege.

What is something about perioperative nursing that most people wouldn’t know?

Simply how acute the area is. Unfortunately, we do see many critically ill children and manage compromised airways, which often means we are well versed in responding to emergency situations within the department, whether those be within theatre, recovery or Possum ward.

What did astound me when I first started was the fact that periop is essentially several departments that make up one big department. Patients start their journey from prevention and recovery care or admissions, pre-op, theatre, post-anaesthesia care unit and then finally through to the day surgery unit. It is a whole world on its own! Every department plays its own amazing role in a patient’s perioperative journey.

Do you have any career highlights?

While I am still in the early years of my nursing career, some career highlights for me include becoming the Health and Wellbeing Champion within the recovery department as well as recently becoming part of the RCH Peer Support Program. I have been so grateful for the opportunity to try and bring a little bit of light and fun to the workplace, particularly during last few months. I am looking forward to improving my knowledge around mental health and wellbeing and growing into this new role in the coming months.

Do you have any message for your fellow peri-op nurses for this year’s Perioperative Nurses Week?

I am so proud and grateful to work with such an amazing group of resilient, knowledgeable and passionate nurses! In the midst of a global pandemic, you continue to come to work, put the needs of others before your own and continually try your best. Enjoy Perioperative Nurses Week and use it to acknowledge and celebrate the amazing contribution you make to making a patient’s surgical experience the most positive it can be.

Lucy James

Can you tell me a bit about your role and your team?

I’m a registered nurse with 10 years’ experience within the peri-operative department working across recovery, endoscopy/gastroscopy and admissions, as well as my home base of pre-op and day surgery discharge planning. I enjoy working across the peri-op department and all the opportunity this provides—working the different teams.

How did you get into perioperative nursing and what do you enjoy most about it?

I completed my graduate year at The Royal Children’s Hospital within the perioperative department and haven’t looked back. I enjoy the opportunity of working within a multidisciplinary team to make a difference in a patient’s and their family’s theatre journey.

What is something about perioperative nursing that most people wouldn’t know?

From the outside looking in, preop often seems like a bunch of random questions. However, this is our last chance with both parent present and patient conscious, to ensure that we (patient, parent and surgical team) are all on the same page with what is about to happen. In an environment that goes from zero to 100 in a split second, taking our time to answer these questions allows us the best opportunity to speak on behalf of our patients, advocating for their best interests as required.

Do you have any career highlights?

This would have to be a choice between following the journey of a patient who I looked after preop and then recovering them to watch as they woke up with a smile on their face and being recognised and greeted like an old friend by various families I have looked after throughout the years upon return to theatre.

Do you have a message for your fellow periop nurses for this year’s Perioperative Nurses Week?

Stay in there, we got this!

Karen Scott

Can you tell me a bit about your role and your team?

I have worked at the RCH in Theatre for over 22 years. I’m a surgical scrub/scout nurse and couldn’t imagine working anywhere else. At times it’s challenging, but so rewarding too. I truly am so privileged to be working alongside the most dedicated, passionate and gracious team.

How did you get into peri-operative nursing and what do you enjoy most about it?

As part of my placement for university, I was given the opportunity to work in theatre. I found this extremely interesting and thought this would be a rewarding career path. I then enrolled in a Theatre course. Upon completion, I applied for my current role at the RCH as a scrub/scout nurse.

I thoroughly enjoy all specialities however, have a real love for plastic surgery. The reconstructive surgery is absolutely incredible and it’s often overwhelming the changes the surgeons can achieve for their little patients. I feel so honoured to be a part of this dedicated team.

What is something about perioperative nursing that most people wouldn’t know?

I think when staff first come to theatre, they expect the ER or Greys Anatomy feel. Some days can be hectic and others are so crazy they are over before you know it! Our typical shift starts at 8.15am in theatre, followed by a team huddle (patient discussion), anaesthetist team anaesthetise the patient while the scrub nurse sets the sterile instruments up on their scrub trolley with the assistance of the scout/circulating nurse. The theatre technician also organises any equipment required for surgery.

Do you have any career highlights?

Over the years I have been scrubbed and have had the privilege to be involved in some complex cranial facial/reconstructive surgery, most recently a 15-hour operation, with some of the most renowned and respected surgeons not only at the RCH, but Australia wide. Our surgeons teach us that the little things matter and to care for those who are formed differently.

The last 18 months has been challenging for all of us due to COVID. The roller-coaster of emotions and physical toll is evident. As a wellbeing champion and OH&S advocate, I’m extremely passionate about helping others and highlighting the importance of mental health campaigns especially through charity fundraising. Last year I introduced a positive, refreshing and light-hearted monthly newsletter for the Peri-Operative team to enjoy, most recently ‘guess the number of lollies in the lolly jar’ and quizzes to take everyone’s mind off the day-to-day challenges. If I’ve made at least one person smile, then I’ve achieved my goal.

Do you have a message for your fellow peri-op nurses for this year’s peri-operative nurses week?

I feel so honoured to work alongside each and every one of my colleagues. Over the last 18 months especially we have worked as team, have supported each other and showed amazing acts of kindness. It shows everyone has their own journey, but it’s so important to be there for each other. Keep up the great work everyone. We’ve got this!


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