Today marks World Prematurity Day, a day observed globally on 17 November each year to raise awareness of preterm birth and the impact it has on families.
To recognise the day, we chat to one of our Butterfly Ward nurse coordinators, Polly St John, about caring for our littlest patients.
Can you tell me a bit about your role and your team?
I am one of the COCOON Nurse Coordinators on Butterfly Ward. COCOON stands for ‘Circle of Care Optimising Outcomes for Newborns’—it is a specially-designed model of care that aims to support families to engage in their baby’s care as much as possible. The COCOON nurses partner with families to mentor, support and guide them so they can feel confident caring for their children in hospital and when they take them home. Our overall aim is to improve the physical and psychological outcomes for children and their families.
How did you get started in intensive care nursing?
I started my nursing career as a graduate nurse on the Newborn Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at the RCH back in 2005. I started in the special care/high dependency area. I remember cuddling a baby on my first day and thinking it was the best job ever! I used to walk over to the intensive care area of the ward and watch in awe as the senior nurses cared for some of the sickest babies in Victoria. Little did I know that I would start training to do the same thing a couple of years later.
I have now been a neonatal intensive care nurse for nearly 15 years. It has provided me with lots of opportunities, including working as a NICU nurse in London for over seven years.
What do you enjoy most about it?
I like to get to know each baby’s personality. Babies communicate with us in many ways, we just have to watch and listen! I also enjoy working with the complex medical and surgical population of babies that we see at the RCH. Every day is different, and I am constantly learning.
What is something about premature babies that most people wouldn’t know?
How unbelievably strong and resilient they are.
I have enjoyed my entire nursing career. However, I think my current role really plays to my strengths as a nurse. I really enjoy getting to know the babies and their families and helping them cope during a very tumultuous time in their lives.
Any stand out patient interactions?
At the end of May this year, a little baby girl was admitted to Butterfly Ward with a complex heart problem. She was too little to have surgery right away, so she stayed on our ward until she was strong enough. She was such a little character and she loved to suck her dummy whilst people sang to her. She also enjoyed a good chat and would listen intently as her parents and I discussed the best ‘foodie’ places to visit within a 5km radius, and the best TV series to watch during COVID lockdown.
Once she was big enough, she was transferred to Rosella Ward for cardiac surgery. I was able to visit her during the post-operative period to see how she was getting on. I also visited her on Koala Ward, where she recovered until she was ready to go home. During my final visit, I was able to give her a cuddle and her parents and I marvelled at how far she had come since her days on Butterfly.
After nearly six months in hospital, she was discharged home last week. Her mum and dad sent me a picture of her ‘going home’ outfit, with promises of more updates in the future.