Your support in actionKeira's Story

Keira travelled to Australia to experience neonatal nursing care

Keira's Story

It was all about learning different nursing practices and also developing transferable skills, all of which I can bring back to the UK.

During Aug/Sept 2012 I visited Australia on an Edith Cavell Leadership Award travel scholarship, kindly provided by the Cavell Nurses' Trust. During my time in Australia I visited the Royal Brisbane and Women's Hospital (RBWH) and the Gold Coast Hospital in Queensland Australia and I attended the Australian Council of Neonatal Nurses (ACNN) annual conference in the Hunter Valley, New South Wales. The aim of my visit was to understand more about the global developments in neonatal nursing care, the differences in health care provision and the similarities and differences in nursing and what can be learnt from this. I chose to look specifically at the neonatal population (children under the age of 28 days) requiring hospital care as with advances in technology and science, the sick neonatal population is growing internationally and there are many new challenges facing nurses who care for sick neonates.

"Australia has the fairly unique challenge of nursing a population vastly spread out over very different terrain and from various different cultural backgrounds."

The RBWH is a tertiary referral hospital in north central Brisbane, within it is located one of the two level 6 neonatal units in Brisbane, taking referrals of infants born from 23 weeks gestation from the local area as well as all over Queensland and northern New South Wales. I visited the perinatal research unit located within the hospital in close proximity to the neonatal unit. Here a multidisciplinary team worked together on various different research projects looking specifically at neonatal and developmental care. I found that nursing and research were closely linked in Australia, with many nurses of all stages of their careers being involved in research and development on their neonatal units. Although some nurses are actively involved in research in the UK, the presence of research was much more fundamental to nursing in Australia. In Brisbane the University of Queensland nursing faculty was co-located on the hospital site as opposed to a large university campus, as often is the case in the UK.

The Gold Coast hospital is located approximately one hour down the coast from Brisbane. It serves as an equivalent to a local district general in the UK. It’s neonatal unit did however have intensive care cot’s and this was increasing with the building of a brand new hospital on a new site. I chose to meet with the new neonatal unit project co-ordinator (one of the unit’s senior neonatal nurses) to discuss the implications of designing and creating a neonatal unit virtually from scratch. I was inspired that nurses were actively involved in creating and designing a new neonatal unit, even erecting a mock cubicle for staff to comment on and design the interior for best nursing care to be delivered. Viewing the cubicle I was impressed with the design and the space for a parent to stay nearby with a curtain to respect their dignity. Having a child in an intensive care situation is very stressful for parents and being able to stay close can be reassuring and help parents to jointly care for their infant. This taught me the importance of nursing leadership and advocacy when creating future facilities for the patients we care for.

Around 10 hour’s drive from Brisbane is the Hunter Valley, New South Wales which played host to the ACNN Annual Conference 2012. I was invited to the conference by my local host and ACNN president Karen New. The speakers ranged from novice early career nurse researchers to experienced nurses leading the way in research and development in Australia and beyond. I was amazed to hear stories from nurses who retrieve children in light aircrafts across areas 5 times the size of the UK and even occasionally from neighbouring countries such as Papua New Guinea. I was also especially interested in the research looking at appropriate support mechanisms and education for newly qualified staff working in an intensive care environment (which is now very relevant for myself!) 

"The travel scholarship has helped me to understand more about the importance of constantly reviewing nursing practice and learning from our global colleagues."

I was reminded of the importance of the international nursing community and the special bond nurses have when it comes to planning and giving patient care, especially when it is to some of the most vulnerable members of our society. Nursing in Australia was in many regards similar to that of nursing in the UK, but the subtle differences where both important and open to learning and developing from. For myself, this included the important role that all nurses, regardless of experience, have in research and auditing to promote and develop good nursing practice. 

The most profound thing that I found was that the many of the nurses that I met were both inspiring and overwhelming friendly (not just an Australian stereotype). Many enjoyed sharing their experiences with me and I loved listening to their career stories (especially the ones about outback nursing and kangaroos!)

Coming back to the UK I feel energised and reminded of the important role that nurses have in the care of sick children and how we must advocate, research and develop as practitioners to ensure that we provide world class care for our patients.

Keira Jenkinson
Staff Nurse, Thomas Cook Children's Critical Care Unit
Kings College Hospital, London.

I would like to wholeheartedly thank:

  • Cavell Nurses Trust for making this whole trip possible and for the excellent experience of being interviewed and attending an awards event.
  • Karen New (and her partner Gavin) for hosting and helping me to organise the trip as well as allowing me to sample some ‘real’ Australia off the tourist map!
  • My PgDip colleagues and tutors for their support and encouragement in planning my visit.