Nursing in a paediatric intensive care unit (ICU) is both physically and emotionally demanding. This is a vocation that requires individual dedication, great skill and enormous team commitment to care for children who are critically ill.
“Nursing must be from your heart; it is challenging, and it can be emotional, but it is an extremely rewarding career that is about so much more than just the money,” says 33-year-old nurse Sibusiso Xhakaza, a highly skilled member of the paediatric ICU team at Netcare Waterfall City Hospital.
“To be a nurse, you need to have a passion for humanity and be both gentle and strong when you are caring for someone who is fragile and frail like the small children we look after in the paediatric ICU. These tiny humans give us purpose, and even when their immune systems are weak, they have such strength that it inspires us,” he says.
From rural village to nursing professional
Nurse Xhakaza comes from rural Nkandla in KwaZulu-Natal. He studied nursing at the Pietermaritzburg DUT campus before becoming a full time maternity nurse. “As I explored more about nursing, I became drawn to the paediatric ICU. It is a very specialised environment, and you need the humility to always be learning from your team and sharing your knowledge so we can all grow from our experience and do the best for our little patients.
“Teamwork is critical because we all bring different strengths. Together our combined strengths make us a formidable team. Our patients and their parents become part of our paediatric ICU family too. It is understandably stressful for parents, but we offer them support to help alleviate their anxiety.
“We explain how we are caring for their child and not to be alarmed by the lights and beeping of the ICU machines, and they learn to trust us and feel safe with what we are doing for their precious little ones,” he says.
A family’s gratitude
A family whose child was recently cared for in the paediatric ICU at Netcare Waterfall City explains the difference nursing care made to their family’s experience: “The nurses were very friendly towards us, gave us updates on how our child was doing,” said the family, who prefer not to be named.
“When he was moved to another big oscillating machine, we were confused as to whether our son is getting worse or better, but Nurse Sibusiso was very kind and came to us and explained everything in detail, he assured us that our son was getting the best care possible, and we left the hospital feeling much better knowing what was happening. Overall, we are very happy with the care our son received from the nurses, not just one but all the nurses that took care of him. For that, we will always be very thankful to them.”
Teamwork in the highs and lows of nursing
Paediatric intensivist, Dr Palesa Monyake, praised the dedication of the paediatric ICU team. “The nurses are absolutely amazing, and the team goes above and beyond the call of duty time and again. We update each other on each patient, sometimes minute by minute, and have such strong systems in place that our teamwork takes caring for our patients to an almost intuitive level,” she adds.
“Although we see so many beautiful recoveries and stories of hope, emotions can run high in the paediatric ICU, and it can be stressful and frustrating for parents when their children are very sick. It is our responsibility to walk a mile in their shoes and be there for the mothers and fathers in the tough times too.”
Nurse Xhakaza says there is no greater motivator than working to help save a child’s life and nurse them back to health. “I have been in the paediatric ICU for five years, and we live through all the emotions – hope, elation, anxiety, and unfortunately sometimes grief. It gives some comfort to know you have tried your best to fight for a child’s life, but it is still devastating when we cannot save a patient. Our team supports each other, and this motivates us to keep going.”
Add your voice
This International Nurses Day, Netcare salutes all nurses and invites you to share your message of appreciation for nursing teams’ care on Netcare’s online Care4You platform at https://www.netcare.co.za/c4y.
Issued by: MNA on behalf of Netcare Waterfall City Hospital
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