PICU Nurse

“You are bound to a family who sits at the bedside and watches helplessly as their prized possession, their biggest life achievement lies lifeless and desperate for a miracle.”

Sarah is a Clinical Nurse Consultant specialising in Paediatric Intensive Care. She is an extremely experienced nurse having working at one of Australia’s leading paediatric hospitals in multiple roles such as PIPER, ECMO nurse, Team Leader and now a CNC & has nursed in Libya on a humanitarian mission and even helps run a new paediatric education business called PAEDS – Check out PAEDS here

PICU nurse

Working in a new role as Anaethetist whilst on mission in Benghazi- in Australia, we are incredibly well trained to care for ventilated patients, which is different from other parts of the world. We are so lucky!

I commenced my nursing career studying at the University of Ballarat (now Fed Uni). I hadn’t always wanted to do nursing. Coming from a family of 6 kids, I was always destined to- and wholeheartedly desired to work with kids- but I had originally wanted to be a teacher. However, after discovering a love for health and biology in high school, my thoughts turned to health-related professions. I had originally set my heart on Paediatric physio. However, I was a young Year 12 and the thought of leaving the country for the big smoke of Melbourne was thoroughly daunting. I looked into other options but finally set my mind on doing nursing.

I made a pact that if I was going to do nursing then I would one day work at the Royal Children’s Hospital – a place I had admired since visiting my cousin who had a Wilms Tumour when he was 9 months old. I was told that I could do better with my ATAR score, that I should be using it to get into something that required higher marks.

WORD OF ADVICE!! Don’t ever listen to anyone except yourself, had I chosen to listen to this advice and do something I didn’t want to do or was not ready to do, I would not be where I am today, loving my career and passionate about future directions that I have worked hard to create.

PICU nurse

It is so important to remember what keeps you grounded outside the workplace- my 3 boys keep me very level headed…pictured here with Tom and Oliver.

From ICU placement to Royal Children’s Hospital graduate nurse

During my second year placement, I was fortunate enough to spend time in the ICU in Ballarat. I remember going on holidays with my family and unfortunately, they had to endure my explanation of all things head injuries, ICP, subdural hematomas….for 8 hours straight! My father told me then and there that I should pursue ICU, that I had found my niche…he was 100% right. I couldn’t get enough of the intricacy that was ICU and knew from that moment on that I NEEDED to be in Paediatric Intensive Care…

I did my graduate year at RCH- in Neonatal care and adolescents, spent the following 6 months rotating in different roles in the hospital, and the year after commenced preparation in ICU course. The following year I completed my postgraduate diploma in Advanced Nursing- Paediatric Intensive Care.


I have been in the PICU ever since 2009. It has been the most rewarding, difficult, a wholesome learning experience I could have imagined. I have used every opportunity to expand my knowledge base and skills and grasped every learning opportunity that has come in my direction.

I soon discovered that this was what made me passionate about teaching others and Clinical facilitation was soon a path I knew I was destined to take. I have completed further education in Hemofiltration, ECLS- Extra Corporeal Life Support, Paediatric Retrieval Nursing, VAD- Ventricular Assist Device,

Simulation team training including Debriefing, and have cared for some of Australia’s most critically ill in the meantime! I recently completed my Nurse Immunisation Course whilst on Maternity Leave and have enjoyed doing community vaccination, which is a different pace and skill set than that of PICU nursing. I am currently on Maternity Leave (again!) and completing my Certificate IV in Training and Education. I like to keep my mind active!

Humanitarian Nursing, Libya

PICU nurse

Celebrating all things Libya with the local and international cardiac team

In 2012, I was fortunate enough to be involved in a humanitarian mission trip to Benghazi, Libya, with the International Children’s Heart Foundation (now Novack cardiac alliance), where we spent considerable time with nurses, teaching them to care for Paediatric Cardiac patients, and undertaking lifesaving operations on some critically ill cardiac children whilst we were there. It was an incredible learning and life experience and made me appreciate ALL that we have here in Australia. I came back even more desperate to spread the word of Paediatric Nursing and health care and help others to think ‘outside the box’ whether they had all the resources or not.

CNC & Education

PICU nurse

As a PICU nurse, professional progression in your career must involve teaching…whether at the bedside with peers, families and patients, or in a more formal capacity….to teach you must know. It is a critical component of your own development and a great way to stay current in your knowledge.

I have rotated through several roles in PICU, including as a PIPER nurse, Team Support Nurse, Clinical Nurse Facilitator, ECMO nurse, Clinical Liaison (Outreach) Nurse and most recently a Clinical Nurse Consultant, PICU. Each of these roles has given me incredible insight into the multitude of people it takes to ensure that a tertiary hospital maintains an exceptional level of care for Australia’s sickest children.

However, it is my role as a bedside nurse that has truly inspired me and continues to shape every new challenge I take on. You see, as a bedside nurse, you are engulfed in a life that is not your own. You are bound to a family who sits at the bedside and watches helplessly as their prized possession, their biggest life achievement lies lifeless and desperate for a miracle.

It is you that they cling onto for your 12-hour shift holding onto every word and action, willing you with exhausted eyes and heavy hearts to give them good news every time an alarm beeps or the ventilator displays a new waveform.

It is in these moments, that I have had my greatest learning. It is also at the bedside, amongst colleagues that my passion for teaching is paramount. It is here that I have had some of the greatest “high five” moments as a junior staff member understands what a TGA is, when the light bulb finally goes off when you spend time talking about the role of inotropes or how the ventilator works on a real patient

…or when you can discuss a recent study finding related to your patient with a doctor on night duty when knowledge and practice collide and marry a perfect combination for a level of understanding that is pure and priceless.

Paediatric Nursing Leader

PICU nurse

Running to MET calls hospital wide is a crucial component of the PICU nurse role. It requires a high level of knowledge, team work, excellent communication and negotiation skills- all the while remaining empathetic and considerate of the child and family being reviewed.

It is for this reason that my absolute love for education and spreading the word of Paediatric Critical Care has led me to pursue roles outside the walls of the very well equipped PICU in which I work. I have spent considerable time with the Australian College of Critical Care Nursing acting as a Paediatric representative for Victoria and organising the inaugural Paediatric Nursing Conferences which have been a great educational opportunity for nursing staff in Victoria.

I have also had opportunities working on the organising committee for the Annual Scientific Meetings, the world congress in Critical Care and the Critical Care Collaborative. Further, I am a Clinical Educator for ACCCN, running Paediatric Advanced Life Support Courses in Victoria. These opportunities have given me the edge needed to pursue my next challenge…

Along with my 2 amazing colleagues, Grace and Meagan, we have started our own education business – PAEDS – Paediatric Assessment and Education Specialists.

We aim to deliver Paediatric based Education to health care professionals, with a strong focus on regional and rural areas, where specialised education for the paediatric population who are now seen increasingly in Emergency Departments, is often hard to come by without travelling afar. We aim to bridge the education gap that exists for such areas. We are incredibly excited to be taking on this challenge and look forward to imparting knowledge and learning collaboratively with fellow health care professionals.

Check out PAEDS here

Read Sarah’s colleague Grace’s article here

For more paed content go here