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Babies benefit from more specialist care

Published:  08 July 2020

Townsville University Hospital’s tiniest patients now have even more specialist hands caring for them during their hospital journey with two home-grown neonatal nurse practitioners completing their candidate training and growing the team of fully qualified practitioners to nine.

Neonatal nurse practitioners are advanced-care nurses who complete additional specialist university training, equipping them with the skills to assess, diagnose and manage the care and treatment of premature babies.

Ruth Oldfield and David Brown both started their training as neonatal nurse practitioner candidates with Townsville University Hospital (TUH) two years ago as part of an opportunity to support career progression, as well as assisting with neonatal retrievals and meeting the growing needs of the North Queensland community.

For Ruth, being a nurse practitioner was something she has been working towards since she started her nursing career 17 years ago.

“When I was around 23 I was based in paediatric intensive care in a big hospital in the north of England where I worked alongside the equivalent of nurse practitioners and I just thought how amazing that job was and hoped that one day it would be me,” she said.

“When I moved to Australia I started working with neonates and started the journey to get my masters; it was tough as I had two young children at the time but the struggle was very much worth it.”

Ruth said the appeal of being a nurse practitioner was in being able to advance her career while still being hands on.

“A nurse practitioner is the highest level of clinical nursing that you can do; I knew I didn’t want to be in an office or behind a desk because I love being on the floor with the babies, so this was a perfect way to continue with my career,” Ruth said.

David said honing his clinical skills was also a big drawcard for him.

“I started my career in adult intensive care but since 2009 I’ve been working in neonatal nursing where I went from working on the floor as a registered nurse, then as a clinical nurse, before moving into education and then as a nurse unit manager,” David said. 

“During this time I realised while I wanted to advance my career, management wasn’t necessarily what I was after; I wanted clinical contact.

“An opportunity came up to do my masters and become a neonatal nurse practitioner through Townsville University Hospital so I went for it.”

Ruth said she enjoyed the family-centred approach to care that was fostered in the neonatal unit.

“It’s very stressful for families to be in this environment for as long as they are here and the more love and support we can give them the better,” Ruth said.

“Being able to see follow the baby’s journey and see families go home together after what can be months in our unit is a huge achievement for them and for us.”

David said the complexity of the neonatal environment meant he was always learning.

“Having worked across the lifespan of adults and neonates I’m amazed by the fragility and at the same time the strength of the babies we care for,” he said.

“When I embarked on my career this is probably the last place I thought I would be but it’s certainly my favourite role in nursing.

“I still have so much to learn in this speciality; I enjoy coming to work every day.”

Both David and Ruth said they were grateful for the support they had received during their journey.

“We’ve been so well supported by the health and wellbeing service group executive and the neonatal nursing team,” David said.

“We are also lucky to be so well supported by the neonatal consultants; as well as being mentors, they value nurse practitioner’s knowledge and expertise, and have pushed us all the way.”

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