As a neonatal intensive care nurse, Lauren values the one-on-one moments she spends with families at a vulnerable stage in their lives.

I'm Lauren and I studied a Graduate Certificate in Nursing Practice, with a specialty in neonatal intensive care.

My motivation for getting into nursing was to ultimately end up in the career that I am in today: looking after newborn babies. I think I ultimately always knew that I wanted to end up here, working with sick newborns. I had a family friend that worked at the Royal Children's Hospital and that prompted me to want to one day do the same. My proudest moment was gaining employment at the Royal Children's Hospital — getting the job that I'd always dreamed of having.

My background was in nursing and midwifery. After I'd finished my bachelors degree, I went into my graduate year and I decided to specialise in paediatrics. I worked in a cardiac and renal unit for two years, which then led me into neonates. After a small time working with neonates I decided to do my postgraduate study with the University of Melbourne. I thought it would be important to really understand neonates at a textbook level so that I could transition that to give great care to the babies that we see every day.

A typical day in the neonatal intensive care involves first taking handover of the patient, doing safety checks and checking their medications. Then it generally involves outlining a care plan for the day, including any changes from the ward round or any surgical changes that may occur. It also involves spending time with families and ensuring that they can be involved in their newborn’s care.

Key qualities to being a good nurse would be having a bubbly and vibrant personality, being intelligent and also having a really caring nature. You have to be caring of all people involved in the picture and you also have to have that added level of intelligence to be able to work in an intensive care environment.

The family had to travel interstate for care at The Royal Children's because we were the only centre in Australia that could offer a heart transplant. I remember the hardship that they faced — it was probably one of the scariest times of their lives.

A particular moment that's touched me was when we got to take a very preterm baby home. I got to help her mum and dad take their baby off the ward for the first time. She was a very preterm baby that was very unwell. When we got outside the ward there were a lot of tears and a lot of joy, and that was really special to me.

My favourite parts of my job are looking after the baby as well as their parents and the extended family, and getting to look after some complex conditions that you wouldn't see elsewhere. Some of my favourite memories of working in neonatal intensive care are the challenges that I have faced, the diversity of the conditions, and when the parents get to take their baby home for the first time.

A particular patient I remember fondly is a six-week-old baby that had to come to our hospital from interstate. The family had to travel interstate for care at The Royal Children's because we were the only centre in Australia that could offer a heart transplant. I remember the hardship that they faced — it was probably one of the scariest times of their lives. I t was really important to me to give them good care in the interim. To see their child then receive a heart transplant and be well now is absolutely incredible. I’m so proud for that family. I’ll be forever grateful for her coming back to visit and seeing her run around, given that she was so unwell during her time waiting for a heart transplant.

You can really see a different side to a family when they have a sick newborn. To be able to help them through that vulnerable experience is really fulfilling.

I think the Graduate Certificate in Neonatal Intensive Care is really important for your foundations if you want to specialise in neonatal nursing. It also means that you're recognised as a qualified newborn intensive care nurse. Studying at the University of Melbourne was really good because we had contact hours every fortnight with our lecturer and then everything was else online. Our lecturer was always easily accessible via email and we also had clinical educators assigned to us on our unit who we could go to for any help with our studies.

The best takeaway that I learnt from my course was that I could really transition the theory into practice, which I really enjoyed. I also learnt a lot about being resourceful. And that what you put in is what you'll get out of the course.

What I loved about being a paediatric nurse is that your day never had to be too serious. You had to be fun and vibrant for the children that we're going through a hard time. What I love about being a neonatal intensive care nurse is the one-on-one patient time you get to spend with the patient and their family. You can really see a different side to a family when they have a sick newborn. To be able to help them through that vulnerable experience is really fulfilling. I'm so grateful everyday to be given that opportunity.

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