Life of an NQN: Why private healthcare?

#HelloMyNameIs Charlotte, and I am a newly qualified Children’s Nurse, who was part of the September 2015 cohort at the University of Surrey. I work on a Paediatric Elective Surgical Ward.

So, who am I? well I am a Mum, wife, sister and daughter, oh and a newly qualified children’s nurse! Since starting my new job role as a Children and Young Persons Nurse (yes that’s what it says on my name badge, I still can’t quite believe that I am qualified!) I have been asked on many occasions, why did you go into the private sector? What does your job entail? Why not the NHS? So, this blog is hopefully going to answer some of those questions (fingers crossed!).

While doing my training I found it hard to juggle my studies and family life, but my husband was very supportive, to be honest I couldn’t have done it without him. As I entered my third and final year things became slightly easier, as I had secured my first Nursing job! A lot of my cohort had been to various open days and been offered jobs from their placements, I had chosen to wait a little longer before I applied for jobs, as I needed to see how flexible my local hospital could be with shift times and days.

Whilst driving to placement one day, there was an advert on the local radio for a private hospital. They were having an open day for nurses and ODP’s, so I thought, why not give it a go? I rang the hospital to enquire about the types of jobs available, would they consider taking on newly qualified nurses, and do they have a paediatric department? The answer to all my questions was Yes! Wow! I was going to an open day!

On the morning of the open day it was snowing! Who would have thought it? Do I or do I not go? In for a penny in for a pound! I went. I was shown around the hospital and met with the Paediatric Lead Nurse, she explained that although they have a paediatric department and take patients for elective surgery, they currently have no vacancies, so I thought, well that was a waste of my time! I continued talking to the lead nurse and she asked about my nursing and healthcare history. After a long discussion she invited me for an interview, but I thought there were no vacancies, so I was a little confused! In the interview, I asked about the hospital and what they were looking for in a nurse, the lead nurse gave me a few hospital scenarios that I had to answer, and then we discussed what benefits the hospital offer their staff, to my surprise the lead nurse said they were looking for a part time nurse to join the team, and was that something I would be interested in, fantastic!

I went home in a bit of a daze, as I wasn’t expecting to be interviewed on the day, to be honest I was only going to have a nose around a private hospital as I had never set foot in one! When I got home, my phone rang, and I was offered the job of a Children and Young Persons Nurse!(CYPN). The lead nurse explained the pay scales and what hours I would be expected to work, at this point I had to decline the job offer as there was no way I could start work at 7am due to childcare issues, I was gutted! But to my amazement, the lead nurse said that it was ok because I was only doing 3 short shifts a week (22.5hours) and I could do lates, wow! That would suit me down to the ground, Monday to Friday, 1 in 4 Saturdays and no Sundays! Amazing! A perfect family life/work balance. So that is how I got my job and why it is perfect for me at the moment.

So a day in the life of a CYP nurse in the private healthcare sector goes a bit like this…..

I get up, take my children to school and do all the usual morning household chores, put a washload on, make sure there is something for my husband and children to eat later, and then I go to work, sometimes battling traffic. I feel like a character from Holby or Casualty as we are not allowed to wear our uniform out in public so, I get my own locker in the changing room with my name on it! How cool is that? Once changed and on the ward – I use this phrase lightly – because we only have 2 beds, each in their own en-suite room, so it is more like a Holiday Inn than a hospital. I get a handover from the Morning shift nurse, this includes the handing over of the CD keys and paediatric bleep. Then I check the crash trolley, I am expecting a patient in this afternoon (morning shift have had no patients! Yes, you heard me right, NO patients) so I check their allocated room, oxygen is working, suction is working, emergency equipment is available, it is ready for my patient. Reception ring to say my patient is downstairs, so I go and get them and admit them to the ward. Next, I complete all relevant paperwork and prep my patient for their procedure, including applying Emla cream for their cannula insertion, I make sure the whole family have ordered food for the day and then await the consultant. I check the diary for any messages or information of pre-assessment patients booked in (there are none), ring outpatient’s department to let them know I have the bleep if needed.

So the day starts! The morning shift nurse goes home, and that means I am the only paediatric nurse in the hospital! Before Christmas this used to freak me out, knowing that if anything happened to any child on the hospital premises (including visitors), I was the person that would get called to deal with it! I guess that is what the Paediatric Life Support Training is for! The responsibility feels huge, although the longer I have worked here the better I feel about it.

The consultant appears, so I escort him to the patient’s room and observe the consent process, making sure the consultant includes the patient in the decision making, the same happens for the anaesthetist, then the porter arrives to take my patient to theatre. I escort my patient and parent to theatre and reassure the parent of the process. Once my patient is in theatre I take the parent back to their room, offer tea or coffee, then my bleep goes off! Panic! Its ok, just outpatients asking for a chaperone for a minor operation, a tongue tie. Thankfully this is a short procedure, so I am only off the ward for 15 minutes (for every minor operation in outpatients on children under 12 years old a CYP nurse needs to be present).

Once back on the ward, I ring yesterdays patients to see how they have been overnight and offer any information or sign post the parents to any information they may need, we do this with all our patients. My patient is now ready to collect form recovery, so I bring them back to the ward and start post-operative observations including pain assessments and cannula scores. The handover from recovery states that the patient can go home after 2 hours post op, they just need to be seen by the consultant first. While the patient and their family tuck into their tasty freshly cooked meals, I manage to quickly eat my salad while documenting my patients’ observations, updating care plans and discharge criteria and typing up their discharge letter, remembering to send the drug chart down to pharmacy for their TTO’s. I get a call from MRI saying they have a patient in this evening requiring contrast, so can a paediatric nurse be present just in case there are any adverse side effects from the contrast. I book them in the diary and explain that I currently have a patient on the ward, but they should be going home before the MRI unit need me so it is ok! 2 hours go by in the blink of an eye! My patient has been seen by the consultant and the pharmacist has been to explain the TTO’s, I explain all discharge information to my patient and parents, including what to look out for in regards to infection and how to keep wound areas clean and dry while recovering at home, finally my patient goes home!

Off I go to MRI, trying to remember where they keep their anaphylaxis box and emergency trolley! The child coming in for an MRI has the contrast and procedure with no problems, thank goodness! My heart was racing the whole time, as I know I am the only CYP nurse in the whole hospital! I go back to the CYP office and complete the MRI paperwork, check my emails, print off tomorrow’s paediatric outpatient clinic list, lock all filing cabinets, and cupboards. Check that the CD cupboard is secure, sign in the keys and lock them away and then it’s time to go home, feeling exhausted from all the responsibility I have as a newly qualified nurse, but to be honest I wouldn’t have it any other way, well for the moment anyway. Slightly different from a day on the ward in the NHS and not everyone’s cup of tea, but that is the joy of nursing, you can work in a huge variety of areas.

Author: Charlotte Walker, Newly Qualified Nurse, September 2015 Cohort

Disclaimer: This blog contains personal opinions of students only and does not necessarily represent the views of the Children’s Nursing team, School of Health Sciences or the University of Surrey.

If you’re interested in writing a blog post for us – whether it’s a one-off about something in Nursing you’re passionate on, or as a regular contributor, please email Beth Phillips (, Ellie Mee ( or Maddie McConnell ( – we’d love to hear from you!