• “A baby might take one step forward and then two steps back. It’s frustrating for everyone, because every baby is different..." (AP Photo/Jennifer Coate, March of Dimes Foundation)Source: AP Photo/Jennifer Coate, March of Dimes Foundation
“We don’t want to just take a sick baby away from their family - we want them to bond as much as possible.”
By
Alana Schetzer

12 May 2017 - 2:27 PM  UPDATED 12 May 2017 - 2:49 PM

Ashley Gerber knows exactly the reasons why she decided to become a nurse.

“I wanted a career that was interesting and challenging and would allow me to help people and make a difference every day,” she explains. “I didn’t just want a day-to-day desk job that wouldn’t have an impact on society. I wanted to make a difference and healthcare has allowed me to do that.”

Gerber, 24, works in the Grace Centre for Newborn Intensive Care at The Children’s Hospital at Westmead, Sydney. She says it’s regarded as one of the most intense workplaces for any health professional, where newborn babies are brought for lifesaving treatment. Along with the patients themselves, there are also the frantic new parents who struggle with their own fatigue and worry.

“Our care is about strengthening the relationship between parents and their newborn babies.

“Any time we provide any care, even if it’s a basic nappy change, we try and get the parents involved as much as possible,” she says. “That’s what they would have been doing at home, so it’s really important to harbour and support those relationships.

“We don’t want to just take a sick baby away from their family - we want them to bond as much as possible.”

Gerber was born in South Africa and her family moved to Australia when she was 12. While her native country has some “fantastic” doctors and nurses, she says, the cost of the healthcare system is astronomical.

“In South Africa, you pay a lot for your health cover, and here, even basic Medicare covers so much,” she says. “Basic health care is amazing - there’s no comparison. Our public health is the equivalent to their private cover and it costs thousands of dollars.”

Ashely Gerber with one of her patients in the Grace Centre for Newborn Intensive Care, Sydney.

A first-year nurse, Gerber says one of the hardest parts of her job – working with such vulnerable patients – is the uneven pace of progress, especially when there are nervous parents and family simply want to take their new baby home.

“A baby might take one step forward and then two steps back. It’s frustrating for everyone, because every baby is different - some will respond really well to treatment and others won’t.”

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It’s not an easy job when your own patients can't tell you what they want. But recently, Gerber received a card from one of the parents, which she says has been one of the highlights of her career to-date.

“I recently received a card from one of the parents thanking me for what I had done for their child. It was amazing that they went out of their way to do that, because there are so many nurses looking after lots of different babies and so to remember me was really very special.”

“Every child is different and no one day is different. Sometimes you see new conditions or diseases that you’ve never seen before."

Like most nurses, Gerber works 12-hour shifts, which are highly unpredictable. Every baby is different and getting to know their different wants and needs, which means trying to decipher what each cry means.

“There is no average shift, it’s always different. We have very intensive care patients and high-intensity patients. It’s juggling what each baby needs, feeds, scans, if they need to go to theatre, communicating with the parents, things like that.

“Every child is different and no one day is different. Sometimes you see new conditions or diseases that you’ve never seen before."

Working with newborns and their families, there are lots of highs and lows, she says. But the moments that keep her coming back is a rather simple one - seeing mums and dads bonding with their baby.

“It’s such a delayed thing, because the babies are whisked away for life-saving treatment, which is necessary, but to see that happen is the most special thing. Seeing that, it gives me goosebumps.”

International Nurses Day is held on May 12 every year to encourage communities to thank the women and men who have dedicated their lives to saving and supporting others.

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