Portrait of a paediatric nurseNovember 2014

Paediatric nurses specialise in young children and play an essential role in prevention and providing support for new parents. Christelle Clotz, a paediatric nurse who manages a centre specialising in maternal and child welfare, talks about her work and day-to-day experience.

  • Tell us about your career path so far.

I’ve always wanted to work with children. I have been a nurse for 23 years. I started out working in hospitals for about ten years, mainly in paediatrics. Then I did a year’s course specialising in paediatric nursing. As a result, I become deputy director of a daycare centre, and then worked as an area paediatric nurse. I used to do home visits with new parents, I worked with childminders in my area and I was also responsible for at-risk children. In 2008, I decided I wanted responsibility for a team and applied for a job specialising in maternal and child welfare, and I’m still there today.

 

  • What is the centre’s role?

Mother-and-child welfare centres are aimed at young children and their parents. Our main role is to provide parenting support and preventive care. We see parents who request an appointment to answer any questions they may have about their baby and check that the child is in good health. We’re not a substitute for the doctor, though: we’re there to offer support and advice rather than to provide care. We also run a playgroup and weighing sessions for babies and toddlers.

 

  • What do you most enjoy about your job?

The contact with families. Quite often, the people who come to see us are really unsure of their ground. The most rewarding part of my job is being able to gradually win their trust so that they come back and we can help and support them. Mums come home from the maternity hospital and feel a bit lost, with all kinds of questions and anxieties. It’s a joy to send them off with a smile on their face: you really feel you’ve done something useful.

 

  • What difficulties do you face?

My area is fairly fortunate, but I am seeing more and more families in vulnerable situations, who are finding hard to feed and clothe their children. These families often have expectations that we are not equipped to deal with: we can point them towards social services but we don’t have the financial resources to help them.

 

  • Could you describe what a normal working day looks like?

My working day starts at 8.30 am and finishes at 5.30 pm. The morning is taken up with paediatric and gynaecological consultations and the playgroups. The play sessions are for small groups of children aged between two and three, who come to the centre two mornings a week. It offers the children a chance to socialise and gives their mums a bit of time to themselves. I also take care of administrative tasks during the morning, and check new births in my area on my computer. My other responsibility is making sure the centre runs smoothly: we need to keep coming up with new ideas to make it an attractive place that people want to come to.

In the afternoon, the centre is open to the public. Young parents drop in to have their child weighed. They have lots of questions and consultations often last between half an hour and an hour. I try to welcome new parents myself when they come for their first visit, so that I get to know as many families as possible and so that they see me as a first port of call.

 

  • Could you tell us about something that has had an impact on you?

Four years ago, a young mum came for the first time with a four-day old baby who was all yellow. I was worried about the child and gently explained to the mother that she should go back to the hospital, as there was obviously something wrong. She did and her child was cared for: he was suffering from newborn jaundice, which is relatively frequent but needs to be treated swiftly.

She hadn’t known about the centre before but we developed a very strong relationship of trust and she came back regularly. Then we lost touch with each other for a while, as her son grew up. And then, two weeks ago, she walked in with another baby, again all yellow! This time I felt much more at ease advising her.

I’m very pleased when we manage to build a relationship of trust with mums. It’s a joy to see them come back, at their ease and much less anxious than when they came for the first time. We don’t just weigh the babies: we build real relationships.

 

  • What qualities do you think a paediatric nurse needs?

You need to be able to listen and you need empathy and experience, particularly if you work outside a hospital setting. In a hospital, there are always other people around you, but at the centre you’re often dealing with families by yourself: you need to be able to step back and draw on your experience to advise them properly.

 

  • If you have children, did becoming a mother change how you approach your job?

I have two children and they have certainly influenced my practice! When I had them, I was still a nurse rather than a paediatric nurse. I think having children contributed to the fact that I wanted to specialieau du robinetse. When you become a mother, you start to look at things differently: you put yourself in the shoes of the mum you are talking to. When you’ve experienced the exhaustion of giving birth, you understand that the mum sitting opposite you isn’t exaggerating: she really is very tired because she has just had a baby. It’s more difficult to be empathetic if you haven’t experienced it. I think you need to be a mother to do this job. It isn’t essential, but it helps a lot.

 

  • What skin conditions do you see in babies most frequently?

We often see babies’ skin peel a little after birth, so we use moisturizers on them. Maternity units often suggest massaging liniment all over their body but it’s a mistake: the pH is only right for use on their bottoms.

We also see a lot of babies with newborn acne. Mums want a solution and they want to know if it’s serious – which it isn’t, so that reassures them. Then they ask what they can do to improve the condition of their baby’s skin. I advise them to wash the baby’s face in mineral water rather than tap water, which is very hard, or with very simple, fragrance-free micellar water. Unfortunately I don’t have a treatment for little spots.

 

  • Which are your favourite Mustela products to use in your day-to-day practice?

Mums love the massage oil, with the little leaflet explaining how to massage their baby. I also like Stelatopia creams: they’re effective and parents like them.

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