Published in the Irish Times by Sheila Wayman
Working in paediatrics brings a ‘whole whirlpool of feelings’ that need to be supported within the hospital system, believes consultant psychologist Barbara Wren
“You go into paediatrics because you want to care for children and then you spend all day hurting them” – injecting them and subjecting them to other procedures, says consultant psychologist Barbara Wren.
That, she acknowledges, “is a mad way of describing it but psychologically that is what you’re doing”. The chances are you will be inflicting pain on parents too, telling them what they don’t want to hear.
Delivering the recent annual Children in Hospital Ireland lecture on building and maintaining resilience when working with children in hospital, Wren showed a slide of a beautiful baby, the sort that elicits a spontaneous “ahh”. The longing for children is a basic desire and instinct in most of us, she suggests, but people going into paediatrics may have additional motivations to care for them, perhaps having experienced illness as a child, either personally or a sibling’s.
But that picture of loveliness was quickly followed by a close-up photo of a very distressed child’s face.
“There is nothing worse than seeing a child in pain,” says Wren in an interview with The Irish Times. The innate desire of people going to work in children’s hospitals is one thing – but what they get is something different.
“Some of these children won’t live, most of these children are suffering and some of your dreams might be shattered too,” she says.
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