3 nurses share their experience in the PICU at Children’s of Alabama + how to start a career here

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Nurse Morgan Blake tends to a patient in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit at Children’s. Photo via Children’s of Alabama

How much do you rely on your coworkers at your job? For nurses in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) at Children’s of Alabama, having a strong relationship with each other is vital. Hear insight from four nurses who share how the mentor/mentee program at Children’s helped them love their job and provide incredible care.

Mentoring in PICU at Children’s gives support to new nurses

Nurses Morgan Blake and Mary Kate Scott work together during the same shift, but their relationship has allowed them also become friends outside of work. Photo via Children’s of Alabama

As the Director of Nursing Education, Marjorie McCaskey oversees the mentor/mentee program in the PICU at Children’s. The program started in 2019 with a goal to give new nurses a helping hand when they’ve had a difficult experience.

The mentor’s duties don’t involve the mentee’s orientation or onboarding process. Instead, the purpose of a mentor is to be that go-to support system for new or unsure times in a nurse’s career.

“The PICU is a stressful unit at times and for the new nurse who may not have seen a unit like this prior to starting, it can be a difficult transition. The mentors help ease that transition by being the ‘known’ entity in a place where ‘unknown’ are frequent and common.”

Marjorie McCaskey,  Director of Nursing Education and Professional Development and the Clinical Outcomes and Quality Advisor, Children’s of Alabama

Marjorie and her team provide training for the mentors in areas of coaching and support for new nurses. She encourages the mentor/mentee pairs to check-in on a regular basis. 

Great support systems lead to lasting friendships + amazing work

Leah Tingle, Morgan Blake and Mary Kate Scott , nurses in the PICU at Children's
Leah Tingle, Morgan Blake and Mary Kate Scott have found support and friendship working together in the PICU at Children’s. Photo via Children’s of Alabama

While working in the PICU can be intimidating, it doesn’t come without a great support system. Mary Kate Scott has been a staff nurse in the PICU for over three years and says the social aspect of the job is partly what’s kept her in the unit.

As she was going through her training, it was great to know someone was always there to ask for help—and still is!

“Finding those people with who you can ask questions and feeling comfortable to ask questions is important. For me, I liked having experienced people that I could trust and I knew that they knew the answers, too.”

Mary Kate Scott, Staff Nurse, Children’s Hospital PICU

Since there’s a wide variety of nurses that work in the PICU at Children’s, assistance is never far away. Mary Kate and fellow staff nurse Morgan Blake know they can go to a nurse with a little more experience and not feel judged for asking a question.

“I love the people I work with. Everyone is approachable and so willing to help. I feel like I’ve formed relationships with coworkers who support me at work and outside of work.”

Morgan Blake, Staff Nurse, Children’s Hospital PICU

Using relationships to bring patients the best care

Mary Kate works in the PICU at Children's
Mary Kate serves as a mentor to new graduate staff nurse Leah Tingle. Photo via Children’s of Alabama

While the nurses credit the help they receive to fellow nurses, doctors and respiratory therapists, they also serve as a mentor to others. For example, Leah Tingle is a new graduate staff nurse in PICU and relies strongly on Mary Kate.

Starting a new job in the health care field—add on top of that a global pandemic— is daunting. Luckily, Leah found support from her mentor.

“My coworkers have been the greatest support system and friends during all the uncertainty. Once I began working nights, I was paired with Mary Kate. Mary Kate does an amazing job of making sure you are comfortable with your skills, assisting you through helping families cope with their child’s illness/injury, or just being your cheerleader in any circumstance.

The program allows you to have a go-to person for whatever you need, and it makes navigating being a new grad in a continuously changing field so much easier.” 

Leah Tingle, Staff Nurse, Children’s Hospital PICU

Does Children’s sound like the place you’d thrive? Apply for current nursing jobs.

Following a passion through pediatrics

At the end of the day, the mentor/mentee program in the PICU at Children’s allows nurses to not only succeed at what they went to school for, but also do what they love every day.

“I always remind people we’re all on the same team, especially for newer nurses. Everyone wants the best for you and everyone wants you to succeed.”

Mary Kate Scott, Staff Nurse, Children’s Hospital PICU

Resilience and recovery

Working in the PICU will put a lot of hard times in front of you, but it also opens the door to valuable and joyous experiences.

“You still have the snuggly kind of kids. There’s a misconception in an ICU that every kid is intubated, but there’s so much more of a variety than just that. I don’t feel like I could ever go anywhere else.”

Mary Kate Scott, Staff Nurse, Children’s Hospital PICU

For these nurses and others in the PICU at Children’s, it’s never a question as to whether they’re right where they need to be.

“I knew I always wanted to go into pediatrics! After having a friend who precepted on the unit and shared his positive experiences, I knew that I wanted to come shadow.

After shadowing in the PICU, I loved the teamwork that I saw and how all the health care disciplines came together to help the sickest kids get better. Our children are so resilient!” 

Morgan Blake, Staff Nurse, Children’s Hospital PICU

Considering a career in nursing in the PICU at Children’s or another area?

nurses in the PICU at Children's
Leah, Morgan and Mary Kate have all found rewarding careers working at Children’s. Photo via Children’s of Alabama

Marjorie suggests students in the Birmingham Area get a preceptorship in a critical care area at Children’s. She’s also a strong supporter of shadowing while in the interviewing process.

“You have to see what happens on busy units to really understand what the work is going to look like.”

Marjorie McCaskey,  Director of Nursing Education and Professional Development and the Clinical Outcomes and Quality Advisor, Children’s of Alabama

Whether you are looking into becoming a nurse in the PICU or another unit, know you’ll be changing lives at one of the top-performing hospitals in the country. Ready to join the team? Check out careers at Children’s.

“If someone is considering going into this field, I think it’s so rewarding. Especially in the PICU where like I said, of course, there are sad times, but there are also super happy rewarding times where you see the sickest of the sick get better.”

Mary Kate Scott, Staff Nurse, Children’s Hospital PICU

See what current positions are open at ChildrensAL.org/Careers. Learn more about joining the team at Children’s Hospital through their website and follow them on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter for updates.

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