IT TOOK a three-year-old boy with a balloon sword to help Mia Close see she had found her calling.
The University of Tasmania nursing student was starting her practical placement at the Launceston General Hospital's children's ward, and she was terrified.
At 21 years old, she didn't think she had it in her to care for another person's child, or see them sick or dying.
But last Friday morning, eight weeks after she first set foot in the ward, Ms Close was celebrating the end of her last practical placement and considering a career as a paediatric nurse.
``I was with this little patient and I had a sort of lightbulb moment,'' Ms Close said.
``We were running up and down the corridor - he was chasing me with a balloon sword - and he had to keep stopping to catch his breath because he had asthma.
``But he didn't give up, and he didn't stop smiling . . . and it was then that I knew I could actually do this.''
Like Ms Close, Janine Parsell-Mountney didn't want to work in ward 4K. She didn't want to watch children die, to treat them after abuse, or to bear the brunt of their parents' frustration and anger.
But when we shadowed her at work last Friday, it was clear she loved her job.
``I originally did nursing to do midwifery. That was my dream job, to get my qualification as a nurse, do my grad year, come back and become a midwife,'' Mrs Parsell-Mountney said.
``But I came here on my second rotation as a grad nurse, and I stayed. Now I've got no desire to be anywhere else.
``The kids are great, the staff are great, it's a great place to work, and it's just me. It's not something where you become a paediatric nurse, you just are one.
``It's in your heart and in your soul.''
It was a quiet day after a busy winter marred by respiratory illnesses, and Mrs Parsell-Mountney was doing routine observations on two-year-old Keegan Leslie, who had pneumonia, while mum Ashley and dad Jay Leslie watched on.
``He's been here a few times - he just picks stuff up really easy,'' Mrs Leslie said.
``But it's actually a bit of a reassurance being here because when something goes wrong at home, I'm worrying all the time.''
Mrs Parsell-Mountney said paediatric nurses had to include an entire family in their care.
``And you really see people at their worst, because they have the stress of having a sick child . . . so you have to help the parent to help the child,'' she said.
Sometimes, this meant a paediatric nurse would have to stand by a child's bed and ``take it'' while a parent vented all their frustration, anger and helplessness on them.
But it also meant they would become part of families as they went through tough times.
``We had a young child that passed away from cancer, who had a long history of the illness and was with us for many months, and we went through that journey with that family,'' Mrs Parsell-Mountney said.
``That case will always be in my heart . . . because they were here a lot, and that child fought right to the end.''
Mrs Parsell-Mountney will always remember the day one particular mother learnt her child was going to die.
``I happened to have a daughter the same age as hers, so the mum turned around and said `go home, and give your little girl a hug for me, and tell her that you love her','' she said.
``When you have moments like that, it's hard not to get emotional - you wouldn't be human if you didn't - and we did go outside and have a cry.
``But 99 per cent of these kids go home healthy . . . and when they go out the door waving goodbye, and you think `I did that, I made them well,' you know you don't want to work anywhere else.''