Paediatric Intensive Care Unit – Profile
Meet Felix Oberender, our Paediatric Intensive Care Unit Director.
Monash Children’s Hospital is only one of two tertiary paediatric intensive care units in Victoria with our new state of the art unit opening earlier this year.
Felix said one of the most rewarding things since the unit first opened has been seeing all of the staff from different areas come together as one in the space.
Can you tell me a little bit about your career and how it took you to Australia, and then to Monash?
I started training as a paediatrician in my native Germany and after a couple years moved to the hustle and bustle of London’s hospitals. Paediatrics in London was exciting –busy, colourful and incredibly varied. My training program finished with a term in PICU and just as I expected, I loved the field: being part of a team looking after some of the sickest children and their families, bearing witness to profound journeys, joyful or heartbreaking. Coming to Australia was then a logic choice – although, truth be told, I was as much looking for a little more adventure as I was keen to round out my PICU training. When I received a job offer from faraway Melbourne, I actually had little idea that I would work with some of the greats in the specialty who had quite literally written the textbook on PICU. I stayed at The Royal Children’s Hospital for an invaluable time until later Monash offered the opportunity to become part of growing and building a new PICU service – a challenging and exciting project.
The new PICU has been open for a few weeks now, how has the new space improved the level of care you’re able to provide?
In the new PICU we are now able to solely focus on the needs of critically ill children. This allows for a much higher degree of population-specific and patient-centred care. This removed the need for doctors and nurses in the ICU to manage the full range of adult critical illness while also trying to accommodate sick babies, toddlers and adolescents. Layout and technology in PICU are providing for optimal team performance, line-of-sight communication, swift response to emergencies and, importantly, care of the child and their family. In addition, we are now also ‘house-mates’ with the other paediatric specialties at MCH. This means even closer links to our colleagues who have patients in the unit.
What are some of the new features this space has, that weren’t available to your team previously?
In the new PICU, each patient is cared for in a single room. Even on busy days, this gives the unit an air of calm. In each room, space is provided for the mother, father or carer so that they can be together with their child whenever they wish. We also have a spacious quiet family room and even a dedicated PICU balcony that allows us to have some of our long-term patients enjoy fresh air and sunlight during their recovery. The technology in the unit is outstanding. However, the most striking feature that I hope families are experiencing is that the unit is light, friendly and welcoming. No parent wants to ever have to walk through the doors of a PICU. For those who have to, the new unit is designed to give re-assurance and hope.
What is the most rewarding part of working in this environment?
The most wonderful aspect of the last few weeks has been seeing the team of doctors, nurses and allied health staff come together in the new space. We have an amazing group of nurses led by Adrienne Pendrey, our NUM, an enthusiastic team of junior doctors and a group of very experienced consultants as well as terrific allied health staff. They all fill the new space with their care and commitment to our young patients. There had been very little time to settle in as some profoundly challenging cases presented to us right around opening date. What I have seen in the new Monash PICU since is an amazing level of dedication by staff of all levels. It is great to see such a high standard of PICU practice and deeply moving to witness the love and care everyone brings to the children in the unit.
A lot of people know you for the work that you do, what are a few things the community might not know about you?
Sometimes people hear my German accent and we have great conversations about cars, autobahns and Oktoberfest. Very lovely! However, I actually grew up in the Communist east of the country: it was more like rust buckets, potholes and May parades.
Outside of work hours, what are some ways you like to unwind and switch off from work?
Close to home, I enjoy a walk with my wife and our daughter through the local park: it’s cola commercial meet Monet. I could not imagine a place where all walks of life seem happier or more playful. When we have time to get out of Melbourne, I love the fact that wilderness is not far away – going on a hike, swimming in a rockpool or a weekend camping.