A life dedicated to health

Dr David Krieser with a patient


Dr David Krieser is a paediatric emergency physician at Sunshine Hospital. This is his story … 

My path into health care was laid out before I was even born.

My grandfather died from leukaemia before I arrived and, when I was about 10 years old, I asked my father about it.

It became clear in my mind that, in order to find a cure, I would have to first study to be a doctor. The idea stuck.

I decided to specialise in paediatrics during my term at Monash Medical Centre in Clayton, in my fifth year of study. I liked how children are all so different, based on their age and developmental stage, and felt that adult-based practice was pretty rigid, not allowing for variation as much. And it was acceptable and important to use play as part of the diagnostic process!

Today, I’m a paediatric emergency physician and director of paediatric education at Sunshine Hospital.

I first joined the hospital in January, 2002. Wow! That’s 13 years.

I grew up in Melbourne and, after finishing medical school at Monash, Sunshine Hospital was one of the first places I worked as an intern.

I then had a year at Melbourne’s Royal Children’s Hospital before moving away to study paediatrics and paediatric emergency medicine for six years at Sydney Children’s Hospital, Children’s Hospital at Westmead and Canberra Hospital. I always wanted to return to Melbourne, though.

One of my favourite posts was six months with the New South Wales Paediatric and Neonatal Emergency Transport Service. I would be sent with a nurse to retrieve infants and children in need of intensive care from all over NSW, and bring them back to Sydney.

My family and I then left Australia and spent 20 months at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, Canada, where I undertook fellowships in paediatric emergency medicine and paediatric infectious diseases.

I was happy when a position came up back in Sunshine. My job has two big parts – the first is clinical, looking after patients, while the second is teaching junior medical staff. Both have provided pretty special moments that you come to cherish as a doctor. For instance, the emergency department can be pretty scary to people not used to it, especially for a child.

Only a few weeks ago we had an adolescent with a very nasty arm fracture due to a fall during a football match. He was pretty scared of everything that might happen.

I told him that we wouldn’t surprise him with scary things and that we would tell him what we would be doing along each step.

We spoke about things he liked and tried to make the situation more “normal”.

I also said that we had medicines we could give him without needles that could help with pain and his fears.

We used nitrous oxide, or laughing gas, for many of the initial steps in his care and then more powerful sedatives to fix his arm fracture.

He thanked me after it was over and said it had been much better than he thought it
would be.

There was also a time I taught a junior doctor how to insert a special needle into a bone to provide life-saving medication and fluids when it was too difficult or slow to put a drip in a vein.

A few years later, she volunteered with Medicins sans Frontieres and was called to help a child who was critically unwell with malaria. She put in one of the needles, provided him with the medication he required and he left a week later.

She sent me an email after to say that my teaching had been the reason she was able to do that procedure.

I’m also really excited about the future of Sunshine Hospital. It’s placed in the fastest- growing part of Australia. Young families are settling in the western suburbs of Melbourne.

Since I arrived in 2002 as the only paediatric emergency physician, the hospital has employed another five specialists in the emergency department to supervise juniors and continue to develop our capacity to look after acutely unwell infants and children.

We will continue to develop our training capability so that the next generation of specialists can learn from us.

Both these roles are pretty exciting.