The work-life of a registered nurse is all about caring for others, and if you love children, specializing in pediatric care will allow you to play an active role in ensuring their physical well-being as they grow.
But what is a pediatric nurse, and what are the career benefits? Read on to learn more about a pediatric nurse’s job description, educational requirements and salary outlook.
What does a pediatric nurse do?
Like their doctoral counterparts, certified pediatric nurses care for children, from infants to 18-year-olds (or slightly older). Because children are constantly growing and changing, it’s a job that involves many responsibilities that call for several special skills. As a pediatric nurse, you need to apply all your years of medical training and experience but with more attention to detail and plenty of TLC.
For many little ones, the doctor’s office is downright scary, a place of needles, needles and more needles. Your mission as a pediatric nurse is to administer care calmly, lovingly and effectively, and to help kids muster the courage to get through even the smallest of procedures (like the dreaded task of Bandaid removal).
That means being attentive to children’s concerns, empathizing with them and learning to communicate in ways they find most comfortable. That can include speaking in a soft voice, playing games to help build a bond or telling them jokes to lighten the mood when fear is in the air.
What are a pediatric nurse’s job duties and salary?
Some of the daily tasks both pediatric nurses and pediatric nurse practitioners (PNPs) take on include:
- Assessing and logging patients’ conditions
- Administering prescribed medications
- Coordinating with parents or legal guardians to give them patient info
- Helping specialists perform diagnostic tests
Across the board, the average pediatric nurse’s salary is $75,330, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, although your actual salary will vary based on your education, experience and location.
How to become a pediatric nurse
Specialization is the name of the game, and several levels of certification are needed before your specialty begins.
- Like all registered nurses, you must earn your Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing (BSN) and pass your licensing exams. That means at least four years of undergraduate studies (a time when nursing student discounts sure come in handy!).
- After completing your bachelor’s degree—and your Master’s of Science in Nursing (MSN), if you want to become a pediatric nurse practitioner—you’ll need to complete a clinical internship. A PNP oversees this, and it usually takes several months to complete.
What are pediatric nursing certifications?
Both pediatric nurses and PNPs must pass the NCLEX-RN licensing exam to obtain their base-level certification. PNPs also have to pass the Certified Pediatric Nurse Certification exam (CPN), which is overseen by the Pediatric Nursing Certification Board (PNCB).
Can a family nurse practitioner work in pediatrics?
In short, yes and no.
Both pediatric nurses and PNPs can assist with primary care for children and adolescents: family nurse practitioners by choice and PNPs by design. Either is well-suited to work in a family doctor’s, pediatrician’s or general practitioner’s office.
However, family nurse practitioners aren’t specialists, meaning they aren’t necessarily equipped to work in specific healthcare environments like intensive care units at children’s hospitals.
But the good news is the PNCB offers bridge programs that allow family nurses to make the switch, once they’re competent in pediatrics.
Where do pediatric nurse practitioners work?
PNPs work wherever children need healthcare providers, including hospitals, outpatient care clinics and pediatric offices.
This is where most pediatric nurses find work, especially those who want to specialize in acute care. Here, you’re responsible for assisting children with critical illnesses that require extensive medical intervention.
Outpatient care clinics
Devoted to outpatient care, these clinics bridge the gap between hospitals and doctors’ offices. Here, nurses help with long-term treatment plans, screenings and outreach for community initiatives.
Pediatric nurses assist doctors with regular checkups, developmental tracking and necessary immunizations.
What else should you know about this career path?
Understand that you’re working with families, not just children
Parents are concerned with the care of their children and want nothing more than for them to be happy and healthy. In addition to working with kids, you’ll be working with moms and dads, too. That means having solid counseling skills in crisis situations and the ability to explain complex medical jargon to the children and their parents. Try to navigate their reactions to stress without taking anything too personally. Remember, healthcare settings and medical procedures are often unfamiliar, especially to new parents. It’s your job to gently guide them through whatever the situation may be.
Observation is key
Symptoms for illnesses can present themselves differently in children than adults. Also, kids don’t always have the means to communicate what’s bothering them, especially when they’re young and nonverbal. That goes for children with disabilities, too. Pediatric nurses are masters at reading the signs. Always be attentive to detail and keep track of how they’re feeling through subtle body language. Adapting your methods as you gain experience will help you best advocate for pediatric patients.
Don’t forget self-care routines
Pediatric nursing is a rewarding career, for sure. But like any healthcare profession, it can take its toll. That’s why it’s all the more essential for pediatric nurses and PNPs to ensure they’re eating a healthy diet, resting properly and making time to recharge. (To learn more about taking care of yourself during your journey, read up on how to make yourself a priority.) Remember, caring for others means caring for yourself, too.