Nurses who specialize in pediatrics devote their knowledge and skills to caring for children from infancy through the late teen years and their families. These specialized nurses usually complete advanced training in pediatrics and collaborate closely with physicians and other health care providers who share their dedication to children’s health.
Like other nurses, pediatric nurses can perform physical examinations, measure vital statistics, take blood and urine samples and order diagnostic tests. Nurses with advanced training can interpret test results to form diagnoses and develop treatment plans.
Parents often prefer to have their children treated by pediatric specialists, because children have special health care needs. Their bodies are growing and changing, and they often react differently to injury, illness and even common medications.
In addition, children get scared and can’t always clearly communicate “what hurts.” Pediatric nurses know how to talk to children and how to dispel their fears. They also know how to ask children questions about their health, so they can gather complete and accurate information to aid in diagnosis and treatment.
In addition to caring for patients with injuries and illnesses, pediatric nurses spend a significant amount of time educating parents and other caregivers about how to care for their children and protect children’s health. For families of children with chronic conditions, such as juvenile diabetes or paralysis, they design home care plans to help the families meet their child’s special needs.
Prevention and health education is a big part of pediatric nursing. Pediatric nurses often staff community health fairs and visit schools to perform physical exams, immunize children and provide routine developmental health screenings.
Pediatric nursing is a very special vocation, because it provides the opportunity to play a key role in a child’s life when that child needs you most.
Education and Experience Needed To Be a Pediatric Nurse
It takes a lot of dedication and passion to become a pediatric nurse and there are many steps an individual must take in order to provide this specialized care:
Step 1: Earn a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree; the completion of this 4-year program qualifies and individual as a Registered Nurse (RN).
Step 2: Find an internship that allows RNs to work alongside a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner or a doctor. This internship will be approximately 12 weeks long and involves both practical training and classroom learning.
Step 3: Apply for Pediatric Nursing positions. Positions for pediatric nurses are growing in demand, so it’s likely an individual will be able to find a position in a short amount of time.
Step 4: Apply for a Certified Pediatric Nurse (CPN) certification administered by the Pediatric Nursing Certification Board (PNCB). Once an individual has over 1,800 hours of career experience as a pediatric nurse over a 24 month period, they can apply for this certification. Although the CPN certification is completely voluntary, it greatly increases a nurse’s employability, enhances career mobility, and may raise compensation.
Types of Pediatric Nurses and The Kind of Work They Do
Direct Nursing Care (Pediatric Registered Nurse)
A Pediatric Registered Nurse typically works with children in doctors’ offices and hospitals. They provide routine checkups for children of all ages. The primary role of a Pediatric Registered Nurse is to administer any care that is required according to the patient’s nursing care plan. The main duties of a Pediatric Registered Nurse include:
- Observing vital signs
- Being present to communicate with the parents when needed
- Working with parents and families to cope with the stress of a child’s illness
- Providing routine checkups for children
- Giving developmental screenings and immunizations
- Treating illnesses like chicken pox
Neonatal Nurses provide care and support for newborn infants who are born prematurely, or suffering from health problems such as birth defects, infections, or heart deformities. In most cases, a Neonatal Nurse will work in a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). The main duties of a Neonatal Nurse include:
- Monitoring vital signs of babies in the NICU
- Working with premature babies and families that have difficulties adjusting to living outside of their mother’s womb
- Educating parents about their child’s progress
- Ensuring that all equipment necessary for the baby is working properly
Developmental Disability Nurse
Developmental Disability Nurses provide specialized care for children with a wide range of mental and developmental disabilities that affect a child’s ability to learn and perform basic life skills. These nurses work with children that have developmental disabilities such as Down syndrome, autism, Rett syndrome, and Asperger’s syndrome. The main duties of a Developmental Disability Nurse include:
Assisting with feeding and bodily functions
Educating and supporting parents about their child’s developmental disability
Developing a child’s language and communication skills
Educating children and their parents about required medical equipment
Helping achieve independent mobility
Palliative Pediatric Nursing
Palliative Pediatric Nurses care for terminally-ill children to relieve their suffering and ensure the best quality of care during living, dying, and family grieving. Palliative Pediatric Nurses are highly trained in discussions of death so that they can effectively and compassionately communicate a child’s condition to his or her family. The main duties of a Palliative Pediatric Nurse include:
- Ensuring clear communication to parents about the child’s condition
- Coordinating care with other heath care professionals
- Being present in the clinic or at the bedside of the ill child, to identify any care needed
- Providing information for the family to make informed decisions
- Assisting with necessary medical equipment
Where do pediatric nurses work?
As you might imagine, wherever there are babies, kids and teenagers there’ll always be a market for pediatric nurses who have been specially trained to tend to childhood injuries and illness Once you identify pediatric nursing as your calling in life and earn the necessary credentials to become one, you’ll be able to grow your career in a city, suburban or rural environment and a wide range of facilities. For example, an Institute for Pediatric Nursing survey of Certified Pediatric Nurses revealed that:
- 30.3% of them are employed at free-standing children’s hospitals.
- 28.3% work at children’s hospitals associated with a major medical center.
- 11.7% are employed at outpatient care facilities.
- 9.9% are employed at community hospitals.
- 4.8% work at amajor medical center.
- 2.4% work in school setting.
With the right education and training in pediatric nursing, you’ll have a wide range of environments where your knowledge and skills are in demand.
What will your workdays be like as a pediatric nurse?
Your workday as a pediatric nurse will largely depend on the type of facility where you get hired. If you’re employed at a doctor’s office, hospital or clinic, your duties and responsibilities may be similar to those of any registered nurse, except the care you provide will be administered to younger patients. The job description can include:
- Work with pediatricians, nurses and other healthcare professionals to develop care plans for babies, toddlers, kids and teens.
- Calm and reassure worried parents and teach them how to best care for their children.
- Connect and effectively communicate with your youthful patients to help take the fear factor off their illnesses, injuries and treatments.
You may also choose to take a job as a school nurse, in which case your day to day activities will likely include promoting preventive healthcare for students, faculty and members of the community.