How To Become A Pediatric Nurse
Pediatric nurses are registered nurses (RNs) who have specialized training in pediatrics. Pediatric care includes that of newborns, infants, children, and teenagers. Pediatric nurses are specifically trained to conduct physical examinations, measure and document vital statistics, administer medications, obtain laboratory samples, and create orders for diagnostic tests.
Why Become A Pediatric Nurse
Preventative care and developmental wellness is a major concern of pediatric nurses, because children’s development is transformative and rapid. Pediatric nurses are involved with frequent check-ups, immunizations, and other developmental care.
Pediatric nurses are an essential aspect of a child’s healthcare. They work in collaboration with physicians and other professionals to ensure that each patient receives the care necessary for quality of life. They are concerned with and capable of supervising preventative care, pain management, anxiety control, and immediate healthcare concerns for children of all ages.
Many parents prefer that their children receive care from pediatric nurses. These types of nurses are special in that they are experts in the development of this vulnerable group. They are responsible for communicating healthcare and developmental needs to caregivers, while attempting to understand the needs of patients who may not be able to communicate fully. Pediatric nurses must exhibit the following traits:
- Emotional and physical stamina
- Knowledgeable of child and adolescent development
- Critical thinking skills
- Communication skills
- Detail oriented
- Appreciative of cultural differences
- Comforting and approachable
Pediatric Nurse Work Environment
Nurses who specialize in pediatrics can work in a variety of settings:
- Urgent care facilities
- Physicians’ offices
- Surgical centers
- Specialty facilities (diabetes, cancer, rehabilitation, etc.)
- Home healthcare services
- Educational institutions
- Juvenile detention centers
Many may specialize further, bringing their skills to patients with particular illnesses or conditions (diabetes, cancers, paralysis, etc.). They may wish to work in neonatal intensive care units (NICU) or acute care centers for extremely ill or injured children. Some may choose to work in community healthcare centers or schools, helping children with limited resources receive the care they need. Pediatric nurses may travel to the homes of their patients, providing care and education. The most common work environment for a pediatric nurse is in a pediatrician’s office.
Nurses typically work in sanitary, clinical settings. They are on their feet for many hours, bending, walking, and standing. They also have to provide physical assistance to move, lift, and restrain patients.
The majority of nurses work fulltime, in facilities that are open to the public for the main part of the day. Those who work in physicians’ offices may work weekends and evening hours in addition to a full work day. Nurses who work in hospitals can expect to work 12-hour shifts, during the day, night, weekends, and holidays.
Because nurses work in close proximity to sick patients, they are at risk for contracting infection diseases as well. They also work with potentially dangerous equipment and materials, so they must always be vigilant. Their attention to detail must also protect others against harm, so they should maintain strict sanitation and safety procedures.
Pediatric Nurse Salary
The median annual salary for an RN was $65,470 in 2012. Pediatric nurse salaries can range from $48,000 to $68,000 per year, depending on geographic location, facility, and experience. The top 10 percent in the field can make around $100,000 per year.
Pediatric Nurse Career Outlook
The job outlook for nurses in general is good. This field is expected to grow 19 percent in the next decade. For pediatric nurses, the outlook is excellent because of the unique developmental needs and risks of this population. A healthcare professional shortage may drive demand and may change depending on shifting trends, geographically.
Pediatric Nurse Degree
To become a pediatric nurse, it is a requirement to become an RN and to work with pediatric patients.
Step 1: Complete an undergraduate nursing program. To become an RN, an individual must complete an undergraduate program in nursing, earning a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) or Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN), or complete an RN certificate or diploma program. Courses for a track in pediatrics should include child development, and individuals should seek opportunities to work (volunteer or paid) in child-centered facilities.
Note: Although RNs may obtain entry-level positions with an ADN or diploma, many employers require their nurses to have at least a bachelor’s degree. Many RN-to-BSN programs exist for registered nurses seeking to earn their bachelor’s degrees.
Step 2: Obtain a nursing license. After completing a degree in nursing from an accredited institution, an individual must become registered and licensed to practice. Each graduate must pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN) to become a registered nurse. Other requirements may exist, depending on the state of employment, and it is important for applicants to check with the National Council of State Boards of Nursing for more information.
Step 3: Specialize in pediatrics. To pursue board certification for a specialty in pediatrics, it is necessary to have pediatric work experience. Once you have a few years’ experience working with younger patients, you can pursue board certification. Eligible applicants must meet the requirements of the credentialing organization. To prepare for board certification, it may be helpful to take courses or complete a residency, internship, or fellowship, although this is not a requirement. Some nurses choose to specialize within the field of pediatrics, and any training received should reflect this interest.
Some individuals choose to obtain advanced training through graduate school. A master’s degree in nursing can allow an individual to become a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner (PNP) or a Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS) in Pediatrics. These individuals will have more responsibilities and capabilities within the healthcare system. PNPs and CNSs must also pass an examination and meet state certification requirements.