What, Why and How: A Closer Look at Pediatric Nurses

A pediatric nurse is one of the most popular specialized nursing roles for a reason. The work involves tracking the progress of a child – from birth until young adulthood – and ensuring they are developing as expected. Many different aspects of the child’s health and wellbeing are covered, which makes pediatric nursing an immensely rewarding and important role in the healthcare sphere. 

Pediatric nurse: a quick observation 

A pediatric nurse will supply both acute and preventative care to children. In certain cases, they will complete their work in the pediatric intensive care unit (PICU). This unit is necessary for young patients who require constant monitoring, with medical care also covering invasive procedures. The specialists working in the PICU will possess the skills and knowledge to look after children who are severely injured or critically ill. 

For the acute side of illnesses, where a child requires monitoring/assessment on a less frequent scale, this is dealt with in an intermediate care area. This is essentially the middle ground between a general care unit and PICU. 

As for treatment, a pediatric nurse’s ultimate aim is simple: reach the point where the child can be discharged and achieve independence. This can be a long-term goal depending on the illness or situation faced. Plus if it is a permanent affliction, the strategy has to change. In this situation, the pediatric nurse will best prepare the child and family. This includes teaching coping strategies and offering relevant resources, all of which will help with returning back to day-to-day life. 

Speaking of family, the importance of educating parents plays a crucial role in pediatric nursing. They will teach parents how to best care for their offspring, giving them information from the start of infancy until late adolescence. The instructions can be as simple as routine childcare advice, to designing intricate care plans to treat developmental issues or chronic health conditions. 

These teachings are not necessarily restricted to individual cases, either. Pediatric nurses can make presentations in public settings, such as at child care centers and schools. These presentations can cover general concerns such as correct nutrition and accident prevention. Screenings and immunizations could also be performed by the pediatric nurse at such events. 

What does a pediatric nurse do? 

While the previous section touched upon certain aspects of pediatric nursing, this one will provide greater detail into the general tasks involved with the role. 

As for these general tasks, here is a list of specific duties that are handled by pediatric nurses: 

  • Keeping a record of a child’s weight and height. 
  • Continually observe a child’s development and health, including their ability to walk unassisted, sleep through the night, and learn to speak. 
  • Obtaining samples of the child’s blood and urine. 
  • If required, the ordering of diagnostic testing to determine if a child is suffering from a disease. 
  • Accurately analyze test results, including those produced by MRIs and CT scans.
  • Based on test results, create a suitable treatment plan for the child. 
  • Treat common illnesses associated with childhood, such as ear infections and colds. 
  • Administer scheduled immunizations for common illnesses. 
  • Understand how each child’s body reacts in a different way to injuries, illnesses, and medications. 
  • The ability to adjust medication proportions and treatments to ensure the child receives optimum care.  

A deep understanding of children – such as how they react and act in certain situations – is integral for pediatric nurses. Typically, young patients are apprehensive about going to a pediatrician’s office. As a result, they could react with a mixture of confusion and fear – not the ideal emotions when trying to accurately analyze and treat their condition. 

With a strong background working with children and understanding their development in hand, pediatric nurses should possess the ability to adjust their approach on-the-fly to patients acting out. This improvisational ability to react to different possibilities will help the child to feel safe and comfortable. 

How to become a pediatric nurse 

While it is a long road to become a pediatric nurse, the route is significantly shorter if you are already a registered nurse (RN). Once you are a registered nurse, it is about gaining relevant experience in a setting where you provide children with nursing care. 

Once this experience is gained, there are three steps necessary toward becoming a pediatric nurse practitioner in the United States: 

  • Pass the Certified Pediatric Nurse (CPN) exam. Becoming CPN certified validates that, in the realm of pediatric nursing, you possess expertise and knowledge that is beyond standard RN licensure. 
  • Gain a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) or Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree that specializes in pediatric care. While there are nursing schools that cover these types of degrees, online pediatric nurse practitioner programs are available. Learning online is particularly advantageous due to the convenience provided. 
  • Once your education is complete, your state board of nursing needs to recognize you as an advanced practice nurse (APN). There are different requirements for each state with regards to nursing, so ensure you conduct research before any further education. 

Job outlook and financial incentives

There is an insatiable demand for practicing nurses right now, and that’s no different for pediatric nurses. Although you might have to travel out of state depending on the experience and qualifications you possess, there should be no issue finding a permanent pediatric nurse role. As a rule of thumb for nurses (and in general), the more training, experience, and certification in their pocket, the more demand employers will have to acquire their skillset. 

There is also ample financial incentive for opting to become a pediatric nurse. According to Explore Health Careers, a pediatric nurse can expect to earn an average annual salary that ranges from $52,000 to $88,000. Understandably, the rate differs depending on the state. The likes of New York, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire are among the states that deliver the best financial package for pediatric nurses. 

As nurses in this specialty sector are reportedly retiring at a record rate, there’s arguably a no better time to pursue a career as a pediatric nurse.