Children of all ages — whether newborn babies, teens or somewhere in between — have different healthcare needs than adults. A pediatric nurse works closely with pediatricians and others who specialize in pediatric care to provide the unique services that children need.
Types of Pediatric Nursing Careers
Pediatric nurses work in various settings, such as doctors’ offices, hospitals and outpatient settings, while others set up their own practices and clinics. Nurses in this specialty can handle a variety of health issues, including acute illnesses and injuries and chronic conditions such as diabetes and allergies. With proper education and credentials, they can also provide routine checkups.
Some pediatric nurses focus on treating children at certain ages or within specialty areas, whereas others treat a broader range of individuals. A number of careers are available to pediatric nurses, including the following:
Pediatric nurses are registered nurses who specialize in the care of well and ill children. They can work in pediatricians' offices, hospitals or pediatric intensive care units (PICU). They typically work alongside a cadre of other professionals that may include child-life specialists and others to maximize health and prevent disease.
Pediatric Nurse Practitioner
Pediatric nurse practitioners (PNPs) provide more advanced services than pediatric nurses. Nurse practitioners can focus on acute or preventive care for children. Activities include completing routine checkups, order and interpret clinical tests, diagnose illnesses, manage chronic conditions and prescribe medications.
Requirements for Becoming a Pediatric Nurse
Nurses who specialize in pediatrics need standard nursing education, such as an accredited Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree. Additional specialized education in pediatrics is also typically a requirement, as in the following examples:
Some facilities require specialized training in pediatrics before being beginning to work with children. Other facilities will hire a nurse for a pediatric position without having specific pediatric qualifications and will provide an extended orientation to prepare the nurse to work with this population.
Pediatric Nurse Practitioner
To become a PNP requires additional education and certification. Many programs resulting in a Masters degree as a PNP require one to two years of nursing experience before entering the program. The prospective nurse practitioner also must apply to and secure approval from the state board of nursing. In addition, it is necessary to successfully complete a pediatric nurse practitioner certification examination.
In addition to clinical skills, pediatric nurses need certain “soft skills,” including the following:
- Communication: Pediatric nurses must communicate clearly and age-appropriately. They need to be able to glean information from young children who cannot always adequately describe their symptoms.
- Education: The pediatric nurse plays a key role in educating the child and the child's parents on important health issues.
- Compassion: Pediatric nurses need to be compassionate, and they must excel at listening to and answering questions. An easygoing disposition and sense of humor helps.
- Sensitivity: Children in the pediatric nurse’s office might be frightened and unsure what to expect. The younger the child, the more difficult it is for them to understand what is happening. The pediatric nurse needs to be able to reassure and calm the child.
It is exciting and challenging to work with children and watch them grow. Pediatric nursing is rewarding, and there is always a demand for pediatric care nurses. If you are drawn to this area, now is a great time to explore the possibilities.
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