With the rising demand for healthcare providers, nurse practitioners (NPs) are uniquely positioned to serve various patient populations. First, however, NPs need to choose a career specialization they feel passionate about — not just "where the jobs are."
If you enjoy working with children in a healthcare setting, you may be a fit for a career as a Pediatric Primary Care Nurse Practitioner (PNP-PC).
A Day in the Life of a PNP-PC
Children and young adults have specific health needs. So, healthcare providers must approach their medical care with a complex understanding of their age group. Children and young adults have certain nutritional needs to optimize the growing process. Puberty can be a challenge. Their brains are still developing — even past the age of 21, the standard "cap" for pediatric care.
Broadly, PNP-PCs provide well-child care (health maintenance). They work to prevent and manage pediatric illnesses and chronic conditions. More specifically, the day-to-day of a PNP-PC might include:
- Diagnosing a toddler with maladies such as an ear infection, allergy or virus
- Ordering diagnostic tests (blood labs, x-ray, MRI)
- Prescribing appropriate medications — and advising parents/caregivers on medication safety
- Performing school physicals and administering immunizations
- Talking to teens about nutritional habits
- Providing guidance surrounding potential mental health issues (like depression/anxiety, eating disorders or self-harm)
The National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners (NAPNAP) reports that its members spend up to 20 minutes with each patient. This amount of time allows PNP-PCs to complete comprehensive assessments and have meaningful conversations with parents and caregivers.
Healthcare Settings Where PNP-PCs Practice
With the robust knowledge and expertise required of PNP-PCs, they can work in a variety of care settings. A few examples include hospitals, pediatric offices, urgent care centers, specialty clinics, public health facilities and schools.
The PNP-PC's role is not to be confused with PNPs who work in acute care (PNP-AC), where the focus is on pediatric patients with acute, complex, critical and chronic illnesses. These professionals typically work in hospitals, intensive care units, subspecialty clinics, emergency departments and sometimes the patient's home.
Foundational Characteristics of Successful PNP-PCs
As is the case for any worker within healthcare — from registered nurses (RNs) to doctors of medicine (MDs) — there are certain skills and competencies PNP-PCs need to succeed. The following represent characteristics PNP-PCs should continue to hone throughout their careers:
- Critical thinking
- Focus and attention to detail
- Communication (both with patients/parents and team members)
- Effective leadership and collaboration
Equally as important is understanding how to identify non-verbal cues in both patients and parents. This applies both clinically and from a safety perspective.
For example, a young child may complain of a stomachache, but the underlying cause might be mounting anxiety. If a parent avoids eye contact when explaining an injury or bruises, or is evasive in their responses, it could indicate potential child abuse. Of course, situations involving abuse must be thoroughly vetted before making any sort of formal report.
Prospective Career Opportunities
Once a PNP-PC has gone through their education and earned the appropriate certifications, lucrative opportunities await. ZipRecruiter reports the average annual pay for a PNP-PC in the United States is $103,873 a year. However, in some settings, annual salaries can be as high as $195,000.
With any position, salary depends on skill level, geographical location and years of experience.
Caring for the pediatric population is not just rewarding; it's also a highly viable career path. As a PNP-PC, you will be equipped to help combat the increasing needs of the healthcare industry.
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