Pediatrics is a distinct specialization of nursing — and for good reason. Children and young adults have specific health needs that differ from adults, requiring healthcare providers — like pediatric primary care nurse practitioners (PNP-PCs) — with focused knowledge to maintain this population’s well-being.
Still, misconceptions about the scope and impact of pediatric nursing remain. The University of Texas at Arlington (UTA) offers a customized degree for nurses interested in this specialty that explores key responsibilities and the role of PNPs in today’s healthcare landscape. The Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) in Pediatric Primary Care Nurse Practitioner online program prepares graduates to care for the physical, social and emotional health of patients between birth and age 21.
What Are Common Misconceptions About Pediatric Nursing?
While pediatric care, like other areas of healthcare, is evolving, there are still misconceptions and myths about the role of pediatric healthcare providers and the type of care they deliver. The following are popular myths about the field.
Infant care is the same as adult care. Some falsely believe infants are simply small adults, so the care methods for the two groups should be the same. In reality, the developmental health of children and adolescents requires separate pediatric nursing expertise and a different approach to care. Their body systems are similar, but PNP-PCs must understand youth’s unique physical, social and emotional developmental patterns and how to perform age-appropriate assessments. In addition, pediatric nurses may benefit from employing a more playful bedside manner, developing communication techniques to calm children’s anxiety and ensuring the entire family, including siblings and parents, feel comfortable and cared for.
Pediatric nurses only care for young children. Although some PNPs specialize in caring for neonates, adolescents or young adults, most practitioners work within the full pediatric age range, notes the National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners (NAPNAP). This range typically includes newborn care through adulthood, around age 21.
Pediatric nurses don’t work with families. Because most children within the full pediatric range are underage and unable to give informed consent, pediatric nurses must work to develop trusting relationships with patients’ families to administer the most appropriate care. As Judith Harris, MS, RN, CPNP, notes in a Travel Nursing article, “Nurses who are interested in working in pediatrics also need to realize that you don’t just treat the child, you treat the entire family. You need in-depth knowledge of parental psychology so that you can navigate through parental issues and help parents care for their kids.”
Is There a Demand for Pediatric Healthcare Providers?
According to a recent workforce report, the demand for pediatric healthcare providers remains high and will likely continue for the next decade. Published by NAPNAP, the report indicates that the number of physicians specializing in pediatrics has not kept pace with population demands. For example, while “children comprise nearly 25% of the U.S. population, pediatric primary and acute care NPs constitute just 3.2% and 0.7% of the NP workforce, respectively.”
Coupled with the rapidly growing demand for all types of NPs, which the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimates at 46% growth through 2031, the career pathways and opportunities for skilled PNP-PCs will likely remain elevated.
Nurses looking to set themselves apart and pursue a specialization may find a PNP career rewarding. UTA’s online MSN in PNP-PC program equips graduates with the critical skills to excel in this role. The program also debunks the myths surrounding pediatric care that can hinder best practices.
Despite misconceptions about the field, pediatric clinicians can offer specialized care to help children and young adults lead long, healthy, fulfilling lives. By paying careful attention to patients’ developmental needs and establishing a mutual understanding with parents and caregivers, PNP-PCs can set the stage for their patients to thrive well into adulthood.
Learn more about UTA’s MSN in Pediatric Primary Care Nurse Practitioner online program.