What is a Pediatric Nurse?
Nursing is one of the noblest professions that exists. It takes a person with a special demeanor to become a nurse, and those who choose to work with children are even nobler. Becoming a pediatric nurse means you want to help children when they are their most vulnerable, sick, in pain, and miserable. Nursing itself requires specialized training and a special skill set, but pediatric nurses require additional training and certifications. If you are willing to put in the work, there is a position as a pediatric nurse out there for you. They are in demand all across the country, and you can work your way up into nurse management if you choose to continue your education and certifications. It is also a well-paying career, so you can fulfill your desire to help children get better and still afford to support yourself and your family.
A pediatric nurse is a nurse that specializes in taking care of children. These nurses are trained in how a child’s body functions differently from an adult’s and how to decipher the needs of a child who might not be able to effectively communicate a particular issue or tell medical professionals what hurts. On top of traditional nursing training, a pediatric nurse takes additional courses on child anatomy, behavior, and other specialized courses designed to help in the treatment and care of children. This extra training makes pediatric nurses highly demanded in a variety of settings. It is also important to note that a pediatric nurse can also work in other settings and with other patients, but most pediatric nurses chose this path because they were especially interested in working with children.
Steps to Becoming a Pediatric Nurse
To become a pediatric nurse, a person must attend school and training specifically for nursing. These programs are generally either two-year or four-year programs. Two-year programs are offered by community colleges, while four-year programs are offered at colleges and universities. In most cases, a student is required to meet and maintain a certain GPA before they can apply to be admitted into a nursing program and then must maintain a minimum grade-point average throughout the program.
Step 1: Go to Nursing School
Step 2: Pass the NCLEX Exam
Step 3: Become Certified as a Pediatric Nurse
Step 1: Go to Nursing School
Aspiring pediatric nurses have two options for nursing school: They can go through a 2-year program at a community college and get an Associate’s in Nursing or they can go to a four-year college and get a Bachelor’s in Nursing. Some students opt to get a two-year degree then go back for the four-year degree later. Whichever path a student decides to take, they must apply for admittance into nursing school. Qualifications vary by school, so students should find out those qualifications at the beginning of their college career so they can prepare to meet them. Both a two-year and four-year degree will prepare students for the licensure exam they are required to take.
Step 2: Pass the NCLEX - RN Exam
The National Council Licensure Exam (NCLEX) is the test all nurses have to take to become Registered Nurses. Nurses who don’t take the NCLEX or who don’t pass the exam can work as Practical Nurses, but in order to continue on to become a pediatric nurse, passing the NCLEX and becoming an RN is a requirement. The test is offered throughout the year in several locations in each state.
To be eligible to take the exam the following requirements must be met:
- Apply for admission to the Nursing Regulatory Body in your state.
- Follow the exam requirements as laid out on the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN) website.
Step 3: Become Certified as a Pediatric Nurse
To become a certified pediatric nurse, nurses must take and pass the Certified Pediatric Nursing Exam. The exam is offered by the Pediatric Nursing Certification Board.
To be eligible for the exam the following requirements have to be met:
- Current, valid RN license
- 1,800 hours of pediatric clinical experience as an RN during the previous 24 months or a minimum of 5 years as an RN in pediatric nursing and 3,000 hours in pediatric nursing within the last 5 years with a minimum of 1000 hours within the past 24 months
- Clinical experience can be from employment in a variety and combination of positions, including hospitals, clinics, or teaching.
- Payment of the $295 exam fee that includes a $100 non-refundable registration fee
- Completed application. To complete the application, students have to sign up on the site and fill out the online application. Once the application and fees are submitted, the PNCB will review the application. If accepted, the board will send the student a 90-day timeline for review and to take the exam.
- Schedule and take the exam. Students will want to give themselves ample time to review for the exam before taking it. The exam is proctored and scheduled through a testing service called Prometric. Once your application is accepted, you’ll receive the information you need to schedule your exam. After you take the exam, you’ll receive the results in two to three weeks after the exam date.
What Does a Pediatric Nurse Do?
Pediatric nurses work with other medical professionals to examine and treat children. Nurses take vitals, ask questions about any issues the child might have and is the first medical professional the child interacts with. Because of this, a sunny personality and friendly nature are important, especially if the child is experiencing any distress during a visit. Pediatric nurses are also often tasked with carrying out treatments prescribed by doctors, which makes a positive rapport with young patients even more important. From an administrative standpoint, pediatric nurses must update patient charts and make sure all treatments and advice are included in the chart.
Skills to Acquire
Medical training, licensing, and certification is required for a pediatric nurse, but there are other skills a nurse needs to be successful as a pediatric nurse. These skills include:
Nurses are often dealing with people at the worst times of their lives which means they might not be the kindest or in the best frame of mind. Compassion for these people while trying to help them goes a long way to diffuse a situation.
- Should like children
Pediatric nurses should generally like children, since the profession requires they spend a decent amount of time with young people.
- Attention to detail
Pediatric nurses should pick up on small things a child might do to indicate an issue. Infants cannot speak, but an astute nurse might be able to pick up on a facial expression or movement that could be a clue to an issue.
- Physical ability
Nursing is a physical task. Much of a nurse’s time is spent on their feet doing lifting, tugging, and carrying. Physical endurance is an important part of this.
- A sense of humor
There will be times when getting a child to cooperate might take some creative thinking on the part of medical professionals. A nurse with a sense of humor and ability to make kids laugh can go a long way.
- Organizational skills
Keeping charts organized, prescriptions straight, and managing others on your team requires organizational skills.
- Communication skills
The ability to effectively communicate with young patients, parents, other adults, and other members of the medical team is important.
Pediatric Nurse Career & Salary
Where Might You Work?
Here are some places where a pediatric nurse could find employment. Some are traditional, while others might be places one might not immediately think about when considering a career as a pediatric nurse.
When most people think of nurses they almost immediately think of a hospital. While a vast majority of nurses of all types do work in a hospital setting, pediatric nurses are most in demand on the pediatrics floor and in the emergency room. Pediatric nurses also work in oncology, labs, and other hospital departments where minor patients might be.
- Doctor’s Offices
Pediatricians need nurses to help with their young patients and to run the office. Setting appointments, screening patients, and helping with examinations and treatments are a few of the duties a nurse might fill.
School nurses serve an important purpose in schools. They assess injuries students receive, provide medication as indicated, and keep track of prescriptions students have to take during the school day.
- Daycare Center
Daycare centers often hire pediatric nurses to help with the care of their charges. Similar to the school nurse, nurses in daycare centers make sure medications are taken, treat minor injuries, and keep track of all the children’s general well-being.
- Children’s Home
Children who are wards of the state might live in a state-run facility. These homes are fully staffed and that includes nurses.
Potential Career Paths
Pediatric nurses can work in a variety of places. Most people automatically think of hospitals, those that specialize in taking care of children in particular. However, pediatric nurses are needed wherever there are kids who need medical care. Pediatric nurses are also used to help agencies that work with children and families with a variety of needs.
Some career paths include:
- Social Work
pediatric nurses work with caseworkers and social service agencies to help meet the needs of children who end up in the system.
- Nurse Management
Hospitals, clinics, and other agencies that have pediatric departments need managers to run the departments. Experienced nurses with the desire to manage a team could work in one of these positions.
Pediatric Nurse Career Salaries
|Certified Nurses Assistant||$19,000||$29,000||$45,000|
|Licensed Practical Nurse||$39,300||$41,900||$44,600|
|Licensed Vocational Nurse||$40,300||$46,100||$49,100|
|Family Practice Nurse||$89,700||$95,400||$98,000|
|Mental Health Nurse||$39,300||$42,700||$46,900|
|General Nurse Practitioner||$89,800||$96,500||$103,400|
**Salary info provided by PayScale
The outlook for nurses, in general, is good. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the occupation is expected to grow faster than average. Registered nurses in all fields will have more than 430,000 positions available between now and 2026. Most of the demand is based on the greater number of older Americans who are seeking medical attention and a healthier lifestyle, but with Millennials having children, the need for pediatric nurses is also expected to increase.
Nationwide, there is a need for nurses, but some states are in more need than others. The top five states seeking nurses of all sorts are South Dakota, West Virginia, Delaware, Missouri, and Mississippi. The good news is that these five states still pay over the median salary for nurses, including West Virginia where nurses make just under $30 an hour on average. As for the top paying states, the top five are California, Hawaii, District of Columbia, Massachusetts, and Oregon.
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Advancing from Here
Pediatric nurses can opt to continue their education and move into a variety of positions. For example, a nurse who chooses to attain a master’s or Ph.D. can move into management and administrative positions in hospitals, clinics and other medical establishments. Another option is to become a nurse practitioner. This position is a blend of nursing and physician training. To become a nurse practitioner, a nurse must study to become a nurse practitioner through an accredited program and then pass the Family Nurse Practitioner Exam.
Healthcare Career Paths