Pediatric Nurse Practitioner: Exploring the Field of Pediatric Nursing

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Though all nurses are critical in the healthcare environment, pediatric nurse practitioners (PNPs) are especially in high demand. A robust forecast in job growth is in direct contrast with stagnant enrollment in PNP programs. Pediatric NPs perform a wide range of duties and report high levels of job satisfaction.

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Regis College MSN2 Pediatric Nurse Practitioner

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The Demand for PNPs

Supply of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners

There are 234,000 nurse practitioners (NPs) that are licensed in the U.S. However, just 4.6 percent of these licensed NPs specialize in pediatric primary care. Additionally, just 0.6 percent specialize in pediatric acute care. The need for NPNs correlates to a 36 percent projected employment growth in the NP field from 2016 to 2026.

Child Health

There are 73.6 million children and adolescents under 18 in the United States, and they only have access to just 12,300 PNPs nationwide. Fortunately, 93 percent of this demographic has had contact with at least one health care professional in the past twelve months. Out of this group, 19 percent has been diagnosed with one current condition, while 18 percent has been diagnosed with two more current health conditions. Allergies account for 20 percent of all childhood diagnoses, ADD or ADHD has been diagnosed in 9 percent of children, while 8 percent of diagnosed kids are asthmatic.

The numbers state an obvious need and demand for PNPs. Unfortunately, the academic pipeline has remained stagnant over the last several years. This has been felt down to the classroom level, as 25 percent of active PNP programs did not fill their incoming classes to capacity. One of the chief causes behind this stagnation is lowered student demand, a metric that may be due to a perceived limit of market demand. Another major reason has to do with universities having difficulty hiring and retaining qualified faculty.

PNP Responsibilities and Privileges

Pediatric care spans from birth to around age 21. Treating patients at the pediatric level requires providers to be particularly observant, as children may not always be able to effectively communicate their health issues with a health care professional. Even with these challenges, being a PNP equates to job happiness. According to a 2018 survey by Payscale, five out of five PNPs stated they are extremely satisfied with their jobs.

PNPs tend to handle several common responsibilities. They’re typically charged with diagnosing, treating, and managing pediatric illnesses. They may also evaluate childhood growth patterns. Additionally, they can be called upon to screen for and manage mental illness in children. They can also commonly provide patient and family education about development and various conditions. Finally, they can order and interpret laboratory and other diagnostic tests.

36 percent of all PNPs work in a private practice setting, but there are several other environments that they can work. 32 percent ply their craft in academic health centers. 17 percent work in community hospitals. Eight percent find employment in community clinics. 4 percent of PNPs are in managed care organizations. 2 percent work in school-based health clinics, while 1 percent works in retail clinics or urgent care facilities.

Calculated Steps for a Promising Future

There is a widespread professional concern that the pediatric nursing workforce won’t have adequate means to meet projected future demand. Challenges concerning the future in pediatric nursing workforce have all been identified by the Society of Pediatric Nurses, the National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners, and the Institute of Pediatric Nursing.

There are a few recommendations that have been created to strive for a prepared and adequate pediatric nursing workforce. For instance, it’s recommended that specialized and separate pediatric/child health courses be integrated into undergraduate education as core components.

Another recommendation concerns academic and clinical training experiences, and how they should reflect and address current health concerns affecting the pediatric population. It’s also recommended that funding for Leadership Education in Child-Health Nursing (LECHN) programs be reinstated. The recruitment of qualified and experienced undergraduate and graduate pediatric nursing educators is also advised. Additionally, it is suggested that an update of the core curriculum by select group of pediatric health nursing educators be implemented. Finally, it’s recommended that a pairing with a professional mentor become a requirement of all RN residency/internship programs.