When considering career paths in the health care industry, the options are numerous. Each track requires different levels of education, experience, and certification, and deciding on a specific profession can feel like an overwhelming task. Individuals interested in working with children may consider pediatric nursing as a career option, but what is a pediatric nurse?
Pediatric nurses focus on providing care for children from birth through adolescence. Their job involves seeing children in need of wellness checks and those experiencing illness or injury, and no two days are exactly the same. Being a pediatric nurse requires a bit of playfulness and a lot of patience, and the potential rewards are limitless.
What Is a Pediatric Nurse?
Pediatric nurses are medical professionals who have advanced training in child development and growth. They work closely with pediatric physicians and other nursing professionals to care for children and to provide education to the parents of those children.
Pediatric nurses may work with babies, toddlers, preteens, teenagers, and even those who reach college age. In collaboration with a pediatric physician, pediatric nurses may assist with diagnoses, treatments, and wellness checks. Additionally, they counsel parents about healthy childhood development milestones, disease prevention, adequate nutrition, immunization schedules, and more. Earning a degree such as a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) can help aspiring pediatric nurse practitioners (PNPs) gain these valuable skills.
Pediatric Nurse Job Description
While there are different types of pediatric nurses, and pediatric nurse roles can vary from one health care organization to the next, some of the most common elements in the pediatric nurse job description are:
- Consulting with patients and maintaining accurate records and charts
- Meeting with children and their families to address questions or to recommend treatment plans
- Taking measurements and recording developmental progress
- Administering vaccinations
- Assisting physicians with any necessary examinations or tests
- Dispensing medication, as approved and prescribed by the attending physician
- Educating patients and parents about topics such as nutrition, sleep, exercise, behavior, and development
Pediatric nurses may choose from a number of specialties, ranging from pediatric oncology to neonatal care. These specialties can have a significant impact on the day-to-day responsibilities included in a pediatric nurse’s job description. For example, some pediatric nurses may devote most of their time to working with patients who experience developmental disabilities. Others may work extensively with patients who are terminally ill and require palliative care.
Pediatric Nurse Salary
Those pursuing a PNP degree will naturally have some questions about the pediatric nurse salary range. According to data obtained from Payscale in March 2023, the median annual salary of pediatric nurses is approximately $61,000.
A number of factors can affect an individual nurse’s salary. These include years of experience, level of education, and geographic location.
Pediatric nurses who specialize in an area of care such as critical care or neurology often command a higher salary than nonspecialized nurses, as they have completed additional training and earned certifications that are recognized by national certifying agencies. Pediatric oncology — the treatment and care of children who are undergoing active cancer treatments — is another area in which qualified nurses choose to practice. Often these specialized nurses work in children’s hospitals or clinics, which can be appealing for nurses who don’t want to work in a general hospital.
How to Become a Pediatric Nurse
For individuals interested in how to become a pediatric nurse professional, it’s important to know there are several steps to the process. Pediatrics is a specialized field that requires advanced knowledge of child growth and development and how medical treatments may affect young people. PNPs must gain the appropriate skills and experience needed to deliver the most effective care.
After earning a nursing degree and passing the National Council Licensure Examination, also known as the NCLEX, many pediatric nurses begin their careers as registered nurses (RNs). As RNs, they can work in any of a variety of areas within their specialty. For example, working in neonatal, postnatal, or critical care can help nurses determine if they would like to specialize in pediatric nursing.
This RN clinical experience is required by the Pediatric Nursing Certification Board (PNCB) if nurses plan to go on to take the Certified Pediatric Nurse (CPN) exam. In addition to work experience, nurses may also consider pursuing a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) or a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) if they would like to practice autonomously as nurse practitioners (NPs).
A pediatric nurse will have to take the Certified Pediatric Nurse Practitioner (CPNP) certification exam before practicing as a pediatric NP. These additional qualifications enable pediatric NPs to perform functions similar to those performed by doctors and to act as primary care providers, including being able to examine patients, diagnose illnesses, and prescribe medications.
The Competencies of a Pediatric Nurse
The CPN and CPNP exams test nurses’ knowledge and understanding of the primary core competencies that they need to provide appropriate care to children and their families. For pre-license pediatric nurses, there are five core competencies:
- Patient assessment. A robust patient assessment includes more than examining the patient for any physical symptoms. It must also include determining which growth and developmental stage the child is in and the psychosocial, cultural, spiritual, and environmental factors that are present in the child’s life.
- Treatment planning.. A plan of care is specific to the child who needs treatment. It must be centered on the family and take into account specific cultural factors gathered from the assessment. All of these factors are used to set measurable and attainable goals for treatment that the family can achieve together.
- Critical thinking. Each day will be different, as will each child and each family. Nurses will have to use an intellectual approach to analyze information related to the patient and use an evidence-based approach to plan trajectories for treatment.
- Communication and cultural competence. Because the age of a patient can range from infancy to late teens, information related to the plan of care often needs to be understood by both the patient and the family. Nurses can use pictures, technology, or even acting to ensure that everyone understands the treatment decisions. If a nurse is working with a family that doesn’t speak the same language, phone translation services can be used to convey the information. Families that have different spiritual backgrounds may have various means of practicing care. Pediatric nurses must exercise understanding and empathy when developing plans of care.
- Ethics. A strong foundation of ethical standards supports the successful practice of medicine. As health care professionals, pediatric nurses must follow and practice these standards, including maintaining the privacy of the patient and family and delivering treatment that has been signed off on by the patient and parent or guardian.
Demand for Pediatric Nurses
The need for pediatric nurses in American hospitals is acute. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the number of jobs for RNs in the United States is expected to grow 6 % between 2021 and 2031, roughly on par with the projected average rate of job growth for all professions.
Pursue a Career in Pediatric Nursing
Specializing as a pediatric nurse is appealing for nurses and NPs who enjoy working with children and are seeking career advancement. Regis College offers an online MSN in Pediatric Nursing program as well as online Post-Master’s Nursing Certificate programs that prepare students to sit for a certification exam with a new, flexible learning format. Our programs are geared toward developing the skills and competencies needed to fulfill the pediatric nurse job description, including preparing students to adhere to high standards of clinical care while communicating clearly with parents and caregivers. Find out more about the Regis College programs today.