What Does a Pediatric Nurse Do?

Jul 29, 2020
Sarah Gray, RN

What are the typical responsibilities of a Pediatric Nurse?

Pediatric nursing is unique as a specialty in that it relates to specific to a patient population and is an umbrella specialty encompassing many different specialties, such as Pediatric Acute Care, Critical Care, Home Health, NICU, Adolescent, and many more. 

Pediatric Nurses are responsible for providing family-centered care to pediatric patients, typically from newborn up to adulthood, in addition to caring for patients with pediatric conditions/diagnoses. 

They must be experts at:

  • Gaining trust
  • Reading and understanding non-verbal cues and body language
  • Communicating effectively with varying levels of comprehension
  • Providing hands-on care to patients of different ages
  • Maintaining high levels of patience and empathy
  • Always learning about new and effective care plans
  • Comfortable collaborating with an interdisciplinary team

What should nurses entering this specialty expect to encounter on a regular basis?

Kids! And everything that comes with them, which also includes parents. When it comes to caring for kids, you often have 2-3 patients—the child... and caregivers, due to the nature of the family-centered care you’re providing. 

It’s common for children of all ages to not fully understand what is happening, or why, and this can be the case for parents as well. In order to provide comprehensive care, it’s necessary to create comfort and buy-in from both patients and parents. This typically requires a bit more time and slows care plans down. 

It’s often that a Pediatric Nurse encounters resistance, must be creative with their approach to care and coercion, and have the dexterity to provide clinical care to patients who often aren’t able to sit still or be compliant.

young girl in doctors office getting bandaid over where shot was administered pediatric nursing

My Experience as a Pediatric Nurse

I’m a pediatric acute and transitional care nurse, which means I care for patients from newborn through their 20s across a variety of general (non-specialty and non-critical) diagnoses and conditions. I’ve worked both inpatient in the hospital as well as outpatient in school and home settings. 

What are some of the benefits of working as a Pediatric Nurse?

Working in pediatrics provides consistent perspective and humility. Children are incredibly resilient and optimistic. When you have the opportunity to share in the joy and wonder they’re able to find in the smallest of things—even at the hardest of times—it softens your heart, instills gratitude, and helps to reframe your outlook.

The opportunity to greatly impact a child and their family’s experience during one of the most difficult times in their lives is humbling and rewarding. 

More practical benefits of working as a Peds Nurse:

  • The nurse:patient ratios are generally lower than when working with an adult population
  • There are very few things about kids that are truly disgusting!
  • Working with kids will keep you young at heart and relevant!
handwritten card saying to never give up and stay strong pediatric nurse

What are some of the not-so-great parts of working as a Pediatric Nurse?

You’ll often hear pediatric nursing described as sad and hard—and it can be. It’s difficult seeing children experience pain, suffering, and death, especially when they don’t understand what is happening or why. And when you multiply that by two or three times when accounting for the caregivers, it can be especially hard and emotionally draining.

On a slightly different note, you realize how vulnerable children truly are and are exposed to situations in which children are in your care because of the terrible decisions or actions of adults they are entrusted to, or lack thereof. 

Everything is a bit more complex - from weight-based dosing to often needing a second (or more!) set of hands to simply obtaining an accurate blood pressure. It requires attention to detail, patience, and creativity!

Share your favorite piece of advice for nursing new grads or students looking to become a Pediatric Nurse

Being a great Pediatric Nurse (and getting your foot in the door of pediatric nursing!) has as much to do with really understanding children, having the patience to learn and appreciate how their worlds work, and being able to partner with their caregivers as it is about clinical care. 

Find ways to gain experience working with children of various ages even in non-clinical ways, whether it’s providing child care, working at a camp, volunteering in a school or daycare, the experience will be invaluable and will help your resume tell a story.

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