Nursing Specialties

Pediatric Nurse

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What is a Pediatric Nurse

Pediatric nurses are on a special mission to provide complete and quality care to all children. From infants to teens, this population can be most vulnerable and develop a variety of acute and chronic illnesses. Children are more susceptible to injuries and react differently to diseases than adults. Their health status can change quickly, requiring the keen eye of a pediatric nurse. Pediatric nurses must apply childhood growth and development knowledge to manage patients’ emotional needs and note deviations that might indicate problems. 

 

A pediatric nurse not only cares for young patients but must gain the trust of their parents, who will be fearful and concerned about whether their child is receiving the best care possible. Pediatric nurses must educate young patients on their diagnosis and teach parents how they can prevent complications. Communication is a crucial tool for the pediatric nurse as patients may be too young or reluctant to tell health providers what they are feeling.  

 

Pediatric nurses are dedicated caregivers to our younger population and often receive advanced training to improve their skills or specialize in a particular area such as pediatric oncology or pediatric rehab. Others become advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) as pediatric nurse practitioners (PNPs) or clinical nurse specialists (CNSs) in pediatrics.

What does a Pediatric Nurse Do?

Pediatric nurses perform some of the same activities as other nurses, but their focus is the care of children. 

General activities may include:

  • Taking patient histories
  • Recording vital signs
  • Administering medications or well-child immunizations
  • Doing physical exams
  • Monitoring lab results and response to therapy
  • Alerting the medical team to any significant changes that need attention

 

Pediatric nurses are involved in caring for the entire family, so they must excel in providing teaching and reassurance to parents.  

 

Pediatric nurses who primarily work with disabled kids need to hone their knowledge of developmental delays. In contrast, one who works as a pediatric school nurse will sharpen their assessment skills to manage allergic reactions.  

Pediatric Nurse

What skills does a Pediatric Nurse need?

Pediatric nurses must be able to assess children accurately. Kids are not just little adults. They learn normal pediatric values for vital signs, lab work, and children’s expected response to treatments. They also need to know age-specific therapies such as needle size for injections or intravenous therapy catheters, which are smaller than those for adults. 

 

One critical area is medications. Dosing for pediatric medications is based on the child’s weight, while in adults, doses are often based on age. Children must receive the proper dosing of their drugs, or irreversible harm can occur.

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What skills does a Pediatric Nurse need?

Pediatric nurses must be able to assess children accurately. Kids are not just little adults. They learn normal pediatric values for vital signs, lab work, and children’s expected response to treatments. They also need to know age-specific therapies such as needle size for injections or intravenous therapy catheters, which are smaller than those for adults. 

 

One critical area is medications. Dosing for pediatric medications is based on the child’s weight, while in adults, doses are often based on age. Children must receive the proper dosing of their drugs, or irreversible harm can occur.

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Pediatric Nurses

Work settings for Pediatric Nurses

Pediatric nurses often work in traditional environments such as hospitals, clinics, and doctor’s offices but also work in schools, home care, and community organizations.  

Common Cases Pediatric Nurses Encounter

The most common pediatric hospitalization diagnoses reported in 2016 were: 

  • Medical:  pneumonia, asthma, bronchiolitis, cellulitis, dehydration, urinary tract infections, chemotherapy, neonatal hyperbilirubinemia
  • Mental Health:  major depression, episodic mood disorder, bipolar disorder
  • Surgical: appendicitis, humerus fracture, pyloric stenosis

Source: Epidemiology of pediatric hospitalizations at general hospitals and freestanding children’s hospitals in the United States https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5467435/

How to Become A Pediatric Nurse

  1. Complete an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) or Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree: takes two-to-four-years based on the program
  2. Pass the NCLEX-RN exam and apply for your RN license after graduation
  3. Apply to work in a pediatric setting in a hospital, doctor’s office, or clinic
  4. Become certified as a Certified Pediatric Nurse (CPN) after meeting prerequisites and gaining work experience.

How to Advance Your Career As A Pediatric Nurse

Pediatric nurses must be BCLS certified and will need to become Pediatric Advanced Life Support (PALS) certified. It is highly encouraged they earn their Certified Pediatric Nurse (CPN) after gaining experience. You can apply to become a Certified Pediatric Nurse (CPN) after working for 1,800 hours in pediatric nursing for 24 months or 3,000 hours in the last five years before taking the exam. You can also advance by getting an MSN or doctoral degree with a pediatric focus and become a Pediatric Clinical Nurse Specialist (PCNS). Alternatively, you can become a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner (PNP) and gain additional certifications in primary care, acute care, and psychiatric care.

Education Requirements & Helpful Certification

Pediatric nurses must be BCLS certified and will need to become Pediatric Advanced Life Support (PALS) certified. They may also need to be Pediatric Emergency Assessment, Recognition and Stabilization (PEARS) certified. 

 

It is highly encouraged that they become Certified Pediatric Nurses (CPNs) after gaining experience. You can apply to become a Certified Pediatric Nurse (CPN) after working for 1,800 hours in pediatric nursing for 24 months or 3,000 hours in the last five years before taking the exam.

 

How to Advance Your Career as a Pediatric Nurse

 

You can advance your career by getting an MSN or doctoral degree with a pediatric focus.

Alternatively, you can become a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner (PNP) and earn additional certifications in primary care, acute care, and psychiatric care or a Pediatric Clinical Nurse Specialist (PCNS) and become an educator or manager.

Average Salary For Pediatric Nurses

Pediatric nurses typically make between $61,427- $95,433, with a median salary of $74,800, according to Salary.com.

The May 2021 Bureau of Labor and Statistics report shows which states have the highest and lowest wages for nurses. They do not list by nurse specialty, but pediatric nurse salaries would likely follow suit. The highest-paid states are California, Hawaii, and Oregon. The lowest-paid states are South Dakota, Alabama, and Mississippi.

Ideal Personality Traits

  • Loves and relates well with kids
  • Excellent ability to read nonverbal cues from patients and families
  • Patient, calm, great at reducing children’s fears
  • Works well under pressure and under the watchful eye of parents

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Pediatric Nurse

Pediatric nurses, sometimes called peds nurses, care for children from birth to teenage years who have acute and chronic health conditions. They also manage pediatric basic well-care needs such as immunizations.  These nurses have advanced knowledge and training in child growth and development and in the diseases and conditions that specifically affect children. 

Pediatric nurses may specialize in a particular area, such as pediatric cardiology, pediatric oncology, or pediatric rehab. Caring for children requires special attention and focus on detecting changes in their status, which can rapidly decline. Most importantly, these nurses are caring for an entire family, so they must help parents and the child with any emotional and teaching needs. 

Education Requirements

Pediatric nurses must be BCLS certified and will need to become Pediatric Advanced Life Support (PALS) certified. They may also need to be Pediatric Emergency Assessment, Recognition and Stabilization (PEARS) certified. 

 

It is highly encouraged that they become Certified Pediatric Nurses (CPNs) after gaining experience. You can apply to become a Certified Pediatric Nurse (CPN) after working for 1,800 hours in pediatric nursing for 24 months or 3,000 hours in the last five years before taking the exam.

 

How to Advance Your Career as a Pediatric Nurse

 

You can advance your career by getting an MSN or doctoral degree with a pediatric focus.

Alternatively, you can become a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner (PNP) and earn additional certifications in primary care, acute care, and psychiatric care or a Pediatric Clinical Nurse Specialist (PCNS) and become an educator or manager.

How to advance/career pathway

Pediatric nurses must be BCLS certified and will need to become Pediatric Advanced Life Support (PALS) certified. It is highly encouraged they earn their Certified Pediatric Nurse (CPN) after gaining experience. You can apply to become a Certified Pediatric Nurse (CPN) after working for 1,800 hours in pediatric nursing for 24 months or 3,000 hours in the last five years before taking the exam. You can also advance by getting an MSN or doctoral degree with a pediatric focus and become a Pediatric Clinical Nurse Specialist (PCNS). Alternatively, you can become a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner (PNP) and gain additional certifications in primary care, acute care, and psychiatric care.

RESPONSIBILITIES

  • Assess and monitor pediatric patient’s conditions
  • Administer medications, treatments and perform diagnostic tests
  • Assist the physician or PNP with procedures
  • Patient and family teaching about medical conditions
  • Advocate for the child and provide emotional support

MOST COMMON CASES

The most common pediatric hospitalization diagnoses reported in 2016 were: 

  • Medical:  pneumonia, asthma, bronchiolitis, cellulitis, dehydration, urinary tract infections, chemotherapy, neonatal hyperbilirubinemia
  • Mental Health:  major depression, episodic mood disorder, bipolar disorder
  • Surgical: appendicitis, humerus fracture, pyloric stenosis

Source: Epidemiology of pediatric hospitalizations at general hospitals and freestanding children’s hospitals in the United States https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5467435/

How to become a

Pediatric Nurse

  1. Complete an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) or Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree: takes two-to-four-years based on the program
  2. Pass the NCLEX-RN exam and apply for your RN license after graduation
  3. Apply to work in a pediatric setting in a hospital, doctor’s office, or clinic
  4. Become certified as a Certified Pediatric Nurse (CPN) after meeting prerequisites and gaining work experience.

The Pros

  • Rewarding to make a difference in a child’s life
  • Enjoy teaching young patients and their families
  • Able to work in a variety of pediatric environments
  • Learn and use multiple skills to deliver pediatric care

The Cons

  • Working with sick children can be emotionally draining, especially if they don’t do well. 
  • Difficult if the family is not committed to improving their child’s health
  • Treatments for children must be precise; there is little room for error.
  • It can be challenging to balance the care of one’s own children and young patients.
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Personality Traits

  • Loves and relates well with kids
  • Excellent ability to read nonverbal cues from patients and families
  • Patient, calm, great at reducing children’s fears
  • Works well under pressure and under the watchful eye of parents
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Average Salary

Pediatric nurses typically make between $61,427- $95,433, with a median salary of $74,800, according to Salary.com.

The May 2021 Bureau of Labor and Statistics report shows which states have the highest and lowest wages for nurses. They do not list by nurse specialty, but pediatric nurse salaries would likely follow suit. The highest-paid states are California, Hawaii, and Oregon. The lowest-paid states are South Dakota, Alabama, and Mississippi.

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Certifications

American Heart Association: Pediatric Training

  • PALS
  • PEARS (Pediatric Emergency Assessment, Recognition and Stabilization)

Pediatric Nursing Certification Board (PNCB)

  • Certified Pediatric Nurse (CPN)
  • Additional PNP certifications in acute, chronic and psychiatric care plans
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Work Setting

Pediatric nurses often work in traditional environments such as hospitals, clinics, and doctor’s offices but also work in schools, home care, and community organizations.