Many children have a fear of going to the doctor. They're afraid of facing a big, cold adult with lots of pointy objects with which to hurt them. A warm, friendly pediatric nurse can make the difference between a terrified child and a reassured one. Pediatric nurses carry a special responsibility, as the little patients in their care need special consideration and handliing, and lots of love and patience. The path to becoming a pediatric nurse starts with earning a degree as a registered nurse, says the Society of Pediatric Nurses.
Becoming a Nurse
Nurses must complete an associate or bachelor's degree from an accredited nursing school, says the Bureau of Labor Statistics. They also have the option of earning a nursing diploma from a hospital-affiliated nursing school. They then must take and pass the National Council License Examination for Registered Nurses -- a mouthful abbreviated as NCLEX-RN -- to earn a license. Every U.S. territory and state requires nurses to be licensed, so this is a pretty important step.
Pediatric nurses must have a wealth of technical, medical and mathematical knowledge. While in school, they learn subjects such as anatomy, physiology, chemistry, biology and psychology. They also cover medical ethics, as one of their primary duties as nurses is keeping the medical histories of their little patients private, says the Pediatric Nursing Certification Board, PNCB. Clinical coursework teaches them how to handle patients in a hospital or private physician setting. That includes taking vital statistics, performing procedures such as starting intravenous fluids, or taking blood samples.
Most Important Skills
The PNCB conducts a survey of pediatric nurses every seven to 10 years to evaluate such things as work most often performed, most common work settings and how nurses make decisions in the workplace. The 2002 study revealed that the most important task they undertake is identifying symptoms of trouble and being able to intervene in an emergency. Other important tasks include involving a child's family in her health care, protecting her privacy, helping her manage pain, recognizing dangerous changes and being alert for signs of abuse. Each of these important jobs require a high level of awareness, empathy and interest in the small person in a pediatric nurse's care.
Going a Step Further
If you love being hands-on with children who need help, you may want to take on a more primary role in their care. You can do this by moving on to the role of pediatric nurse practitioner, says the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Doing so requires going back to school in pursuit of your master's degree, which takes two years if you're going at it full-time and requires passing an exam when you're done. Nurse practitioners have greater responsibility and decision-making abilities than registered nurses do.
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