If you like working with "small fry" and pretended to nurse your dolls when you were small, you may be a good candidate for pediatric nursing. Pediatric nurses specialize in the care of children and teens through the later stages of adolescence. Children need specialized care because they are still growing and their bodies react differently to medications, illness and injury. Children of different ages also have specific developmental and emotional needs.
Knowledge and Skills
Pediatric nurses need specialized knowledge and skills. They must be able to establish rapport with children of all ages and speak to them about their health in terms they can understand. She must have an in-depth knowledge and understanding of child growth and development and be able to adapt instructions or care as necessary to meet the needs of the individual child. She should also be able to communicate with parents and provide emotional support to both children and parents.
If pediatric nursing sounds like it's for you, don't fret over the educational commitment; you could be nursing within two years. Diploma programs in hospital-based school were once the primary means of training RNs; they usually take two or three years. An associate's degree takes two years and a baccalaureate four years. Associate's degrees are offered by community colleges and universities, while baccalaureate degrees are university programs. Ask if you can take extra electives that include pediatric nursing care in hospitals or clinics. After you graduate, you must pass the NCLEX-RN national exam to become licensed.
Once you graduate, express your interest in pediatrics at hiring interviews. If no positions are available, ask if you can job shadow in order to learn or fill in when extra staffing is needed. In the interim, take continuing education courses or formal training related to pediatrics. If your primary position is in a hospital, consider working part-time on your days off in a pediatric clinic or pediatrician’s office. Another possibility might be a volunteer position in a day care center; the idea is to get as much hands-on work with children as you can.
Once you have some experience under your belt, consider becoming an advanced practice nurse – a nurse practitioner who specializes in pediatrics. These RNs must obtain a master’s degree to become licensed at the nurse practitioner level and many go on to nursing doctorates. Advanced practice nurses are authorized to diagnose and treat children’s illnesses and injuries. They can prescribe treatments and medications as well as order diagnostic procedures. Pediatric nurse practitioners also provide immunizations, school physicals, well-child checkups and routine screenings.
Both pediatric RNs and pediatric nurse practitioners may choose to become certified in the specialty of pediatrics. Each must pass a national exam to obtain certification. In some states, nurse practitioners are required to be certified. To maintain certification, the nurse must complete continuing education courses that are relevant to her specialty or retake the examination. Certifications are usually good for five years. A certified nurse is authorized to use the initials CPN. Continuing education is also required in many states to maintain an active nursing license.
2016 Salary Information for Registered Nurses
Registered nurses earned a median annual salary of $68,450 in 2016, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. On the low end, registered nurses earned a 25th percentile salary of $56,190, meaning 75 percent earned more than this amount. The 75th percentile salary is $83,770, meaning 25 percent earn more. In 2016, 2,955,200 people were employed in the U.S. as registered nurses.
- Explore Health Careers: Pediatric Nurse
- National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners: What is a PNP?
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Registered Nurses
- BestNursingDegree.com: Associate’s Degrees in Nursing the Road Ahead
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Outlook Handbook: Registered Nurses
- Career Trend: Registered Nurses
Beth Greenwood is an RN and has been a writer since 2010. She specializes in medical and health topics, as well as career articles about health care professions. Greenwood holds an Associate of Science in nursing from Shasta College.