If you're a nursing student with a soft spot for kids, or if you're thinking about a career in nursing, the pediatrics ward might be a good fit. Nobody really likes spending time in the hospital, but it can be especially frightening and stressful for children. As a pediatric-ward nurse, helping your small patients cope with their illnesses can be a rewarding career.
Hospital pediatric wards are sections within a larger hospital, dedicated to the care of children. Usually they'll be divided into several individual areas for specific purposes. Children with communicable diseases are usually segregated within the ward to reduce the risk of spreading illness to the other patients. Pediatric emergencies might be treated in a second area, while newborns are usually sequestered in a nursery. Well-equipped hospitals, particularly those in regional hubs or major cities, often have a separate neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) for acutely ill or pre-term infants.
If you're going to nurse in the pediatric ward, it's important to understand that children aren't like your adult patients. Their bodies are still growing, and they can be very sensitive to the side effects of many common medications. You'll need to be especially aware of potentially adverse reactions, and spot them quickly. Children -- and parents of sick children -- also need lots of reassurance and emotional support. You'll still take and record vital signs, change bandages and clean wounds, administer medications and take samples for laboratory testing. As always, your objective is to produce the best possible patient outcomes.
Pediatric wards also offer specialized care in many areas, and if you have the necessary experience and credentials, you can play an important role in providing that care. For example, nurses with qualifications in pediatric hematology or oncology can provide support and care for children with leukemia or cancer. Pediatric psychiatric nurses can help evaluate and treat children suffering from depression or behavioral issues, and if you have training in neonatal acute care, you can help newborns battle for life in the NICU. It's your choice.
Training and Certification
If you're still in school, you'll have to graduate from your training program and pass the National Council Licensure Exam for Registered Nurses, or NCLEX-RN, before you can be licensed to practice in your state. Depending on your workplace, you might not be able to spend much time in the pediatric ward during your first few years, but eventually you'll have enough seniority to choose pediatric duty. You can also sharpen your skills by taking college courses or continuing education classes in pediatric nursing. Once you've accumulated 1,800 to 2,000 hours of practical pediatric experience, you're eligible to take a certification exam in pediatrics. Offered by the Pediatric Nursing Certification Board and the American Nurses Credentialing Center, pediatric certifications demonstrate your competence in the field.
Fred Decker is a trained chef and certified food-safety trainer. Decker wrote for the Saint John, New Brunswick Telegraph-Journal, and has been published in Canada's Hospitality and Foodservice magazine. He's held positions selling computers, insurance and mutual funds, and was educated at Memorial University of Newfoundland and the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology.