How to Become a Pediatric Nurse
Pediatric nursing is a specialization of the nursing profession that focuses on pediatrics and the medical care of children, from infancy to the teenage years. This is an important field because the health of children is distinct from that of adults due to the growth and development that occurs throughout childhood.
It is worth noting that a certification as a pediatric nurse is not required to work as a nurse for children. However, obtaining specialized knowledge and training helps to improve job prospects and is recommended for nurses who have a passion for caring for children.
What you’ll do: Pediatric nurses provide preventative and acute care in all settings to children and adolescents. Pediatric Nurse Practitioners (PNPs) perform physical exams, diagnose illness and injury, and provide education and support to patients’ families. They often work in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) with pediatricians and other health care providers.
Minimum degree you’ll need to practice: Pediatric nurses are registered nurses (RNs) and usually have four-year Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing degrees (BSNs).
Certification: Certification for pediatric nurses and pediatric nurse practitioners is available from the Pediatric Nursing Certification Board (PNCB).
Pediatric nurses and pediatric nurse practitioners work in a wide range of settings from doctor’s offices and community-based settings to hospitals and critical care facilities. Here’s what you’ll do and how to become a pediatric nurse.
Primary care services may include:
- Health maintenance care, including “well child” examinations
- Routine developmental screenings
- Diagnosis and treatment of common childhood illnesses
- Anticipatory guidance regarding common child health concerns
- Delivery of immunizations
- Performance of school physicals
Acute care and specialty services may include:
- Caring for children who are acutely, chronically or critically ill
- Performing in-depth physical assessments
- Interpreting results of laboratory and diagnostic tests
- Ordering medications and performing therapeutic treatments
Some pediatric nurses and nurse practitioners focus on a pediatric specialty area, such as cardiology, dermatology, gastroenterology or oncology.
What Does Your Pediatrician Do?
They’ll see your child many times from birth to age 2 and once a year from ages 2 to 5 for “well-child visits.” After age 5, your pediatrician will likely continue to see your child every year for annual checkups. They’re also the first person to call whenever your child is sick.
To take care of your child, your pediatrician will:
- Do physical exams
- Give your child vaccinations
- Make sure she meets milestones in growth, behavior, and skills
- Diagnose and treat your child’s illnesses, infections, injuries, and other health problems
- Give you information about your child’s health, safety, nutrition, and fitness needs
- Answer your questions about your little one’s growth and development
- Refer you to specialists if they think your child needs expert care
What you should know before becoming a pediatric nurse
Now that you’ve got the basic lay of the land down, here’s what the experts think you should know about the day-to-day life of a pediatric nurse.
1. Listening and observation is key
Nurses interact face-to-face with patients more than any other provider. With adult patients it’s relatively simple to get information about what ails them—but working with young patients can bring unique challenges on this front. Though a child’s medical chart may cover quite a bit, many crucial pieces of information still need to be gathered from the patients and the family. Factors like lack of financial resources, additional life stressors and transportation concerns can greatly influence the patient’s care plan.
Additionally, pediatric nurses will need to keep a close eye out for non-verbal clues. “Patients in all age ranges need nurses to listen, but our pediatric patients cannot always articulate their specific needs through verbal communication,” says Cobb.
Once you get comfortable in your role as a pediatric nurse, it may be tempting to tune out what you might think is extraneous chatter. Listening to the concerns of both parent and child will only further assist you in giving the best care possible for your patient.
2. Kids are resilient
“Kids are very resilient and they heal more quickly than adults. This can be an advantage as health outcomes are generally more promising in pediatrics,” says Tyler Dean, certified pediatric nurse and Associate Professor at Rasmussen College.
A 4-year old can go from crying about an IV stick to giggling a minute later. Working in pediatrics allows you to play a huge part in those giggles. “The most rewarding aspect of working in pediatrics is that you can play, make jokes and be a little goofy at times,” Dean says. Not only is that good for the kids, it’s good for you too. Nursing can be very stressful and these interactions can bring joy to a normal day.
3. You’ll be working with families just as much as you will with children
A patient’s family is an integral part of their recovery, so it’s key that you communicate with them just as effectively as you do with the child.
“Pediatric nurses utilize a family-centered approach, which means you include, engage, and educate all members of the family along with the patient,” Dean says. And don’t forget the patient’s siblings! Often, as the family is stressed and focused on the patient, siblings get ignored, so it means a lot for nurses to acknowledge the siblings’ emotions and presence.
4. You can further specialize with pediatrics
Just as nurses can specialize when working in adult care, pediatric nurses can too. Whether you’re interested in intensive care, emergency care, orthopedics, oncology, trauma, gastroenterology, home healthcare, the NICU or case management, it’s likely you’ll be able to find a pediatric department that aligns with your interests.
The duties are typically similar to the adult equivalent specialty you may be more familiar with, though the ways you communicate and interact with the patient will be different. You’ll look for different developmental markers and rely on information communicated by the patient’s family. You may also need to be more observant of visual and behavioral clues since younger patients may have trouble articulating exactly how they feel or what they need.
5. You’ll have to take care of yourself too
Depending on where you work as a pediatric nurse, you may be caring for children with terminal illnesses or other very serious health issues. While you won’t be the one delivering the bad news initially or working with the family in the long run, learning how to navigate these situations in a positive way can have a positive impact on the family.
But even if you handle tough situations with families perfectly, seeing the pain in family members’ faces in tough medical situations can be emotionally taxing especially as you listen and stay present with them as they grieve. As with all types of nursing, it is important to take care of yourself and have a professional relationship with your patients and their families so you can return the next day and dedicate yourself 100 percent to those patients as well.
Your team will be able to relate to what you’re going through and members may be able to help you verbally process your thoughts, emotions and feelings after stressful days. The charge nurse or chaplain may also check in with you as well. On your own, finding time to refuel, spend time with loved ones and invest in your own hobbies is key to prevent burnout. “We are still human—it’s okay to cry or ask for help,” says Dean.
Pediatric Cardiologist Job Description
We are looking for an experienced Pediatric Cardiologist to treat our young patients by performing non-invasive procedures or, when necessary, carrying out surgical intervention. Your responsibilities will include undertaking various tests, making diagnoses, providing treatment plans and options, and working with other physicians and surgeons to treat patients’ heart and/or cardiovascular disorders.
To be successful as a Pediatric Cardiologist you will need to enjoy being around children and demonstrate emotional resilience in challenging medical situations.
Pediatric Cardiologist Responsibilities:
- Consulting with patients and their parents to understand symptoms and health concerns.
- Prescribing tests, treatments, and/or surgery, when necessary.
- Maintaining detailed notes of appointments with patients, including comments, tests and/or treatments prescribed, and test results.
- Performing tests, when needed, to check the health of patients’ hearts and/or cardiovascular systems.
- Interpreting test results to determine how effectively the heart and/or cardiovascular system is functioning.
- Using medical imaging equipment, such as CT and MRI scanners, to diagnose and treat heart and/or cardiovascular conditions.
- Assisting and/or performing surgery which may include complex surgical interventions.
- Prescribing medication to treat heart and/or cardiovascular problems.
- Providing support and advice to patients, and their parents, receiving long-term care.
- Conducting research on heart and cardiovascular diseases, disorders, and abnormalities affecting children.
Pediatric Cardiologist Requirements:
- Bachelor’s degree in biology, physical sciences, or a related field.
- Doctor of Medicine (MD) degree.
- 3 to 7 years’ internship and clinical residency training, specializing in pediatrics.
- Successful completion of a fellowship program in pediatric cardiology.
- Successful completion of the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE).
- Certification by The American Board of Pediatrics in pediatric cardiology.
- Valid and active medical license in the state you wish to practice.
- Meticulous attention to detail.
- Wonderful bedside manner.
- Excellent communicator who can empathize with patients.