It's no secret that health care is a booming business. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), an aging population combined with medical advances that have extended life spans longer than ever have made health care one of the largest and fastest growing industries in the nation. Registered nurses (RNs) comprise the largest group of health-related workers, not to mention one of the most in-demand. Among the many specializations open to RNs, pediatric nursing is one of the most popular. If you'd like to find meaningful work, caring for sick or injured children, this could be the ideal career for you. Here's everything you ever wanted to know about becoming a pediatric nurse.
What Does a Pediatric Nurse Do?
Pediatric nurses, or PNs, are registered nurses who specialize in the care of children. They perform similar duties as other RNs, though often on a smaller scale. Basic responsibilities can include:
- Treating illnesses and injuries in young patients, including the administration of medications and other therapies
- Providing general health screenings or immunizations
- Maintaining detailed health records
- Educating patients and their families about illnesses or injuries, including the explanation of home care procedures
The BLS notes that an increasing demand for health care services have made RNs, including pediatric nurses, one of the fastest growing occupations in the nation. Most pediatric nurses are based in hospitals, but some choose to work in physicians' offices, health care centers or for home health services instead.
Because they have more training than licensed practical nurses (LPNs), all types of RNs, including pediatric nurses, tend to have more autonomy and responsibility, and are compensated accordingly. Some pediatric nurses obtain additional training and certification, and become Certified Pediatric Nurses (CPNs). Because of their specialized training, CPNs tend to earn more than registered pediatric nurses. Those who go on to earn their Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) can eventually become pediatric nurse practitioners.
Steps to Becoming a Pediatric Nurse
Because pediatric nurses are essentially specialized registered nurses, their training requirements build upon those of a general RN. According to the Society of Pediatric Nurses (SPN), these are the key steps to take:
- Earn your Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) from an accredited nursing school. LPNs who already have their Associate Degrees in Nursing (ADN) can typically save time by enrolling in an ADN-to-BSN bridge program. Note that some schools offer hybrid programs combining online study with traditional classroom instruction. Be wary of any program that does not require hands-on clinical training
- Take and pass the National Council Licensure Examination, or NCLEX-RN, a requirement for RN licensure. Note that, while all states require RNs to pass the NCLEX-RN, some have additional requirements for licensure. Contact your state's board of nursing to learn more
- Find a job in a health care facility that focuses on children. The SPN notes that many of these sites offer specialized training for pediatric nurses via classroom or clinical study. Some may require internships that can last weeks or months depending on the program
- Take and pass an exam to become a Certified Pediatric Nurse (CPN). While not all nurses working with children become CPNs, this type of advanced training can give you an edge in the job market (not to mention a salary boost)
- Participate in ongoing Continuing Education Units (CEUs) in registered and pediatric nursing to maintain your license.
Please note that these steps will help you become an RN with a specialty in pediatrics, or a certified pediatric nurse. Students who want to become pediatric nurse practitioners will need additional training and certification, most notably an MSN degree with a pediatric specialty.
How to Be a GREAT Pediatric Nurse
Pediatric nurses have rewarding, but often exhausting careers. The stress associated with long shifts and the care of sometimes terminally ill children can take its toll. Nonetheless, with hard work and a positive attitude, you could become a great pediatric nurse. Here are some tips that may help:
- To be a great pediatric nurse, you must first be an excellent student. Nursing school is tough, especially while adapting to clinical work requirements that include long and often laborious shifts. Maintain good organizational and study habits to make the most of your time as a nursing student
- Learn to manage stress effectively. Pediatric nurses can work difficult shifts and endure tremendous emotional stress, particularly when working with terminally ill children. Regular exercise, a healthy diet and getting plenty of sleep can help you manage your stress
- Keep a positive attitude. An excellent bedside manner is important for any medical professional, but particularly those working with children and their often emotionally-taxed families
- Invest in your career with continuing education. Continuing education courses (CECs) aren't just an excellent way to stay on top of industry changes or medical advances that can affect your work, but are often required to maintain your licensure