Pediatric nurses are registered nurses who have chosen to specialize in working with children. Those who select this health care field typically work with children of different ages — from infants and toddlers, to school-age children, to tweens and teens — and they need to be highly knowledgeable about the benchmarks for growth and development at all of those.

Those who pursue a pediatric nurse career may later choose to become pediatric nurse practitioners (PNPs) by completing graduate-level education. This can lead to even more responsibility than the duties of an RN, such as diagnosing various childhood conditions, setting a course of treatment and prescribing medication.

Day in the Life of a Pediatric Nurse

Pediatric registered nurses may choose to work in a medical office that specializes in pediatric general care, such as annual check-ups, vaccinations and common illnesses. Alternatively, they might work in a children's hospital, children's wing of a hospital or a pediatric intensive care unit (PICU) that can be more demanding. These two settings are very different, but require similar knowledge and skills. In a medical office, these specialized RNs might:

  • Take a patient's vitals including weight and blood pressure
  • Do screening tests for vision and hearing
  • Prepare vaccinations and shots
  • Help with various office procedures

Pediatric registered nurses working in hospitals may have a wider range of duties, including communicating with family members about a child's condition and making sure a child is comfortable in their room. In a hospital setting, these nurses may:

  • Assist with paperwork for children coming in from doctors offices, emergency rooms or other settings
  • Insert IVs
  • Administer medications
  • Monitor a child's vital signs
  • Take care of children suffering from various conditions, such as dehydration, an infection or seizure
  • Comfort upset children

Important Characteristics for Becoming a Pediatric Nurse

A pediatric certified nurse needs to be gentle and compassionate, as well as knowledgeable about how to interact with toddlers, adolescents and young adults. Another helpful characteristic includes having a tremendous amount of patience, particularly when dealing with sick or tired children. Although the mettle of these nurses can truly be tested when children are extremely ill or facing life-threatening conditions, these professionals also can find incredible joy when they are able to bring comfort to a child.

Typical Steps for Becoming a Pediatric Nurse

To become a health care professional who specializes in working with children, several steps need to be taken. The usual career path includes education, experience in the field and certification. Read on for more information about each step.

  1. Complete a registered nurse (RN) program. Depending on the program selected, students need to earn either a two-year associate degree or four-year bachelor's degree. Either degree program can help students learn essential skills and prepare for the National Council Licensure Examination-Registered Nurse (NCLEX-RN) exam, which is essential to state licensing. Some titles available for registered nurse (RN) programs include:

    • Associate Degree in Nursing
    • Associate Degree RN
    • Bachelor's of Science in Nursing
    • Online Registered Nurse to Bachelor of Science in Nursing
    • 3-Year Bachelor of Science in Nursing

  2. Find a job in a pediatric office. Experience in a specialized office or hospital unit can help new nurses gain practical experience and prepare for certification. Those how are interested in learning how to become a pediatric nurse may want to start their journey by looking for clinical experiences in pediatrics while in a college program and using these connections to try and find a job after graduation.

  3. Seek pediatric nurse certification. After gaining real-life experience in a specialized setting, nurses can take the certified pediatric nurse (CPN) exam offered through the Pediatric Nursing Certified Board (PNCB). Applicants need to be registered nurses and have 1,800 hours of clinical experience in pediatrics within the previous two years or meet other qualification standards. The exam is multiple choice, has 175 questions and can take up to three hours to complete. Alternatively, certification is available through the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC), which requires 2,000 hours as a registered nurse in the pediatrics field and passing an examination.

  4. Consider master's degree education. Those who are passionate about their job or want more opportunities can work on a master's of science in nursing (MSN) degree. This degree allows a RN to become a nurse practitioner (NP) through advanced certification in the pediatrics field. Again, the PNCB offers certification in the field, known as the Certified Pediatric Nurse Practitioner (CPNP), for advanced nurses in either acute or primary pediatric care. The ANCC also offers nurse practitioner certification in pediatric care.


  • Becoming a Pediatric Nurse, Society of Pediatric Nurses, Accessed December 2017, http://www.pedsnurses.org/becominganurse
  • Nursing Degree Programs, Galen College of Nursing, Accessed December 2017, http://www.galencollege.edu/nursing-programs/
  • Nursing Programs, Herzing University, Accessed December 2017, https://www.herzing.edu/nursing-programs
  • Pediatric Primary Care Nurse Practitioner Certification Eligibility, American Nurses Credentialing Center, Accessed December 2017, http://www.nursecredentialing.org/PediatricNP-Eligibility.aspx
  • Registered Nurses, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2017-18 Occupational Outlook Handbook, Accessed December 2017, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/registered-nurses.htm#tab-6
  • Steps to CPN Certification, Pediatric Nursing Certified Board, Accessed December 2017, https://www.pncb.org/cpn-certification-steps
  • The 5 Ws of Pediatric Nursing, MightyNurse.com, Accessed December 2017, http://www.mightynurse.com/the-5-ws-of-pediatric-nursing/
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