Addressing the healthcare needs of children has always been essential, but it’s becoming more critical as concerning issues in childhood health arise. For example, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):
- More than 40% of school-aged children and adolescents in the U.S. have at least one chronic health condition.
- One in five children and adolescents in the U.S. suffers from obesity.
- Each year, cases of respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) result in up to 80,000 hospitalizations and up to 300 deaths of U.S. children who are younger than five years old.
A variety of professionals provide healthcare services to children, and among the most important are pediatric nurses. Focusing on improving the health of some of the most vulnerable patients, pediatric nurses are vital in strengthening childhood health.
Knowing how to become a pediatric nurse is the first step to acquiring a position in the field. Enrolling in nursing school is the first step and can benefit those who want to succeed in this rewarding profession.
What Does a Pediatric Nurse Do? The Pediatric Nurse Job Description
Pediatric nurses offer comprehensive healthcare services to children ranging from newborns to teenagers. The types of healthcare pediatric nurses provide address children’s physical, cognitive, and psychosocial needs. An important aspect of the pediatric nurse job description is providing care that is appropriate to a child’s developmental stage; therefore, knowledge of how children grow and change over time is particularly key in pediatric nursing.
While pediatric nurses focus on all facets of caring for children, they also strive to provide family-centered care that includes consideration of children’s families. In addition, working and coordinating with other healthcare professionals on a child’s healthcare team is an important part of the job. The care that pediatric nurses deliver is based on a plan to which the child’s family and healthcare team have all agreed. That plan specifies the interventions the healthcare team will employ to improve the child’s health.
Pediatric nurses can work in a variety of healthcare settings, such as hospitals, outpatient clinics, pediatricians’ offices, schools, and social services agencies.
Examples of a pediatric nurse’s job duties include:
- Conducting child wellness visits, checkups, and physical exams
- Immunizing children
- Performing developmental screenings
- Providing care for common childhood health issues
- Offering care to children with critical injuries
- Treating children with chronic illnesses
It’s important for those who are interested in becoming a pediatric nurse to know they also have the opportunity to specialize in a particular patient population. For example, pediatric nurses can concentrate on caring for children with developmental disabilities, children with terminal illnesses, or newborns and infants who are born prematurely.
Steps to Become a Pediatric Nurse
Entering the pediatric nursing profession requires becoming a registered nurse (RN), gaining work experience as an RN, and then pursuing certifications to specialize in pediatric nursing. Individual steps in that process are outlined below.
1. Earn a Degree or Diploma
To become an RN, an individual must first earn one of the following:
- A nursing diploma from a hospital-based nursing program, which can take fewer than two years
- An associate degree in nursing (ADN), which can take two to three years
- A bachelor of science degree in nursing (BSN), which can take about four years
2. Develop Key Skills
While earning a nursing degree or diploma, students acquire key nursing skills in areas such as:
- Care management—for example, updating care plans and assessing a patient’s need for referrals
- Safety and infection control—including preventing patient injuries and using hazardous materials in a safe manner
- Promoting and maintaining health—for example, educating patients on their health and conducting health screenings
- Basic care—such as performing irrigation procedures, assessing patients’ skin, assessing patients’ pain levels, and more
- Pharmacology—for example, administering appropriate doses of medication and monitoring intravenous infusion
- Risk reduction—for example, responding to changes in patients’ vital signs and maintaining catheters
The above are examples of the key skills students will need to pass the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN) and become an RN. After passing the exam, individuals then need to obtain RN licensure from the board of nursing in the state in which they seek to practice.
3. Gain Work Experience
While working as an RN, individuals gain experience that will make them eligible to earn the necessary certifications to become a pediatric nurse. In acquiring this work experience, nurses also have the opportunity to explore areas of pediatric nursing in which they may wish to specialize.
The amounts and types of work experience to be eligible to take pediatric nurse certification exams vary by the certification. Requirements can range from two to five years of work experience as an RN, and from 1,800 to 3,000 hours of clinical work experience specifically in pediatrics.
4. Earn Certifications
Nurses can earn a variety of pediatric nursing certifications. For example:
- The Pediatric Nursing Certification Board offers the Certified Pediatric Nurse (CPN) certification.
- The American Nurses Credentialing Center offers the Pediatric Nurse – Board Certified (PED-BC) certification.
Pediatric nurses who wish to progress in their profession also can work to become pediatric nurse practitioners. To advance to this level, nurses need to earn a graduate degree in nursing and then pursue certification as a pediatric nurse practitioner.
Job Outlook for Pediatric Nurses
With the U.S. experiencing a nationwide shortage of nurses, the job outlook for pediatric nurses is bright. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the U.S. will have approximately 193,100 openings for RNs each year between 2022 and 2032.
Increases in children acquiring illnesses such as RSV—as well as new outbreaks of diseases such as mumps and measles—also could fuel increased demand for nurses who specialize in pediatrics.
Finding a Fulfilling Career in Pediatric Nursing
Pursuing a pediatric nursing career can lead to rewarding experiences that offer the opportunity to improve childhood health. Helping a pediatric patient through a health challenge represents a chance to make a lasting difference for a child and the child’s entire family.
If you are interested in pursuing a nursing career, explore the Fortis nursing school programs to learn how they can help you achieve your goals. Combining classroom instruction with clinical, hands-on experience, these programs could be the basis for a meaningful career in nursing.
Start your journey toward a rewarding healthcare career today.