Do you like the idea of entering into a nursing career field that allows you to work with infants and children to improve their health and wellness?
If so, then you may want to consider learning how to become a pediatric nurse. Before you decide to pursue this career opportunity, however, it’s a good idea to gain a thorough understanding of what working as a pediatric nurse entails and what steps you’ll need to follow in order to begin working in the field.
Understanding the Role of a Pediatric Nurse
Pediatric nurses take on a variety of roles within the healthcare industry. In simplest terms, a pediatric nurse is responsible for working with infants and children to provide everything from preventative care to the treatment of major diseases and injuries. Because these nurses tend to be working with patients whose bodies are developing at a high rate each year, pediatric nurses must have a strong knowledge of the human development process.
Furthermore, because of their role in working with children, a pediatric nurse is expected to be able to communicate strongly with parents and guardians about their child’s medical needs and health.
On any given day, a pediatric nurse’s duties may include:
- recording patient vitals and pertinent medical information
- keeping younger patients calm and comfortable during procedures
- carrying out treatment plans and working with other medical professionals
- speaking with patients’ family members and providing them with information
So, if you enjoy working primarily with children and are able to make decisions in stressful situations, then working as a pediatric nurse might be a great choice for you. Not to mention, the demand for pediatric nurses is expected to grow nearly 20% by 2022, so now is a great time to get certified.
When working as a pediatric nurse, you will typically find yourself working in a hospital setting. Some will work in dedicated children’s hospitals, whereas others may work in pediatric wards of general hospitals. Less commonly, pediatric nurses may also work in smaller pediatrician clinics and private practices. The nice thing about this is that there are multiple options to choose from; if you prefer a smaller and more intimate workplace, then applying for jobs at a smaller clinic may be the best option for you. On the other hand, if you would prefer the action of working in a larger hospital, there is no shortage of jobs in this realm.
What to Expect: Pediatric Nurse Salaries
The typical salary of a pediatric nurse can vary greatly depending on how much experience you have and where you reside. However, the national average for pediatric nurses is right around $70,000 per year. It is also worth noting, however, that your earnings can also be affected by your level of education. For example, somebody with a Bachelor’s degree in nursing who works as a pediatric nurse is not likely to make quite as much as somebody with a Master’s degree or higher.
How to Become a Pediatric Nurse in 5 Simple Steps
Step 1: Enrolling in an Accredited Degree Program
Be aware that in order to work as a pediatric nurse, you will first need to gain experience as a registered nurse (RN). This means obtaining a college degree, which is typically in the form of a Bachelor’s degree in nursing.
When searching for a nursing program in which to enroll, take the time to make sure each program you consider is fully accredited by the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing, the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education, or both. This way, you’ll be sure to receive a quality education that will prepare you for work in the field.
Furthermore, take the time to consider whether you wish to enroll in an online degree program or one that requires you to take classes on a physical campus. Both options have their potential advantages and drawbacks; for example, an online program may be ideal if you have a busy schedule and don’t necessarily have time to attend classes on campus at specific times. On the other hand, on-campus classes can often provide hands-on experience that an online classroom may lack.
While you’re in school, it can also be helpful to take as many classes on pediatric medicine and related topics as possible. Once you finish your degree program, you will need to take and pass the Council Licensure Exam for Registered Nurses (NCLEX) in order to officially become an RN.
Step 2: Gaining Pediatric Experience
Upon becoming a certified RN, you can begin working in the field. Keep in mind, however, that your first job may not be in a pediatric setting. However, while you are in school, you may be able to get a placement in a pediatric work setting, which will help you gain valuable experience that you can (and should) include on a resume when you begin your initial job search.
Still, it’s worth noting that most pediatric nurses start out in other areas of nursing. This is a great way to gain some relevant experience. Even if you aren’t able to get hired in as a pediatric nurse right off-the-bat, you may consider working in a hospital where you may later be able to transfer to pediatric care.
Step 3: Consider Getting Certified as a CPN
Either while you’re working as a Registered Nurse or while you’re finishing up school/starting your job hunt, you may also want to look into becoming certified as a pediatric nurse. Keep in mind that this certification cannot be earned until after you have already obtained your RN certification.
The process for getting licensed as a pediatric nurse can vary from state to state, so it’s recommended that you take the time to research your state’s requirements. However, in most cases, you can obtain your certification from the Pediatric Nursing Certification Board (PNCB).
In order to be considered for certification as a pediatric nurse, you will need to meet the following criteria:
- have a current and valid RN license
- prove a minimum of 1,800 hours of pediatric work experience within the past two years
This pediatric experience can include anything from providing home health care to infants/children to conducting pediatric clinical research and just about anything in between. Some common types of experience include:
- administration and teaching
- school-based care
- direct patient care
If you’re thinking about going this route, be sure to keep detailed and thorough documentation of your experience. You should keep a log that lists the date of your experience, the times and total number of hours, and (if possible) the signature of a supervisor or current pediatric nurse for verification.
While being officially licensed as a pediatric nurse isn’t a requirement for most jobs in the field, it is something that can help set you apart from other job applicants, this increasing your chances of being able to land a job.
Step 4: Explore Other Credentials Through the PNCB
In addition to becoming a certified pediatric nurse, there are other certifications offered through the PNCB and other organizations that may be worth looking into, depending on your specific areas of interest. Having these certifications and other distinctions can help your resume stand out and make you a more viable job candidate.
Step 5: Be Prepared for Annual Re-Certification
Another important consideration to keep in mind when deciding to pursue a career as a certified pediatric nurse is that you will need to be re-certified each year. However, it is also worth noting that continuing education is required in all careers in the medical field. Because medicine and healthcare is constantly changing and evolving, medical professionals have an obligation to stay up-to-date on these changes in order to best serve their patients.
Specifically, CPNs who wish to become re-certified each year will need to prove that they have completed 15 contact hours or other related activities within that year. Fortunately, obtaining these contact hours is usually pretty simple and there are many different options available depending on your interests.
For example, there are dozens of conferences each year in the medical field, and attendance at most any of these conferences can be considered for contact hours or other approved activities. Attendance at these conferences allows pediatric nurses to connect with each other while also learning about new advancements in the field.
Furthermore, hospitals and other medical facilities tend to offer their own work-related training from time to time. It is possible that this training could be considered acceptable for contact hour credit. If this is the case, the training should have a sign-in sheet of some form so that each contact hour is accounted for. In some cases, online training modules or even online coursework outside the workplace could be considered for continuing education credit.
And of course, any academic credit related to pediatric nursing from an accredited school will count, as will any direct care provided to pediatric patients. In most cases, proving that you have obtained at least 15 contact hours within any given year shouldn’t be too much of a challenge so long as you have spent the majority of the year either working or going to school. However, if you have any questions about what counts for continuing education hours, you should reference the PNCB website and their instructions for determining contact hours.
Other Important Information for Prospective Pediatric Nurses
Working as a pediatric nurse can be an extremely rewarding career, but it can also be very stressful and emotionally challenging at times. Depending on where you work, you may see children and even infants who are extremely ill, and in some cases, there simply may not be much you can do to help them. Those who enter into the nursing field must learn to develop a thick skin and take things one day at a time.
Many nurses find their first pediatric rotations to be the most difficult, as they will see some things they have never seen before and never want to experience again. Furthermore, there tend to be some communication challenges between beginning pediatric nurses and their patients. For example, talking to a three-year-old to find out what symptoms he or she is experiencing is a lot more difficult than speaking with a 20-year-old about the same thing. Pediatric nurses must learn to speak with their patients and understand their language and disposition.
Some tips that can be helpful for new pediatric nurses looking to navigate these communication barriers include speaking to children at their level. This means taking the time to physically lower yourself so that you’re at eye-level when you’re speaking with them. This can help calm them down and feel less intimidated, helping them see that you’re trying to help. Smiling is also important for pediatric nurses, as children tend to feel very nervous when at the doctor’s office or hospital. A small smile can make all the difference in putting a scared child at-ease.
Of course, getting some help from the parents or guardians of a child can also be useful, as will making small talk with each child.
The Bottom Line
Overall, the field of pediatric nursing is a very promising one to get into. Not only is demand expected to grow significantly over the next several years, but the job itself is truly one of the most rewarding out there for those who enjoy helping others and being around children.
If you’re truly interested in becoming a pediatric nurse and are prepared to dedicate the next few years to the necessary schooling and training required to work in this area of medicine, then now is a great time to start exploring your education options. Begin by searching for accredited nursing programs in your area, and decide whether you want to go for an Associate’s degree or a Bachelor’s degree. From there, you can begin working towards your degree, studying for the NCLEX, and preparing yourself for eventually obtaining your formal certification as a pediatric nurse. Once certified, you are eligible to work as a pediatric nurse anywhere in the United States.