Key Steps to Becoming a Pediatric Nurse

Key Steps to Becoming a Pediatric Nurse

March 12, 2024

Updated March 12, 2024

A pediatric nurse, also known as a children’s nurse, works with children of all ages who suffer from various conditions and illnesses. These lauded nurses support both child patients and their families.

If you are interested in working as a pediatric nurse, you will play a critical role in evaluating children’s needs while also taking into account their family, cultural, social, and medical circumstances.

A pediatric nurse must be able to communicate effectively and show sensitivity as well as empathy. If you decide to work with very young children, you also need to interpret their reactions and behavior to assess them fully, as they will not be able to explain how they feel.

Here is all you need to know about becoming one of these highly-valuable nurse practitioners. But first, let’s dive deeper into what these nurses do and why their roles are necessary in hospitals and other medical facilities everywhere.

What responsibilities do pediatric nurses have?

A children’s nurse can have a variety of responsibilities, making them a crucial part of many healthcare settings.

Writing reports

Like other nursing types, pediatric nurses are responsible for recording the progress of patients in their care. They need to assess their vital signs, the treatments they are receiving, medications they are taking, and their prognoses day-to-day. These reports are updated before completing a shift each day.

Observe strict safety and hygiene rules

Pediatric nurses need to ensure the facility and care rooms remain sanitary to prevent the spread of infection to their child patients. Like other nurses, they must also make sure visitors adhere to the same rules.

This helps to keep outside illnesses and infections from spreading within the hospital or other medical facilities to the child patients in their care.

Educate and advise child patients and their families

Pediatric nurses need to be able to explain procedures and treatment to children so they can easily understand. These same instructions need to be given to parents, who must be able to consent to the level of care being given.

Performing physical assessments

Pediatric nurses must assess patient conditions while creating nursing care plans for patients. They help to coordinate follow-up care as well. They regularly monitor vital signs and observe the behaviors of patients while recording those observations in their medical charts.

As part of medical assessments, they may take blood and urine samples, which can be delicate work when working with such small and vulnerable patients. This is where having patience and empathy can come in handy, as they need to make the little ones feel comfortable while providing the best care humanly possible.

Respond to emergencies

As a pediatric nurse, you must be able to think quickly so that you can respond to emergency situations as they come. This requires the nurse to work with other healthcare professionals, such as doctors, to ensure the patients receive the best care in the timeliest manner.

Tests, injections, and medications

Pediatric nurses are responsible for assisting doctors and other medical professionals with tests and evaluations. They administer injections and medications as prescribed by doctors, as well as check and maintain intravenous infusions and transfusions.

How to become a pediatric nurse

Assess whether you have the necessary skills

There are a number of different skills that you will need before becoming a pediatric nurse. These include:

  • The stamina and emotional resilience to deal with patients under challenging circumstances. 
  • Organizational skills to manage workload and time effectively.
  • Pediatric medical knowledge.
  • The ability to work in a fast-paced environment.
  • Teamwork skills, especially for work that is based in a hospital.
  • Flexibility to deal with a number of different patients at one time.
  • Observational skills and the ability to chart changes in patient behavior and conditions.
  • The ability to work independently, especially when based within the community.
  • Communication skills for explaining treatment plans and listening to patients.
  • Sensitivity, empathy, and respect when dealing with patients and their families.
  • The ability to manage overprotective parents and stressed children.
  • Understanding of ethical obligations.

Now that you know the different skills that are required to become a pediatric nurse, let’s take a look at the steps you should take to get there.

Get the required nursing education

Obtain an ADN or BSN to become a registered nurse (RN)

Before you can become a pediatric nurse, you need to fulfill the education requirements necessary to become a Registered Nurse or RN. This requires getting either an Associate’s Degree in Nursing (ADN) or a Bachelor of Science in Nursing Degree (BSN).

Keep in mind that a BSN takes four years, while an ADN takes two or three. It can be tempting to take the faster route, but some employers require you to get a BSN before you can begin working as a pediatric nurse. 

Bachelor programs will give you a greater number of skills that can assist you in your pediatric nursing career, so they can be a better choice in the long run. 

Many bachelor programs often include additional educational credits in the fields of science, communication, critical thinking, and leadership. All of these skills will come in handy once you start working as a pediatric nurse.

While it isn’t necessarily a requirement, many employers would also prefer you to have a more advanced degree. For example, after completing your BSN, you might go on to pursue a Master of Science in Nursing or MSN.

As a master's degree holder, you could then advance to a specialty, such as Pediatric Nurse Practitioner or PNP or even a Clinical Nurse Specialist in Pediatrics. Both positions come with increasingly higher incomes. These MSN programs generally take around two years to complete or longer.

Even after you graduate from a nursing program, you won’t be able to work in a medical facility as a nurse until you obtain your nursing license.

Get licensed and certified

After you have completed an accredited nursing program, you will take the National Council Licensure Exam of NCLEX. This requires you to pay a test, registration, and examination fee, which usually comes to around $200. Every prospective nurse in the U.S. has to pass the NCLEX-RN. 

Before you can even take the test, however, you have to apply to your local nursing regulatory body to receive authorization to do so. 

After passing the RN-NCLEX and following your state’s instructions on how to obtain the RN license, you can begin applying to work in healthcare facilities that treat pediatric patients. Having work experience looks good for employers that want you to have at least some hours of experience before hiring you for pediatric nursing positions.

Many health facilities offer internships and orientation programs that provide clinical experience focused on the unique needs of pediatric patients. These are invaluable for starting your career as a specialized nurse in the field of pediatrics.

When you have work experience under your belt, you can then pursue nurse certification through the Pediatric Nursing Certification Board or PNCB. Although certification isn’t a requirement, getting certified sends a message to employers that you have specialized knowledge that goes beyond RN licensure. 

Having a pediatric certification also gives you the opportunity to make more money and gives you greater career mobility. You’ll also be recognized as an expert in pediatrics by employers, your colleagues, and the patients under your care.

To qualify for pediatric certification, which will designate you as a certified pediatric nurse or CPN, you typically need an RN license and proof of at least 1,800 hours of experience in pediatrics within 24 months as a registered nurse. 

You can also qualify with a minimum of five years as a pediatric nurse and 3,000 hours of pediatric nursing experience within the last five years with a minimum of 1,000 hours within the past 24 months.

Work experience doesn’t only mean working in a medical facility with child patients. Work experience for most employers can also mean clinical pediatric research, school-based care, home health care for children, teaching, direct patient care, and patient consultations. 

A few different types of certifications are available for pediatric nurses. You can pursue a Certification in Neonatal Pediatric Transport, which can prepare you to safely transport neonatal and pediatric patients. The exam costs $210, and it’s recommended that you have at least two years of experience.

You can also become a Certified Pediatric Nurse, which validates your expertise in pediatric nursing. The exam costs $300, and you can take it in-person or online with a live proctor.

Another option is the Pediatric Nursing Certificate, which costs $395 for unaffiliated nurses. For those who belong to the American Nurses Association, the cost is $295, and for those who are part of the Society of Pediatric Nurses, it costs $340. The exam assesses the entry-level knowledge and skills of licensed pediatric registered nurses. 

How to find a pediatric nurse practitioner program

There are a number of factors you should consider when looking for the best pediatric nurse practitioner program for your needs. This includes acceptance rate, reputation, tuition, and accreditation. Doing the necessary research is key so you can be sure you’re getting the best education to suit your career goals.

Some of the better nursing programs include those offered by the University of Washington, Duke University, and the University of Pennsylvania. Other places worth considering are the University of Pittsburgh, Yale University, Columbia University, Vanderbilt University, Johns Hopkins University, and Rush University.

Finding areas to work as a pediatric nurse

One of the benefits associated with becoming a pediatric nurse is that you can select from a wide variety of employment opportunities, so long as there are children or babies involved. Private pediatrician offices and hospitals are the most obvious choices.

Nevertheless, there is also a need for pediatric nurses in schools, community groups, social service agencies, government agencies, and clinics.

Some pediatric nurses decide to concentrate on positions that provide family health education and offer health screenings and presentations.

In terms of what the daily job is like for a pediatric nurse, it depends on the type of healthcare facility. Pediatric nurses in hospitals provide care around the clock, including night shifts. However, if you work for a community organization, you may have hours that are more traditional.

In the majority of hospital settings, pediatric nurses work a 12-hour period per shift, and they can stretch into overtime if patients’ needs are high. If the facility uses the three-shift model that has overlapping shifts, the pediatric nurse is likely to work a ten-hour shift.

The good news is that, because nursing is in such high demand, coupled with a nursing shortage, you will basically have your pick of where you want to work anywhere around the country. 

You could even become a travel nurse, whereby you could travel to medical facilities in various states, working contracts for up to 13 weeks at a time. Travel pediatric nurses earn higher income when compared to staff nurses and often get perks and benefits not available to regular nurses, like housing stipends and travel reimbursements.

Find your next pediatric nursing job with Prolink

If you love working with children and you have the drive to complete the necessary schooling and certification, there is no better time to begin your journey as a pediatric nurse than right now. There is no denying that this is a career that is challenging but it is also one that can be very rewarding as well.

When you’re ready to get started, apply with Prolink. We make it easy to find the job of your dreams as a pediatric nurse, or any other nursing specialty under the sun. We can even assist you with obtaining the necessary education and licensure. Apply today. We make it easy, the way beginning your career as a nurse should be. Click below to create your account and start your job search today.

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