Pediatric nurses provide health and medical care for children from birth through their late teens. These nurses provide expert care to the child while working with the family to address their concerns, fears, problems, and options. Exactly what a pediatric nurse does depends on the work setting, which might be a hospital, surgical center, doctor’s office, clinic, or other health care setting.
However, the ten most important tasks included in a general pediatric nurse’s job description, as identified in a study conducted by the National Certification Board of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners and Nurses (NCBPNP/N), (predecessor to the Pediatric Nurse Certification Board (PNCB)) include the following:
- Identify changes in a child’s signs and symptoms and intervene in emergent situations
- Maintain privacy and confidentiality in nurse/child relationships
- Differentiate between normal and abnormal physical findings
- Serve as a child advocate
- Participate in activities to manage a child’s pain
- Analyze situations to anticipate pathophysiological problems and detect changes in status
- Administer medication using age-appropriate guidelines
- Determine a child’s needs related to pain management
- Evaluate a child for signs and symptoms of abuse
- Provide supportive care to dying children
Other frequent activities include involving the child and family in the plan of care, determining the child’s needs based on analysis of symptoms, and determining a child’s needs related to growth and development.
Pediatric nurses may also specialize in areas such as cardiology, endocrinology, neonatology, oncology, pulmonary, or trauma and perform tasks specific to those specialties.
Being a pediatric nurse is both a rewarding and challenging career. A pediatric nurse deals not only with the child patient but also with all the anxieties and demands of the parents. The joy of watching a sick child recover can be immeasurable but dealing with acutely ill and dying children can take its toll, making it essential that nurses going into pediatrics understand what kinds of issues can arise.
Pediatric Nurse Practitioners and Pediatric Clinical Nurse Specialists
Nurses who go on to become advanced practice nurses can specialize as a pediatric nurse practitioner (PNP) by completing a graduate degree from a nursing program that offers PNP education or as a pediatric clinical nurse specialist (CNS) by completing a pediatric CNS program.
Certification is available for both roles through the American Nurses Credentialing Center (primary care certification (PNP-BC) for PNPs and pediatric CNS certification (PCNS-BC) for CNSs.) PNPs can also become certified through the Pediatric Nurse Certification Board in primary care (CPNP-PC) or acute care (CPNP-AC).
Primary care PNPs can serve as a child’s primary healthcare provider, providing the same services as pediatricians, including writing prescriptions in states that allow nurse practitioners to do so. Acute care PNPs care for sick children in a variety of settings. A CNS can work in a variety of settings, providing a wide range of care for children.
The Steps to Becoming a Pediatric Nurse
The first step to becoming a pediatric nurse is completing nursing school and becoming licensed as a Registered Nurse (RNs). Undergraduate nursing schools don’t offer specialties, so pediatric nurses get started by taking pediatric nursing jobs. Most hospitals have training programs to prepare new nurses with specialized pediatric knowledge.
As nurses gain more experience and complete pediatric continuing education, they can choose to become certified in pediatrics as a Registered Nurse-Board Certified (RN-BC) through the American Nurses Credentialing Center. Other certification options through the Pediatric Nurse Certification Board are:
- Pediatric Nurse
- Pediatric Emergency Nurse
- Pediatric Primary Care Mental Health Specialist