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How to Become a Pediatric Nurse

By Ibrahim Okunade

Published:

If you are drawn to the possibility of making a difference in delivering health care to children and adolescents, a career as a pediatric nurse could be ideal for you. This guide explores how to become a pediatric nurse, the education requirements, the job outlook, and other important details needed to put you on the right track.

Career Summary

Pediatric Nurse Salary

Pediatric Nurse Salary

Whether you’re just starting your career or switching careers, it is pretty normal to want information about the average pediatric nurse salary.

Below are the average pediatric nurse salary figures, according to Glassdoor:

  • Entry (US$68K)
  • Median (US$86K)
  • Senior (US$108K)

This salary breakdown shows that pediatric nurses earn higher than the average salary for all workers in the United States of America.

What do Pediatric Nurses do?

A pediatric nurse specializes in providing healthcare to infants, children, and adolescents. Their role is diverse, encompassing a range of responsibilities aimed at promoting the health and well-being of young patients. Pediatric nurses administer vaccinations, conduct routine check-ups, and manage acute and chronic illnesses unique to the pediatric population. Additionally, they play a crucial role in educating families about child health, offering emotional support, and collaborating with healthcare teams to ensure comprehensive care. 

Pediatric Nurse Career Progression

  • Registered Nurse (RN): Start as a general RN by completing a nursing degree (ADN or BSN) and obtaining licensure. Work in various healthcare settings to gain foundational nursing experience.
  • Pediatric Staff Nurse: Specializes in pediatric nursing by working in pediatric units, children’s hospitals, or pediatric clinics. Gain experience in providing direct care to infants, children, and adolescents.
  • Pediatric Charge Nurse or Clinical Nurse Specialist: Advance to a leadership role as a charge nurse, overseeing daily operations in a pediatric unit. Alternatively, pursue further education and become a Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS) with expertise in pediatric nursing.
  • Pediatric Nurse Practitioner (PNP): Obtain a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) or Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) to become an advanced practice nurse. Specialize further as a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner (PNP) or Pediatric Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS). Diagnose, treat, and manage the healthcare needs of pediatric patients under the scope of advanced practice.
Pediatric Nurse Career Progression

Useful Pediatric Nurse Skills

  • Empathy and Communication
  • Pediatric Pharmacology
  • Pediatric Assessment and Treatment
  • Child Development Knowledge
  • Critical Thinking
  • Problem-Solving
  • Attention to Detail

Best Aspects of Working as a Pediatric Nurse

  • Pediatric nurses contribute directly to the well-being of kids and adolescents.
  • They have job stability as there is consistent demand for pediatric nurses.
  • Pediatric nurses get competitive and often rewarding compensation packages.
  • Collaborating closely with a diverse team of healthcare professionals.
  • Nursing the youngest among us to health offers emotional fulfillment and a profound sense of purpose.

Worst Aspects of Working as a Pediatric Nurse

  • Dealing with emotionally challenging situations, including the illness or loss of pediatric patients, can take a significant emotional toll on pediatric nurses.
  • The fast-paced nature of pediatric healthcare, especially in critical care or emergency settings, can lead to burnout and fatigue.
  • Communicating with young patients who may not fully understand their conditions or treatments and dealing with distressed parents can be challenging.
  • Pediatric nurses may have limited autonomy in decision-making, particularly in a hierarchical healthcare setting.

Popular Pediatric Nursing Specialties

  • Pediatric Intensive Care Nurse (PICU Nurse)
  • Pediatric Dermatology Nurse
  • Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) Nurse
  • Pediatric Surgical Nurse
  • Perinatal Nurse
  • Pediatric Endocrinology Nurse

How to Become a Pediatric Nurse

Pediatric Nurse 6 Steps to Career

Pediatric nurses take care of the health and well-being of infants, children, and adolescents. They play a crucial role in providing specialized and compassionate nursing care to young patients, addressing a wide range of medical needs unique to this age group. If you want to be one of these dedicated healthcare professionals, let’s show you how. 

Step 1: Earn a Nursing Degree

The journey to landing your dream job as a pediatric nurse starts with earning a nursing degree. You can earn one by either pursuing an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) or a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN). 

Whether you pursue an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) or a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN), this foundational education equips you with the essential knowledge and skills required for a career in nursing. Throughout your education, you will engage in clinical rotations, gaining hands-on experience in various healthcare settings, including pediatric units. 

What is the Cost and Duration of a Nursing Degree Program?

Here’s a breakdown of the different nursing degree programs and their typical durations:

  • Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN): An ADN program is a two-year program that prepares you to become a registered nurse (RN). ADN programs typically include classroom instruction, laboratory experience, and clinical rotations in various healthcare settings. The estimated annual tuition and fees range from $3,000 to $17,000. This brings the total cost for an associate’s degree to $6,000 to $34,000.
  • Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN): A BSN program is a four-year program that prepares you to become an RN with a more advanced level of knowledge and skills. BSN programs typically include a broader curriculum that covers topics such as nursing research, leadership, and healthcare management. Oftentimes, registered nurses with ADN degrees pursue BSN degrees to enhance their professional qualifications and expand their expertise. The total cost of a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree can range from $20,000 to well over $100,000.
  • Accelerated Nursing Programs (ABSN): An ABSN program is a condensed BSN program that is designed for students who already have a bachelor’s degree in another field and are looking to transition into nursing. ABSN programs typically take one to two years to complete and focus on the nursing coursework required to become an RN.

Can I Become a Pediatric Nurse Through Online Education?

Yes, it is possible to pursue a career as a pediatric nurse through online education. Many nursing programs, including those leading to specialization in pediatric nursing, offer online or hybrid formats to accommodate the needs of diverse learners.

It is important to note that while theoretical coursework and some components of nursing education can be completed online, certain aspects of this process, particularly clinical requirements, may necessitate in-person participation. Clinical experiences, essential for hands-on learning and practical skill development, often require students to be physically present in healthcare settings. Therefore, individuals considering online education should inquire about how clinical requirements are fulfilled and be prepared for potential on-site commitments as part of their training.

What are Some Web Resources to Learn Skills to Become a Pediatric Nurse?

The internet offers up-and-coming pediatric nurses several avenues to find information to help enhance their knowledge and skills. From reputable nursing organizations and certification boards to specialized websites and educational platforms, aspiring pediatric nurses can access a wealth of resources.

Here are some of them:

  • Nurse.org: Nurse.org offers a range of articles, resources, and forums covering various nursing specialties, including pediatrics. It provides insights into the profession and practical advice for aspiring pediatric nurses.
  • Pediatric Nursing Certification Board (PNCB): The PNCB offers certification for pediatric nurses. While certification is typically pursued after gaining some experience, their website provides information about the certification process, exam content, and resources that can be beneficial for skill development.
  • American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP): The AAP offers resources, publications, and guidelines on pediatric healthcare. While not focused solely on nursing, the information provided can deepen your understanding of pediatric medicine and patient care.
  • PubMed: PubMed is a database of biomedical literature, including numerous articles related to pediatric nursing. It can be a valuable resource for staying updated on the latest research and best practices in pediatric healthcare.
  • Children’s Hospital Association (CHA): The CHA website provides resources and insights into pediatric healthcare. It covers a range of topics, including patient care, policy issues, and trends in pediatric nursing.
  • Registered Nursing: This site offers guides, articles, and tools for nursing students. It includes information about various nursing specialties, including pediatrics, and can be a helpful resource for those pursuing a career in pediatric nursing.
  • National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners (NAPNAP): NAPNAP is a professional association for pediatric nurse practitioners. While it’s more focused on advanced practice, its resources and publications can still offer valuable insights for pediatric nurses.
  • Pediatric Education: Pediatric Education provides case-based pediatric education for healthcare professionals. It covers a variety of topics and can be a useful resource for building clinical reasoning skills.

Step 2: Gain Internship Experience

While internships are not prerequisites for obtaining a nursing license, it is highly recommended for aspiring nurses to participate in internships or clinical rotations during their education and training. Internships provide invaluable hands-on experience in real healthcare settings, allowing individuals to apply theoretical knowledge to practical situations. This immersive learning experience is even more important for a nurse hoping to specialize in pediatrics. It exposes you to the unique challenges and nuances of caring for children and adolescents, helping you develop specialized skills and a deep understanding of pediatric healthcare. 

What Are Internship Opportunities for an Aspiring Pediatric Nurse?

Numerous internship opportunities are available for aspiring pediatric nurses, providing valuable hands-on experience and exposure to the field.

Here are some of the most interesting internship opportunities for aspiring pediatric nurses:

  • Hospital-Based Internships: Hospitals offer a comprehensive range of pediatric internship opportunities, allowing aspiring nurses to gain experience in various pediatric care settings, such as inpatient units, emergency departments, and neonatal intensive care units (NICUs). These internships provide exposure to a wide range of pediatric conditions and treatment modalities.
  • Pediatric Clinics and Practices: Interning in a pediatric clinic or private practice exposes nurses to outpatient care for children. This setting often involves well-child check-ups, vaccinations, and the management of common pediatric illnesses.
  • Children’s Specialty Centers: Specialized centers focused on specific pediatric specialties, such as pediatric cardiology, oncology, or neurology, provide interns with concentrated experience in a particular area of pediatric nursing.
  • Community Health Centers: Community health centers provide internships that focus on addressing the healthcare needs of underserved communities. Aspiring pediatric nurses can gain experience in providing care to children from diverse backgrounds and learn about the social determinants of health.
  • Pediatric Home Health Care: Interning in pediatric home health care provides a unique perspective on caring for children in their home environments. This setting is particularly beneficial for understanding family dynamics and the challenges of managing pediatric health at home.
  • Pediatric Intensive Care Units (PICU): Interning in a PICU provides exposure to critically ill children and specialized care in a high-acuity setting. This experience is valuable for developing skills in managing complex medical conditions.

Important Pediatric Nurse Skills for Success

The most important pediatric nurse skills overlap with a combination of clinical expertise, communication abilities, and empathy. Success in pediatric nursing requires a unique set of skills tailored to working with children, adolescents, and their families.

Here are some key skills for pediatric nurses:

Clinical Competence:
  • Venipuncture and IV Skills: Proficiency in obtaining blood samples and administering intravenous (IV) therapy, considering the unique challenges and smaller veins in pediatric patients.
  • Pediatric Medication Dosage Calculation: Accurate calculation and administration of medication dosages based on a child’s weight and age, ensuring safety and effectiveness.
  • Pediatric Respiratory Care: Competence in assessing and managing pediatric respiratory conditions, including the administration of respiratory treatments and monitoring respiratory distress.
  • Pediatric Assessment Tools: Utilization of pediatric-specific assessment tools for vital signs, growth, and developmental milestones to ensure comprehensive and age-appropriate care.
  • Neonatal Care Skills: Knowledge and skills related to caring for newborns, including neonatal resuscitation, feeding support, and monitoring for developmental milestones.
  • Wound Care: Skills in providing wound care and managing postoperative recovery for pediatric surgical patients.
Communication Skills:
  • Child-Friendly Communication: The capacity to communicate effectively with children, using age-appropriate language and techniques to establish trust and rapport.
  • Family-Centered Communication: Engaging and involving families in the care process, providing updates, and addressing concerns with empathy and clarity.
  • Interdisciplinary Communication: Collaborating with other healthcare professionals, including physicians, therapists, and child life specialists, to ensure comprehensive care.
  • Cultural Sensitivity: Recognizing and respecting the diverse cultural backgrounds of pediatric patients and their families, integrating cultural competence into care delivery.
  • Empathetic Approach: Displaying compassion and understanding toward pediatric patients and their families, acknowledging their emotional needs during challenging times.
Pediatric Assessment Skills:
  • Developmental Assessment: Assessing the developmental stages and milestones of children to tailor care plans to their specific needs.
  • Pain Assessment: Skill in evaluating and managing pain in pediatric patients using age-appropriate pain assessment tools.
Crisis Management:
  • Emergency Response: The ability to respond swiftly and effectively in emergency situations, including resuscitation and stabilization of critically ill pediatric patients.
  • Critical Thinking: Utilizing critical thinking skills to make prompt decisions in complex and rapidly changing situations.

Step 3: Pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN)

Once you have graduated from an accredited nursing program, you must pass the NCLEX-RN in order to become a licensed registered nurse (RN). The NCLEX-RN is a national exam that tests your knowledge and skills in nursing. This exam comes in a computer-adaptive form. This means the length format may vary based on the ability of each candidate. Once you pass this exam, you are eligible to apply for RN licensure in your state.

Step 4: Gain Experience as a Registered Nurse

Once you have your nursing license, you can start working as a registered nurse. Since you hope to specialize in pediatric nursing, it is preferable to rack up experience working in healthcare settings where you will be actively involved in the care of children and their families. This is because experience in pediatrics is important for you to get certified as a pediatric nurse.

Step 5: Get Your Pediatric Nursing Certification

Years of working as a registered nurse prepare you for earning a pediatric nursing certification. You can opt for either the Certified Pediatric Nurse (CPN) certification offered by The Pediatric Nursing Certification Board (PNCB) or the Pediatric Nursing Certification (PED-BC) offered by the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC). The PNCB certification is described as the gold standard for the specialty and is the more popular of the two certifications. 

The eligibility criteria for the two certifications are similar.

For the PNCB Certified Pediatric Nurse (CPN) certification, candidates are expected to:
  • Have current, valid, unrestricted RN license in the U.S., Canada, American Samoa, Guam, Northern Mariana Islands, or the U.S. Virgin Islands at the time of application.
  • Have a minimum of 1800 hours of pediatric clinical experience completed within the past 24 months as an RN.
  • Alternatively, a minimum of 5 years as an RN in pediatric nursing and 3,000 hours in pediatric nursing within the last five years, with a minimum of 1000 hours within the past 24 months (used only if unable to meet the above option).

In addition to this, once certified, Certified Pediatric Nurses are expected to recertify annually.

For the ANCC Pediatric Nursing Certification, candidates are expected to:
  • Hold a current, active RN license in a state or territory of the United States or hold the professional, legally recognized equivalent in another country
  • Have practiced the equivalent of 2 years full-time as a registered nurse
  • Accumulate at least 2,000 hours of clinical practice in the specialty area of pediatric nursing within the last three years.
  • Have completed 30 hours of continuing education in pediatric nursing within the last three years.

Holders of this certification are expected to renew it every five years.

Step 6: Pursue an Advanced Nursing Degree (optional)

To improve your qualifications and open up advanced career opportunities in pediatric nursing, consider pursuing an advanced nursing degree. Options include a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) with a focus on pediatric nursing or even a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) for those aiming for leadership roles. 

Advanced degrees position you for roles such as  Pediatric Nurse Practitioner (PNP) or Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS). These advanced roles often involve greater autonomy, specialization, and the ability to contribute to shaping healthcare policies. While optional, obtaining an advanced nursing degree can elevate your expertise and impact within the field of pediatric nursing.

What’s the Career Outlook for Pediatric Nurses?

Statistics from the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics show that the employment of registered nurses, which includes pediatric nurses, is expected to grow 6% from 2022 to 2032. The projected growth rate is faster than the average for all occupations in the United States. In addition, more than 193,000 openings for registered nurses are projected each year, on average, over the decade. This indicates a robust demand for nursing professionals. Thus, specializing in a niche specialty like pediatrics makes even more sense.

What is the Work-Life Balance of a Pediatric Nurse?

As a pediatric nurse, your work-life balance can vary depending on factors like your workplace, shifts, patient load, and personal preferences. You might work full-time, part-time, or have flexible schedules that include nights, weekends, and holidays, especially in hospitals with round-the-clock care.

Nursing often involves long shifts and emotionally challenging situations, especially when caring for sick children and their families. This might impact your work-life balance, requiring you to manage stress and emotional fatigue.

However, while the job can be emotionally taxing, many pediatric nurses find fulfillment in working with children and their families, which can positively impact your work-life balance. It’s crucial to establish boundaries, practice self-care, and seek support from colleagues and management.

One key aspect is setting clear boundaries between professional and personal life. When off-duty, it’s important to consciously disconnect from work-related concerns and focus on personal pursuits. 

You should also create a supportive network and communicate openly with colleagues and supervisors about workload expectations. This contributes to a healthier work environment. By periodically reassessing and adjusting priorities, pediatric nurses can navigate the demands of their profession while fostering a sustainable work-life balance.

Pediatric Nurse Popular Career Specialties

What are the Job Opportunities for a Pediatric Nurse?

Wondering what job opportunities await a pediatric nurse? Here are some of them:

  • Pediatric Registered Nurse (RN): Provides direct patient care to infants, children, and adolescents in hospitals, clinics, or other healthcare settings.
  • Pediatric Nurse Practitioner (PNP): An advanced practice nurse with specialized training to assess, diagnose, and manage the healthcare needs of pediatric patients.
  • Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) Nurse: Specializes in providing care to critically ill children in the PICU, managing complex medical conditions.
  • Pediatric Surgical Nurse: Specializes in caring for pediatric patients undergoing surgical procedures, both preoperatively and postoperatively.
  • Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) Nurse: Provides specialized care to newborns, especially those born prematurely or with medical complications, in the NICU.
  • Perinatal Nurse: Perinatal nurses support women throughout pregnancy, childbirth, and the initial months of their infants’ lives.
  • Pediatric Endocrinology Nurse: Assists children dealing with various endocrine disorders like diabetes and thyroid issues. They typically work with children and teenagers experiencing delayed physical and mental development.

What Type of Organizations Hire Pediatric Nurses?

Pediatric nurses find employment in a variety of healthcare settings that cater to the unique healthcare needs of infants, children, and adolescents.

Here are the types of organizations that commonly hire pediatric nurses:

  • Children’s Hospitals: Specialized hospitals exclusively dedicated to pediatric care, providing comprehensive medical services for children.
  • General Hospitals: Many general hospitals have pediatric departments or units where pediatric nurses work alongside other healthcare professionals.
  • Pediatric Clinics and Practices: Outpatient clinics and private practices focused on pediatric care, offering routine check-ups, vaccinations, and specialized services.
  • Home Health Agencies: Home healthcare organizations employ pediatric nurses to provide nursing care to children in their homes, particularly for those with chronic conditions.
  • Schools and Educational Institutions: School systems often hire pediatric nurses to address the health needs of students, administer medications, and manage health-related concerns.
  • Community Health Centers: Primary care centers in the community that offer pediatric services and well-child check-ups.
  • Pediatric Specialty Clinics: Specialized clinics focusing on specific pediatric specialties such as cardiology, gastroenterology, neurology, and more.
  • Pediatric Rehabilitation Centers: Facilities providing rehabilitation services for children with developmental challenges or disabilities.
  • Research Institutions: Institutions conducting pediatric healthcare research may hire nurses to participate in clinical trials or contribute to research projects.

Should I Become a Pediatric Nurse?

Pursuing a career as a pediatric nurse is not simply about being a nurse. It is about being a nurse who can uniquely connect with and care for the youngest and most vulnerable members of our species. Thus, you need to understand the rigorous training requirements to specialize as a pediatric nurse.  

Reflect on the unique aspects of pediatric nursing highlighted in the article, such as the specialized care of infants, children, and adolescents. Consider whether the challenges and rewards associated with this field align with your passion and professional aspirations. Take time to evaluate your ability to connect with young patients and their families, understanding the importance of empathy and effective communication in pediatric healthcare.

You also need to consider the stated pediatric nurse salary and how well it aligns with your financial expectations and career aspirations. While financial remuneration is just one aspect of job satisfaction, understanding the earning potential in pediatric nursing is crucial for making informed decisions about your professional trajectory. 

If you still feel you’re up to the task after considering these factors, then you should definitely pursue a career as a pediatric nurse. It promises to be a rewarding journey where you get to contribute to the well-being of children and experience the unique joys and challenges that come with caring for the youngest members of our communities. 

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Ibrahim Okunade

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