How to Become A Pediatric Nurse
This article is shared from Forbes.
If you remember the scraped knees and splinters from childhood, you might also recall reluctant trips to the doctor’s office. You were thoroughly examined, patched up and sent home—likely by a pediatric nurse.
Pediatric nurses are cornerstone figures in many children’s healthy development. They provide medical care to children of all ages—from newborns to high schoolers—to ensure they grow to become healthy, thriving adults. If caring for kids and administering superhero Band-Aids sounds like the career for you, here’s how to become a pediatric nurse.
What Does a Pediatric Nurse Do?
Pediatric nurses provide continuous care to children as they develop into adulthood. These professionals are responsible for ensuring children’s overall health and wellness of children and tending to individual medical issues as they arise.
Pediatric nurses are equipped with the same medical skills and knowledge as nurses who treat adults. But they also require a deep understanding of and empathy for children. They must know how to relate to teenagers, handle newborn babies and keep kiddos calm—all while delivering excellent medical care.
Role and Responsibilities
The day-to-day responsibilities of a pediatric nurse are diverse. A typical day depends on patients’ ages and conditions, but common responsibilities include:
- Carrying out physical assessments
- Administering vaccines
- Scheduling regular appointments and coordinating follow-up medical care
- Performing diagnostic tests and analyzing results
- Monitoring patients’ conditions, behaviors and vital signs
- Communicating care plans and next steps to patients and their family members
Pediatric nurses should have soft skills as well, like excellent bedside manner, an appreciation for children, plenty of patience and strong communication abilities. Pediatric nurses are responsible not only for caring for children but for keeping their patients’ parents and guardians up to date with any medical developments.
Pediatric nurses are needed in various medical settings. They most often work in children’s hospitals but can also be found in community hospitals, government agencies, school settings, mental healthcare facilities, rehabilitation centers and urgent care facilities.
Working hours for pediatric nurses vary by location. In most hospitals, pediatric nurses work 12-hour shifts—give or take a few hours, depending on the patient demand. Some medical facilities operate with a three-shift model. If that’s the case, pediatric nurses generally work 10-hour shifts.
In private clinics, local doctors’ offices, school settings and government agencies, most pediatric nurses work between the hours of 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Some clinics might extend their working hours to weekends.
How to Become a Pediatric Nurse
Training to become a pediatric nurse can be a somewhat lengthy and demanding process. Educational requirements are stringent, and you’ll need to undergo several exams to obtain a degree and licensure. Sumner College offers a BSN.
Get an Education
Obtaining a nursing degree is the first step to becoming a pediatric nurse. You can earn either a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) or an associate degree in nursing (ADN). If you’re deciding between an ADN vs. BSN, note that a BSN degree generally takes four years, and an ADN takes two to three. BSN graduates tend to receive more advanced job opportunities down the line as well. The BSN degree program at Sumner College can be completed in less than 3 years.
Pass the NCLEX-RN
Once you’ve earned a degree, you’ll take the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN). Every prospective nurse in the U.S. is required to pass this exam. Before taking the NCLEX, you must apply to your local nursing regulatory body for authorization to test. You’re also required to pay a registration fee.
Obtain Registered Nurse (RN) Licensure
The next step to becoming a pediatric nurse is getting licensed. How to become an RN depends on the state where you plan to practice.
In California, for example, pediatric nurses must be licensed by the California Board of Registered Nursing. Applicants must also meet educational requirements, pass a criminal background check and pass the NCLEX-RN.
In Colorado, candidates must submit an affidavit of eligibility, fingerprints, consent for a background check and transcripts from an accredited nursing program. That’s in addition to an examination application or an endorsement for licensure. And in Delaware, each RN candidate must complete an accredited nursing degree and at least 400 hours of clinical work.
Gaining clinical experience is a vital component to becoming a pediatric nurse. It’s recommended to obtain at least two years of working as an RN. Though not required, many RNs also opt to become certified with the Pediatric Nursing Certification Board (PNCB).
The PNCB’s Certified Pediatric Nurse (CPN) credential requires at least 1,800 hours of pediatric clinical experience in the past 24 months or at least five years of experience as an RN in pediatrics plus 1,000 hours in pediatric nursing.
Certification isn’t required to become a pediatric nurse, but it’s highly recommended. Pediatric nursing certification verifies your abilities and demonstrates your skill set to potential employers. It can be leveraged to enhance career mobility and negotiate higher salaries.
Certifications for Pediatric Nurses
The C-NPT exam is available to registered nurses, nurse practitioners, respiratory therapists, paramedics, emergency medical technicians, physicians or physician assistants. It prepares healthcare professionals to safely care for neonatal and pediatric patients during transport. This accreditation can promote career mobility and make you feel more confident and prepared on the job.
The exam costs $210. Previous practice experience isn’t required, but it’s recommended to have at least two years of experience.
Becoming a CPN validates your expertise in pediatric nursing. This credential involves paying a $300 exam fee, applying for the exam and taking the test either in person or online with a live proctor.
The CPN exam tests knowledge in four core practice areas: physical and psychosocial/family assessments, health promotion, illness and clinical problem management and the professional role overall.
The PED-BC assesses the entry-level clinical knowledge and skills of licensed pediatric RNs. The exam tests assessment and diagnosis, planning/implementation and evaluation capabilities. The credential is valid for five years.
The initial certification costs $395 for unaffiliated nurses. It costs $295 for members of the American Nurses Association and $340 for members of the Society of Pediatric Nurses.
Pediatric Nurse Salary and Job Outlook
Registered nurses across all domains—not just pediatrics—bring home a median salary of $77,600 per year, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The BLS projects employment for RNs to grow by 6% from 2021 to 2031, which is on par with the average projected growth rate for all jobs.