Overview: What Does a Pediatric Nurse Do?
Pediatric nurses care for children and adolescents up to 21 years old. Becoming a pediatric nurse requires graduating from a nursing program and becoming a licensed registered nurse (RN). There are also career opportunities for pediatric nurses who want to advance their knowledge of the field.
|Education Requirements||Associate's or bachelor's degree|
|Other Requirements||NCLEX registered nursing license; optional pediatric nursing certification|
|Projected Job Growth (2018-2028)||12% for registered nurses*|
|Average Salary||$60,120 for pediatric nurses (2019) **|
Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics; **Payscale.com
Pediatric Nurse Job Description
Pediatric nurses will work with children and adolescents of all different ages, so they must have specialized knowledge of child and adolescent growth and development. They will know about childhood diseases and treatments, which can differ from the diseases and treatments of adults. Most pediatric nurses work in children's hospitals, but others work in outpatient care facilities and community hospitals. They can also work in schools, provide at-home care, and more. Pediatric nurses in hospital settings can expect to work in shifts, including nights and weekends. Those who work in doctors' offices or schools may work a more normal schedule, with set hours during the day.
The average salary for pediatric nurses is $60,120, according to Payscale.com. Registered nurse jobs, in general, are expected to grow by 12 percent from 2018 to 2028, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
Pediatric Nurse Duties
Specific duties for pediatric nurses may depend on their specialization, if they have one. Two common specializations for pediatric nurses are pediatric oncology, which focuses on treating children facing cancer, and pediatric intensive care unit (ICU), which focuses on treating children who are facing life-threatening illnesses or injuries. Below are some general duties all pediatric nurses may carry out:
- Record patients' medical data or observations about their conditions
- Give medicines and other treatments
- Operate medical equipment during procedures with doctors
- Provide support and education to the child and their family about their care
Pediatric Nurse Job Responsibilities
Beyond the medical knowledge and skills that nurses need to perform their duties, they also have other responsibilities that will help them provide the best care to the patients and their families. For example, they'll have to:
- Have a compassionate and empathetic bedside manner
- Handle emotions carefully in order to deal with sometimes upsetting situations on the job
- Think critically and pay attention to details
- Be observant, especially since children might not always articulate problems or how they're feeling
Aspiring pediatric nurses must graduate from one of the many registered nurse colleges in the United States. There are associate's degrees and diploma nursing programs available, but employers may prefer a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN). These programs will include clinical experience. Then, they must take the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN) exam to become a licensed registered nurse (RN). Those who want to be pediatric nurses should consider getting certified through an exam with the Pediatric Nursing Certification Board or American Nurses Credentialing Center. Employers might require certification, but even if they don't, certification shows that a nurse has specialized knowledge of the field.
Career Advancement Options
Those who want to advance their pediatric nursing career can complete a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN), which is the most common, or a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP). They must also follow requirements set by their state to become a certified advanced practice registered nurse (APRN) and become either of the following nursing professionals.
- Pediatric Nurse Practitioner (PNP): A nurse practitioner can provide more advanced levels of care to patients than an RN. Nurse practitioners can diagnose patients, recommend treatment, manage care, and write prescriptions. They consult with doctors as necessary. There are various nurse practitioner schools in the United States.
- Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS) in Pediatrics: These advanced nurses may provide direct care to their pediatric patients, but also work with the patients and their families and the nursing staff to ensure quality care for patients. This is a collaborative and cooperative role. Pediatric clinical nurse specialists often have a specific specialty within pediatrics as well, like oncology or critical care.