CERTIFIED PEDIATRIC NURSES: CARING FOR CHILDREN, FROM INFANCY TO YOUNG ADULTHOOD
Pediatric nurses play an important role in our healthcare system, caring for patients from infancy to young adulthood. Pediatric nurses work closely with pediatricians, family doctors, and other healthcare professionals. Their duties include:
- Providing preventive and critical care
- Performing routine check-ups
- Teaching parents about proper nutrition for healthy growth and development
- Administering immunizations and developmental screenings
WHERE PEDIATRIC NURSES WORK
Pediatric nurses work in a variety of settings, including hospitals, doctor’s offices, clinics, schools, emergency rooms, and intensive care units.
Pediatric nurses may work in pediatric care units that treat children with a wide range of acute and chronic medical conditions. Pediatric nurses working in intensive care units treat patients who have severe, critical, or life-threatening conditions. Alternatively, a pediatric nurse may work in an intermediate unit that provides care for patients who are acutely ill and require more monitoring than a general unit provides, but less monitoring than the intensive care unit. Pediatric nurses receive ongoing on-the-job training tailored to their specific work setting and responsibilities.
Regardless of the setting, nurses must work well with children, who are not always able to articulate “what hurts” as clearly as adults. Pediatric nurses are generally attuned to non-verbal cues about what a patient is experiencing, and they help their young patients feel comfortable and secure-pediatric nurses know just what to say to dispel kids’ fears about going to the doctor or being in the hospital.
“MUSTS” FOR BECOMING A PEDIATRIC NURSE
It goes without saying that you must like-preferably love-children to be a pediatric nurse. Working with children requires a willingness to see the world through a child’s eyes. You must have abundant patience, as children can have short attention spans that will test you every day. Be prepared to be caught off guard by things kids say and ask-younger children, especially, can be quite frank! A love for teaching is also essential, as you’ll be counseling parents frequently about healthy lifestyle practices and treatments for conditions and illnesses.
To become a certified pediatric nurse (CPN), you’ll first need experience as a registered nurse (RN). Here are the steps to becoming a CPN.
- Get your RN license –CPN exam eligibility accepts a Diploma in Nursing, Associate of Science in Nursing (ASN), Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN), or higher nursing degrees. Note that while a Diploma in Nursing or ASN is sufficient to take the certification test for pediatrics, a BSN will provide broader opportunities exposure to pediatrics, and for in-service and classroom training.
- Complete on the job training -either on-the-job training or an internship at a clinic or hospital that specializes in pediatrics. In order to qualify to take the CPN exam, you must have had a minimum of 1,800 hours of pediatric clinical experience in the past 24 months.
- Apply for the exam -once you’ve met the requirements for on-the-job training you can apply to take the CPN exam. Fill out an initial application on the Pediatric Nursing Certification Board (PNCB) website, which will ask about your current, active RN license and pediatric clinical experience hours (documentation is only required if selected for audit).
- Take and pass the CPN exam- a 175-question test, which you are allotted three hours to complete. Test content includes Assessment, Health Promotion, and Management. Note that before taking the exam it is highly advisable to take a CPN practice test.
RETAKING THE EXAM IF YOU DON’T PASS
The pass rate for the CPN exam is generally high (above 80%); if you don’t pass, you may apply to re-take the exam as soon as you receive your official score in the mail (within 3 weeks after your initial test date).
CONTINUING EDUCATION (CE)
Pediatric nurses, like other healthcare professionals, are required to undergo continuing education periodically. This ensures they are up-to-date on the latest practices, requirements, and laws pertaining to nursing. Generally, you’ll be required to fulfill a certain number of nurse CE units to become recertified.
Continuing education providers typically offer a variety of courses to choose from, but you’ll need to make sure you take any state-specific required courses. Continuing education is generally very affordable, and many programs are offered online, featuring nursing videos and other materials to help you refresh your knowledge and fulfill your CE requirements.
SALARY AND CAREER OUTLOOK
The outlook for pediatric nurses and for those in the medical field in general is excellent. Pediatric nurses can expect to earn $48,000 to $68,000 a year, although compensation ultimately depends on several factors, including:
- Your geographic location
- Your level of education
- Your experience
- The type of facility where you work
Experienced pediatric nurses can earn $100,000 a year or more.
Many certified pediatric nurses go on to pursue an advanced (master’s) degree in nursing to become a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner (PNP). PNPs are able to prescribe medications and may specialize in different areas of pediatric care. Pediatric Nurse Practitioners:
- Work with doctors and parents to plan a child’s health care
- Teach families about proper nutrition, and growth and development
- Teach kids about self-care and good health
- Perform physical exams and document health history
- Order medical tests and perform procedures
- Prescribe medications when necessary
- Treat common childhood illnesses, such as tonsillitis
- Manage and treat high acuity patients including ER, major organ failure, and life threatening diseases (if they are Acute Care PNPs)
- Assist the entire medical team with the management of chronic illnesses
- Refer patients to specialists
A REWARDING LINE OF WORK
Pediatric nursing is a challenging and rewarding career, providing essential care for the leaders of tomorrow-our children. Many pediatric nurses work with patients for years, and seeing a child grow from infancy or early childhood to young adulthood can be a very rewarding experience in itself.
The demand for pediatric nurses has never been greater, creating stable job opportunities for those who are dedicated to promoting the health and well-being of current and future generations.