Pediatric Nursing: The 411 on Treating Small Patients with Big Hearts
You melt at those advertisements in which the adorable child makes her mom a handmade birthday card; you get teary-eyed at the
truck commercials that showcase the bonding between fathers and sons; and you’re always the first person to rush to the scene when there is an accident on the little league diamond or Pop Warner field.
Maybe you’ve been thinking for a while that you would love to work with children or perhaps you’ve been recently inspired by a medical professional caring for your own child. Maybe you’ve been getting the tiniest of inklings that now is the time to try something new.
What you know is that you want to make a difference in the lives of those little people who have made such an impact on you. But what does it take? Where do you start?
It might just be with a career in pediatric nursing. Here’s what you need to know.
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What is pediatric nursing and how is it different?
Pediatric nurses focus on caring for children that range from infants to teenagers. As any parent knows, infants and young children have a plethora of doctor’s appointments during which children are subjected to endless measurements, vaccinations and other specialized treatments – all of which need to be performed and distributed with precision.
No parent wants to hear that the size of their child’s head falls into an abnormal percentile only to find out that the nurse measured the wrong place. No parent wants to find out after an appointment that their child received an unnecessary vaccination. Pediatric nurses handle these types of procedures daily.
Pediatric nurses are well-versed in the tricks and strategies used to get a stubborn child to open his/her mouth and they all know how to tell a joke that outweighs the fear of needles. Where general care nurses spend the majority of their time working with adults, pediatric nurses are masters with minors.
Pediatric nurses are also educated in common childhood illnesses such as juvenile diabetes or croup. They take specialized coursework throughout their careers that helps them more easily recognize child-related ailments and reactions and ensure proper treatments are prescribed.
Pediatric nurses are also not limited to clinics for general care check-ups. They can be found in schools, emergency rooms, special treatment centers and even traveling abroad.
What makes a good pediatric nurse?
Dr. Joan Rich is the vice president of nursing at Rasmussen College and a 23-year veteran pediatric nurse. She says all nurses need to be compassionate and competent but pediatric nurses need to have a few additional traits to be successful:
1. You need to like children
Pediatric nurses spend their entire day working with children and families. It will make you better at your job if you enjoy working with your patients and the parents will be grateful for every extra Dinosaur Train or Doc McStuffins reference you can make.
2. Patience, patience, patience
Children have a short attention span and like many adults probably would prefer to be somewhere else other than your office. An extra dose of patience will help you get through your third attempt at checking the child’s temperature.
3. Have a keen ear for details
Directions and processes can include a lot more steps when there is a worrisome parent on the other end. Parents in general and especially new parents often lack awareness about their child’s ailments and crave information. The more detail you can glean from them and also provide about your diagnosis, the better off you will be at treating the child.
One of Dr. Rich’s favorite stories from her personal experience highlights the unique bedside manner that makes pediatric nurses special. She tells the story of a 3-year-old that came into her office with his mother complaining of an earache. After conducting a brief health history and asking the requisite questions about sleep patterns, past illness, vomiting, fever and teething, she cut the tension by making the boy smile.
“I told the little boy that I was going to see if I could guess what he had for breakfast by looking in his ears,” Dr. Rich says. “To my surprise, I found a bright green and yellow foreign object placed securely in the canal, staring back at me!”
After quizzing the boy on his breakfast choices – including asking whether he had Oreos that morning, to which he laughed “NO!” – Dr. Rich was able to gently remove the Lego head from the boy’s ear.
How can you become a pediatric nurse?
If pediatric nursing sounds like it might be a career match for you, you should know what it takes to become one. We used real-time data to identify more than 19,000 job postings over the past year* that include “pediatric nurse” in the title. Of those postings, 54 percent required an associate degree; 35 percent a bachelor’s degree; and 21 percent required graduate or professional level certification.
Of course once you complete your degree, you will still need to pass the National Council Licensure Exam (NCLEX) to become a certified nurse. For many prospective nurses this can be the most daunting part of the program but there are many tools and resources available to ensure your success.
Even if you’ve already decided that you’re interested in nursing for children, you still have a few more hurdles to jump. Maybe you’re wondering which path is the best one for you. Don’t worry, you’re not alone. Nursing is a complicated field filled with acronyms, specializations and career paths.
If you find yourself with additional questions about whether to start as a practical nurse, professional nurse, or even get your bachelor’s degree in nursing, your best bet is to download our healthcare career outlook to get all the details you need to find your place in the field.
The decision to become a nurse means that you will have the opportunity to directly impact the lives of others. Pediatric nurses have the unique role of changing life right where it starts. Do you have what it takes?
*Source: BurningGlass.com (analysis of pediatric nurse-related job openings, Sept. 1, 2012 to Aug. 31, 2013)