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What Does a Pediatric Nurse Do?

Written by: North Carolina Central University   •  Feb 1, 2024
Pediatric Nurse Holding a Baby Patient During an Appointment.

What Does a Pediatric Nurse Do?

For parents, nothing’s more distressing than seeing their child sick or struggling with health issues. This scenario is further complicated when the child is too young to communicate their symptoms or how they feel. Parents can start misdiagnosing the issue or providing treatments that won’t improve the situation.

Delivering health care services to children requires advanced clinical skills, compassion, and an attentive eye that picks up on subtle nuances that others may overlook. Pediatric nurses are health care professionals who specialize in the treatment of infants, toddlers, adolescents, and teenagers. In addition to delivering essential vaccines and other forms of preventive care, pediatric nurses address a range of acute and chronic health issues, some of which are specific to younger demographics.

There’s variation between what pediatric nurses do and their different types. Those interested in this dynamic role should know how to pursue a career as a pediatric nurse, including the most appropriate nursing degree program to consider to advance their career.   

Pediatric Nurse Duties and Responsibilities

Like registered nurses (RNs), pediatric nurses work in a broad range of environments, including hospitals, private practices, urgent care centers, schools, and health care clinics. The main difference between a standard RN and a pediatric nurse is that RNs typically treat patients of all ages, while pediatric nurses only treat patients from infancy to adolescence.

Considering their patient demographic, pediatric nurses must be more in tune with how diseases and illnesses impact children versus adults. They must be especially careful when administering medications, as young patients who are still developing have much lower tolerance thresholds.

Another distinction in pediatric nursing is its deep roots in forming relationships and bonds of trust with children and their families. An excellent bedside manner and the ability to connect with patients are essential qualities. Those with well-developed interpersonal soft skills are best equipped to work with young patients.

During a typical day, a pediatric nurse may perform the following duties:

  • Conduct examinations of patients and update their medical histories.

  • Administer vaccines and medications.

  • Order diagnostic tests, such as blood work or X-rays.

  • Monitor patients for changes in their vital signs and responses to treatments.

  • Educate patients and their families about relevant health care topics.

  • Collaborate with physicians and other health care workers on treatment strategies.

  • Serve as a source of emotional support for children and their parents. 

4 Types of Pediatric Nurses

Pediatric nurse is an umbrella term for a health care professional who specializes in working with children. However, there are multiple types of pediatric nurses, each defined by health care environment, patient age demographic, and conditions treated.

The following are the four types of pediatric nurses:

  • Pediatric RN (Direct Nursing Care): This type of pediatric nurse typically works in a hospital or doctor’s office. Pediatric RNs conduct routine checkups and deliver acute care as well as various other health care services. Pediatric RNs are the broadest in scope in terms of what they treat and their patient demographic.

  • Palliative Pediatric Nurse: This type of pediatric nurse works exclusively with terminally ill children whose conditions cannot be cured. They provide comfort and support to patients and their families and enhance the quality of life of their patients as much as possible.

  • Developmental Disability Nurse: This type of pediatric nurse works exclusively with young patients who have developmental or mental disabilities, including Asperger’s syndrome, autism, and Down syndrome.

  • Neonatal Nurse: This type of pediatric nurse provides specialized care exclusively to newborns with birth defects, heart deformities, or infections or who were born prematurely.

How to Become a Pediatric Nurse

Aspiring pediatric nurses must complete the same educational and developmental steps as an RN. They must also complete specific benchmarks that are relevant to the specialty of pediatrics. To become a pediatric nurse, individuals must do the following:

Complete Nursing Education

Complete either an associate or a bachelor’s nursing degree program from an accredited university. With the rising standard of nursing education, it’s advised to complete a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN)  program to ensure that patients receive the highest level of care possible.

Pass the NCLEX-RN and Earn Licensure

Pass the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN) and apply for licensure in the state of practice. Licensure is required to practice in a live health care environment. Once licensure is earned, RNs will need to meet their state’s continuing education requirements to maintain it. 

Accrue Nursing Experience

Earn nursing experience as an RN. Two or more years of working as a traditional RN establishes a foundation in health care and establishes proof that the nurse can perform standard clinical care duties in an active health care environment.

Transition to Pediatrics

Request an internal transfer to pediatrics, or secure a position as a pediatric nurse at a different health care facility. Building on their experience as RNs, nurses can officially begin learning how to become pediatric nurses in a live environment.

Earn Professional Certifications

Consider professional pediatric nursing certifications. The most recognized certifications include Certified Pediatric Nurse (CPN), Certified Pediatric Nurse Practitioner – Acute Care (CPNP-AC), and Pediatric Primary Care Mental Health Specialist (PMHS). These certifications demonstrate that the nurse possesses specific skills and knowledge that have been confirmed via a formal exam.

In addition to expanding a nurse’s scope of practice, professional certifications typically result in higher compensation when compared with the average RN salary . Earning certification is optional, but those who wish to reach the top of their field in pediatrics should explore it. 

Launch Your Career Path in Pediatric Nursing

Pediatric nurses are the perfect blend of clinical skill and compassion; this is why parents hold them in such high regard. Treating children requires a caring demeanor, specialized training, and an extensive knowledge of conditions that are specific to younger demographics. The work is challenging but also highly rewarding, with plenty of opportunities for advancement.

Those who are ready to commit to a career in pediatrics should evaluate how they will satisfy the essential benchmarks. Your journey into the field of pediatrics starts with getting the right education, and the online RN to BSN program offered at North Carolina Central University is a great option for active nurses who are ready to take their careers to the next level. This accredited program features coursework that covers:

  • Nursing Informatics

  • Health Assessment for RNs   

  • Special Health Care Problems for RNs

  • Leadership & Management for RNs

  • Community Health for RNs

Learn more about the program so that you can see how it supports your journey into the exciting and rewarding field of pediatric nursing.

Recommended Readings

Famous Black Nurses in History

How Diversity in Nursing Supports Patient Health

North Carolina Veterans’ Benefits: Nursing and Education

Sources:

ExploreHealthCareers.org, Pediatric Nurse

Forbes, “How to Become a Pediatric Nurse: A Step-By-Step Guide”

Indeed, “How to Become a Pediatric Nurse (Plus Duties and FAQs)”

Indeed, Pediatric Nurse Job Description: Top Duties and Qualifications

Trusted, Pediatric Nurse

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