What is Pediatric Nursing and How is it Different?
What is pediatric nursing? Pediatric nurses must provide skilled care to young patients who may not be able to describe their symptoms and where they hurt. This is a nursing specialty that is in high demand by many hospitals, clinics, physicians’ offices, schools and community health facilities.
Pediatric nurses provide care for children with a wide variety of diseases and conditions, including acute, medically-chronic and surgical. Children needing more invasive procedures or monitoring, such as those with severe, or life-threatening diseases or conditions, are placed in a pediatric intensive care unit (PICU), where the nursing staff has advanced training in caring for critically-ill children.
Pediatric nurses administer vaccines, help with well-child physical examinations, conduct school and sports physicals, advice parents about childhood health issues, and perform routine screenings for development.
Pediatric nurses, who are also pediatric nurse practitioners, may request diagnostic tests, write prescriptions, and educate patients and their children about better choices for a healthy lifestyle.
What are the Education Requirements to Become a Pediatric Nurse?
Many pediatric nurses start their careers by applying to facilities serving pediatric patients. These facilities may offer classrooms, as well as hands-on clinical experience, caring for the special needs of sick or injured children. Depending on the kind of program and patients served, such ‘internships’ may continue, from a few weeks to up to several months.
Pediatric nurses must learn about children’s development and growth, as well as how diseases, treatment, and pediatric equipment can impact children differently than with adults. They must be able to partner and work with the child’s family members in providing care for the child.
As with other nursing careers, a degree in nursing from a recognized school is necessary, as is meeting the state’s requirements for obtaining a nursing license. While many states grant licenses to graduates from two-year (associate) programs, the preference is now toward those graduates of four-year schools, with a bachelor’s degree in nursing (BSN). Pediatric nursing is usually learned through work experience as well as by taking continuing education classes.
Once the certification requirements have been met, a nurse may apply for certification as a Certified Pediatric Nurse by passing an exam, offered through the Pediatric Nursing Certification Board. The Society of Pediatric Nurses offers to continue education units, as well as conferences and seminars, to advance in this demanding field.
RNs seeking to become Pediatric Advanced Practice nurses will need to hold a BSN, and pursue a master’s degree in nursing. Most master’s programs take about two years to complete, and will earn either the designations of Pediatric Nurse Practitioner (PNP) or Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS) in Pediatrics.
Once studies are completed, the prospective candidates apply to their state boards for recognition as advanced practice nurse and take the national certification exam. Certification in advanced practice specialties through the PNCB is also available.
What is the Salary Range for Pediatric Nurses?
Income for pediatric nurses varies widely from place to place, as well as among specialty levels. Some states, such as California, with its high cost of living, pay more than in states such as Florida, where living (and health care) costs are lower.
While the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) does not offer a salary breakdown by nursing specialty, according to a recent (August, 2012) report, the annual top pay for pediatric nurses in California was $117,000 as compared to $67,000 in Florida, for example.
The report also breaks down salaries based on specialty levels:
Intensive Care Units – $36,400 to $61,900
Labor, Delivery and Birthing – $24,100 to $99,300
Neonatal Intensive Care Unit – $31,600 to $70,900
Nursery – $19,329 to $99,300
Emergency Room – $23,000 to $59,700
Pediatrics – $24,613 to $75,500