Those who choose nursing as a profession have various career paths they can follow, one of which is the pediatric nurse practitioner. For those who enjoy working with children, pediatrics may be an ideal fit, especially in the role of a nurse practitioner. While nurse practitioners still hold all the duties a registered nurse would have, most states allow them to prescribe medication and perform other duties formerly reserved only for physicians. Each state has its own requirements for pediatric nurse practitioners, but the role generally combines the services of a nurse and primary care provider for children.
In addition to the state license to practice nursing, the Kids Health website notes pediatric nurse practitioners hold a master’s degree in nursing in the form of a Master of Science degree or Master of Science in Nursing degree, known as MS or MSN, respectively. They are also board certified in their specialty of pediatrics. If they are additionally accredited through the national board exam, they may hold the credential of Certified Pediatric Nurse Practitioner, or CPNP.
Special training for board certification in pediatrics involves advanced education and skills for working with children of all ages, from infants to teens.
Pediatric nurse practitioners engage in the same duties as a registered nurse, but with a focus on children. The Kids Health site and the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics outline what these duties can entail.
•Perform children’s physical exams
•Record children’s symptoms and health history
•Administer treatments and medications
•Prescribe medications (in most states)
•Engage in diagnostic and other testing procedures; assist with analyzing results
•Order diagnostic and other testing that cannot be done by practitioner
•Treat common childhood maladies and illnesses
•Help with treatment of chronic or unusual childhood illnesses or conditions
•Devise and/or amend a child’s wellness plan with parents and other health care professionals
•Gauge and document a child’s health and development
•Educate children and their families on illness’s effect on growth and development
•Teach children and their families about healthy lifestyles and self-care
•Advise on ways to manage childhood illnesses or injuries
•Answer health care questions from the family, child and other health care professionals
•Teach other health care workers about children’s health care
•Provide referrals when applicable
Special skills and qualities
In addition to education and training required to become a pediatric nurse practitioner, a number of special skills and qualities are vital for being successful in the field. Several are noted by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
•Compassion – A sympathetic and caring nature is important for all nurses, but it can be especially imperative for those working with children. Kids may be uncomfortable or even fear a trip to the doctor’s office and a compassionate bedside manner can help put children at ease.
•Patience – This trait is once again a must for all nurses, and even more vital for working with children. Unlike adults, children may not understand a specific procedure or be uncooperative or difficult due to their trepidation or lack of understanding.
•Emotional stability – Due to the intimate and sometimes tragic nature of the nursing field, emotional stability is necessary to successfully cope with suffering, diseases, emergencies and various other stress-inducing scenarios in children.
•Critical thinking – Decisions regarding treatments, symptoms and changes in a child’s state of health may fall under the responsibilities of a pediatric nurse practitioner. The practitioner must be able to assess the most effective treatment to pursue and whether or not to refer a child to specialist.
•Attention to details – Especially for practitioners responsible for writing prescriptions, attention to detail is a vital trait. Proper procedures, medications and precautions require acute attention.
•Organization – Keeping track of numerous patients, specific health care needs, patient paperwork and other pertinent information only works when organizational skills are keen.
•Speaking skills – Effective communication is a significant factor for effective health care. The nurse practitioner must be able to explain a child’s diagnosis, treatment options and other essential information to the child’s family, other health care professionals, and sometimes the children themselves.