Pediatric nursing is one of the most challenging yet rewarding fields that can be pursued by a nurse. Children, as do all people, get sick in various ways; thus, are always requiring care.
There are many differences in caring for the pediatric patient in comparison with their adult counterparts. Depending on their age and mental status, pediatric patients cannot always tell the nurse what they are feeling or needing, thus good assessment skills, and a creative and fun personality, are vital in being a pediatric nurse.
What to Expect from the Profession
Pediatric nursing also varies as it is really focused on a holistic, family approach to care. Pediatric patients are often accompanied by their parents, siblings, and other members of their family. The pediatric nurse must be prepared to not only incorporate age-appropriate play and learning into their care of the actual pediatric patient but must also be prepared to provide emotional support to the patient’s family and education of varying levels. Parents are often distraught and may feel overwhelmed when it is their child that is requiring care.
The Journal of Child Psychology Pediatrics reported in a study that “Sixteen percent of the fathers and 23.9% of the mothers met full DSM-IV diagnostic criteria for current PTSD.” That may not seem like as extensively high number, but when considering that the study assessed post traumatic stress disorder, commonly associated with the stress of war, and not just high stress levels, sixteen and twenty-three percent does seem to be a high number of parents.
When considering a career in pediatric nursing, also keep in mind that you will need to have a broad and strong assessment base. The exam of an infant varies greatly from that of a toddler. Children are ever changing and reaching developmental milestones in their life. The nurse should know what the average exam for various age groups should look like and should know what to look for in terms of representing an atypical exam.
Parenting techniques and the pediatric patient’s upbringing cannot be neglected. The pediatric nurse should be sure to ask the parents what words the child uses to describe their various body parts and also keep in mind what types of food the child eats and when they typically sleep. Family knows the patient at baseline, so always listen to their concerns, and if they tell you something is different with the patient, do not take this lightly.
Important Career Information
Though pediatric nursing may seem stressful and a lot of work, it is well worth it. Children are very resilient and often optimistic. They can be smiling and playful in situations that would have adults in tears, and sometimes their family members may be. A career in pediatric nursing is no doubt a rewarding one.
So what does the nurse or nursing student need to do to become a pediatric nurse? First and foremost is completion of a nursing program. Obtaining a registered nursing license is also a critical step. All nursing programs will contain a pediatric rotation. Additional hours in a pediatric unit, either volunteering or shadowing, are a good idea, as they allow extra exposure time to the field.
Experienced nurses should also schedule hours on a pediatric unit prior to career changes. Certification in PALS (Pediatric Advance Life Support) is a great stepping stone in the direction of a pediatric nursing career. Any additional classes that are offered to further the nurse’s knowledge base in the pediatric field will also be helpful. Above all, keep a keen mind, have an open and youthful heart, and always be prepared to learn.