Pediatric Nurse

What is a Pediatric Nurse?

Pediatric nurses work with infants, children, and adolescents in a wide range of medical settings to provide preventative and routine care, and treat illnesses and injuries. According to the Society of Pediatric Nurses, RNs working in this specialty area also have knowledge about the human growth and development process, as well as strong communication skills to connect with parents and patients.

Common Responsibilities for a Pediatric Nurse:

  • Educate patients’ families and caregivers about procedures, treatments, and other types of medical care
  • Provide support and guidance to young patients
  • Communicate with pediatricians and other medical professionals
  • Record patient vital statistics, symptoms, and other medical information
  • Monitor patient growth and development
  • Administer treatment plans and medicine, and operate monitoring equipment

Who Should Consider Becoming a Pediatric Nurse?

Above all, pediatric nurses must enjoy working with children. In addition to the compassion and empathy that the profession requires from all nursing professionals, a successful pediatric nurse career depends on a professional’s ability to connect with patients. Because an excellent rapport with children and their families leads to better communication about healthcare, employers welcome a warm, encouraging demeanor. Pediatric nurses must be organized, efficient, and detail-oriented. Other qualities essential to the field include the ability to collaborate across disciplines, and emotional stability, necessary for medical professionals in the field to perform under pressure.


Educational Paths to Becoming an Pediatric Nurse

Currently, there are two paths to a pediatric nurse career, both leading to RN licensure, which is required for CPN nursing. Whether you choose to pursue an associate degree program or a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN), graduation from an accredited pediatric nurse degree program is a strict requirement for both RN licensure and CPN certification.

What Degree is Needed to Become an Pediatric Nurse?

Registered nurses are eligible for CPN certification. Each state’s board of nursing determines the requirements for RN licensure, which usually includes an associate or bachelor’s degree in nursing from an accredited institution. Those interested in a nursing program leading to licensure eligibility should look for programs with accreditation from the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) and/or the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN).

How Long Does It Take to Become an Pediatric Nurse?

The shortest route to a CPN nursing career is four years; however, time to completion can depend on several variables. Aspiring pediatric nurses may reach required RN licensure in two or four years, depending on their choice of program. Following licensure, RNs are eligible to sit for the CPN certification exam after 1,800 hours of clinical pediatric nursing experience spanning two years time. Other pediatric nursing experience over a five-year period may also meet requirements (if you are unsure, check with the Pediatric Nursing Certification Board before submitting a CPN application).

What Will I Learn in an Online Pediatric Nursing Program?

Though each program designs its curriculum independently, the body of knowledge delivered to nursing students is fairly standard. Whether in a two-year or four-year nursing program, aspiring pediatric nurses should endeavor to take any available courses that focus on the pediatric population. Aside from classes devoted to pediatrics, a typical nursing program’s core curriculum consists of classes much like these:

  • Health Assessment and Clinical Reasoning: Develops the practical skills of the RN for comprehensive physical assessment. Class topics include patient databases, identification of diagnostic problems, patient care plan development, and the use of evidence to inform clinical practice and diagnostic judgment.
  • Patient Rights and Medical Ethics: Examination of the ethical challenges inherent in healthcare delivery, including recognizing the impact of differing cultural backgrounds and philosophical views. Students reflect upon and demonstrate ethical awareness, and apply ethical principles in decision-making.
  • Medical Terminology: Introduction of the elements of medical terminology, including word roots, prefixes, and suffixes. Singular and plural forms are emphasized, as are analysis and pronunciation. Guidelines are applied to diverse bodily systems.
  • Pathophysiologic Concepts: Examination of the pathophysiology of underlying disease. Diseases and conditions commonly found in clinical practice are discussed, along with their clinical implications and options for nursing intervention.
  • Advanced Pharmacotherapeutics: Introduction to actions of major drug classes and their impact on pathophysiology and bodily systems. Nursing implications of specific drugs and their effects are discussed, including safety and legal ramifications. Dosage calculations are emphasized.

Accreditation

Accredited academic programs are programs that have allowed their curriculum and admissions processes to be scrutinized by a neutral agency. This process ensures that a standard of academic rigor can be expected at these schools. Accreditation occurs on the national, regional, or program level, or a combination of these. National accrediting bodies are focused on a type of education, such as distance education. Regional accreditation is focused on academic rigor; as a rule, regional accreditation carries more weight and prestige than national accreditation does.

Program-specific accreditation is especially useful for evaluating the academic offerings in certain fields; for example, the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) approves nursing education programs at all levels, representing the gold standard of the nursing industry. Other accrediting bodies that indicate excellence in pediatric nurse programs online include the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing and the American Association of Colleges of Nursing.

Although the federal government does not involve itself at the accreditation level, the U.S. Dept. of Education provides oversight of the accreditation process. It also maintains a database of accredited schools. Similarly, the Council for Higher Education Accreditation is an independent association of accredited degree-granting institutions and offers a database of accredited schools.


CPN Certification and Licensing Requirements

Certification is not required to work in pediatric settings, however many nurses in these environments choose to obtain CPN training and credentials offered through the Pediatric Nursing Certification Board (PNCB).

The PNCB provides these eligibility requirements to take CPN exam:

  • Current RN license
  • Documentation of at least 1,800 hours of pediatric clinical experience within the past 24 months, which can include:
    • Direct patient care
    • Teaching
    • Administration
    • Clinical research
    • School-based care
    • Home health care
    • Consultation in pediatric nursing

CPN RE-CERTIFICATION REQUIREMENTS

Annual recertification requires continued education, which is measured in contact hours. CPNs who want to maintain certification must complete 15 contact hours or related activities each year. Approved continued education options include a range of practice and learning experiences, such as:

  • Conference attendance
  • Work-related training
  • Online continuing education
  • Academic credit and direct patient care

The PNCB provides detailed instructions for calculating contact hours.


Career Outlook

The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Outlook Handbook indicates that the demand for Registered Nurses will grow from 2014 to 2024. Pediatric nurses who have earned at least a bachelor’s of science in nursing (BSN) and have related work experience are likely to find more job opportunities than those with only an associate degree.

Source: BLS

Work Environments

The pediatric nursing job skill set is highly versatile and pediatric nursing professionals can gain employment across a wide spectrum of healthcare delivery providers. Depending on local availability, graduates of pediatric nurse programs may be able to tailor their career paths to fit their personal preferences in work environments and pediatric nurse job descriptions. The table below features some of the most common types of care facilities that employ pediatric nurses.

Average Hourly Rate for Pediatric Nurses by Workplace Environment

Environment Description Average Hourly Rate for CNA
Hospitals Acute care facility where patients are recovering from surgery, disease, or trauma. May be small community hospitals (~75 beds) or large regional hospitals (~1500 beds) $33.23
Skilled nursing homes Skilled care facility for patients who don’t require hospital care but are unable to be cared for at home. Medical care, physical therapy, occupational therapy, and speech therapy are typical. RNs often staffed 24 hours per day. $30.03
Community/Home Health Multidimensional healthcare services delivered in the home or in a community-based setting. Skilled care includes wound care, IV therapy, chronic disease monitoring, injections, minor illness, and patient/caregiver education. $25.98
Ambulatory Care/Surgery Center Outpatient setting that delivers high-level care without hospital admission. Care delivery includes same-day surgery, dialysis treatment, radiologic testing, blood testing, and chemotherapy and hematology therapy. Staff includes physicians, anesthesiologists, and nurses. $32.20
Physician’s Office/Private Practice Office or home where individual or group of physicians see patients for non-acute follow-up. Often adjacent to hospital complex. Care includes routine checkups and assessments, injections, blood testing, measurement of vital signs, and long-term care plan management. $33.79
Other care facilities Standalone urgent care facilities, sometimes referred to as a “doc-in-a-box,” deliver care during off-hours for mild illness or injury that does not require hospitalization or emergency care. Physicians or physician assistants assess and treat, prescribe medication, and provide minor wound care. $43.17

Source: Payscale

Pediatric Nurse Salary

When considering how much a pediatric nurse makes, it’s important to note that starting salaries reflect an individual’s level of professional expertise, as shown below. Pediatric nurses may also climb the career ladder, either within an organization or by earning additional nursing certifications in the field. As the level of professional responsibility or required education grows higher, nurse compensation increases; all salaries boost significantly with longevity in the field. The following table features data from PayScale that breaks down the average lifespan of a pediatric nurse salary, and of related careers in pediatric nursing.

For more information, read about the different paths to becoming a nurse.