How to Become a Pediatric Nurse
Do you like educating your patients and helping them find the resources they need? Have you always wanted to work with children and parents? If you enjoy seeing patients over many years and seeing them progress through different life stages, you may want to learn how to become a pediatric nurse.
Peds nurses care for kids, some of the most vulnerable patients in any healthcare system. The job isn’t easy, yet an impressive 88% of pediatric nurses reported good or excellent job satisfaction, which is closely tied to physical and mental health. Here are all the details you need to know about how to become a pediatric nurse.
What Is a Pediatric Nurse?
A pediatric nurse is a nurse who cares for babies, toddlers, children, and adolescents. They might work in an acute care hospital setting, in outpatient medicine, or in pediatric post-acute care. Younger populations are more prone to certain diseases and conditions, so nurses who care for these patients need special training and expertise.
What Does a Pediatric Nurse Do?
Pediatric nurses play a vital role in a child’s life and well-being. They may be the first to identify an early sign of a developmental delay, assist parents in applying for SNAP, or educate parents about how to administer a tube feeding at home.
You’ll provide the guidance parents didn’t know they needed by identifying and anticipating needs for an entire family. You’ll give parents the tools to create a healthy home environment and equip them to live empowered, positive lives.
Many pediatric nursing tasks are the same as in other nursing roles — you are still assessing, creating care plans, administering medications, and monitoring vital signs.
That said, there are some functions that are unique to a pediatric nurse:
- Administering vaccines
- Screening for developmental delays
- Educating parents about growth and development
- Screening for sight and hearing impairments
- Providing nutrition education
- Assessing play and parent-child-interaction
What Training Do I Need to Become a Pediatric Nurse?
Becoming a peds nurse starts with nursing school, which prepares you with the baseline skills to practice as a new graduate. You may need to gain experience in adult medicine before moving into the pediatric specialty, but not always. As in every nursing specialty, continuing education will help you develop a honed skill set and stay updated on the latest care practices.
How Long Does It Take to Become a Pediatric Nurse?
Pediatric nursing can be an entry-level nursing career. The good news for you is that pediatric nurse schooling is the same as the degree to become an RN. It’ll likely take you between two and four years.
What Are the Steps to Becoming a Pediatric Nurse?
Now that you know what a certified pediatric nurse is, let’s dive into how to become a pediatric nurse.
1. Become an RN
Your first step is to become a registered nurse (RN). You have many options, but it all boils down to obtaining an associate degree in nursing (ADN) or a bachelor’s of science in nursing (BSN) degree. An ADN program may take you about two years to complete, whereas a BSN program may take four years to complete.
Once you’ve completed your nursing program, you’ll take the NCLEX exam to obtain your RN license.
2. Gain Experience
Pediatrics is a popular nursing specialty, and depending on your hospital system, you may need to gain experience in another acute area before moving into peds. While new grad RNs used to be expected to start in med-surg, many hospitals have new graduate residencies in pediatrics. Your options will depend on the area you live in, and your ability to move if you need to.
3. Pursue Certification
Continuing education is a cornerstone of professional nursing. It’s not necessary to get a pediatric nurse certification, but it can make you a more competent clinician. Plus, displaying additional credentials on your pediatric nurse resume can make you a more competitive candidate for jobs. Depending on your employer, you may also get a raise or bonus for having this certification.
Check out the leading certifications for pediatric nurses:
- Certified Pediatric Nurse (CPN): This gold-standard certification is for experienced peds RNs. It tests four core competencies: physical and psychosocial/family assessment, health promotion, Illness management, and professionalism. It’s valid for one year.
- Requirements: 1,800 pediatric clinical hours in the past 2 years, or 5 years in the specialty and 3,000 clinical hours.
- Exam cost: $300 (retesting fee is $245)
- Certification in Neonatal Pediatric Transport (C-NPT): This certification is specifically designed for peds clinicians who stabilize and transport critically ill patients. It’s a great credential to earn if you want to build confidence in caring for unstable children and infants, and it’s valid for three years.
- Requirements: No practice experience is required, but 2 years is recommended.
- Exam cost: $210
- Pediatric Nursing Certification (PED-BC): From the American Nurses Association (ANA), this certifies the baseline level of skills and knowledge required to practice pediatric nursing, and it’s valid for 5 years.
- Requirements: 2 years of pediatric nursing experience, a minimum of 3,000 hours of practice in the last 3 years, and 30 hours of continuing education.
- Exam cost: $395 for non-ANA members, $295 for members, and $340 for members of the Society of Pediatric Nurses (SPN)
4. Get an Advanced Degree
Do you want to work as a pediatric nurse practitioner? If so, you’ll need to pursue an advanced degree. You can choose between a master of science in nursing (MSN) or doctor of nursing practice (DNP) program to meet your goals. Because it is an advanced nursing role, you’ll need to acquire additional licensure.
This last step in how to become a pediatric nurse is certainly not required, as you have many options for working as a pediatric nurse, though it could open up more career opportunities for you and boost your income.
One of the benefits of learning how to become a pediatric nurse is that the pathway can prepare you to work in several subspecialties. Here are some of the areas you could work in as a peds nurse:
Specializing in the care of children with heart conditions, pediatric cardiovascular nurses work alongside healthcare teams to diagnose and manage congenital and acquired cardiac issues in pediatric patients. Their patients may require surgical interventions, cardiac rehab, and machine support. They play a crucial role in coordinating care and supporting families through treatment, and can work in areas from outpatient clinics to the peds cardiovascular intensive care unit.
Pediatric Hematology and Oncology
Pediatric oncology nurses are dedicated to caring for children with cancer. They administer treatments like chemotherapy, provide supportive care, and educate families on managing the unique challenges of pediatric oncology. These nurses collaborate closely with oncologists to ensure comprehensive and compassionate care while maintaining as much quality of life as possible.
Pediatric Emergency Medicine
Peds nurses in the emergency department have honed a skill set in responding to acute medical problems. Kids come to them with allergic reactions, injuries from accidents, and other emergent issues. In this area, you’ll need to be able to soothe children and parents and anticipate medical problems quickly, responding to several different clinical problems in a shift.
Pediatric neurology nurses specialize in caring for children with brain and spinal cord disorders. They conduct neurological assessments, administer treatments, and collaborate with multidisciplinary teams to address conditions like epilepsy and developmental delays. Their focus is on optimizing neurological health and enhancing the quality of life for pediatric patients while assisting their families.
Peds nurses who work with neonates support the smallest patients in the hospital. Most of their patients are premature infants, who require specialized support to stay alive. Neonatal intensive care (NICU) nurses work with an interdisciplinary team to care for these patients and their families. These nurses also may work closely with the obstetric team to be prepared when a birth happens prematurely or emergently.
Where Do Pediatric Nurses Work?
You’ve learned how to become a pediatric nurse, now where can you work? Most likely, when you think of a pediatric nurse you think of a children’s clinic. As a pediatric nurse, you could work in a variety of places. Common locations include:
- Doctor’s offices: family or pediatric care
- Hospitals: PICU, children’s hospitals, or emergency departments
- Public health: federally qualified health center (FQHC) or home-visiting programs
- Pediatric specialty care: oncology centers, neurology, or orthopedics
- Community: schools or camps
Check out the many kinds of employers hiring for pediatric nurse jobs.
How Much Does a Pediatric Nurse Make?
The average pediatric RN salary is around $79,000 per year, with a range of around $70,000 to $88,000. Because LPNs have a smaller scope of practice than RNs, the average pediatric LPN salary is around $48,000. Your pay will likely depend on your years of experience, location, and type of facility.
Start Planning Your Career Path
Now that you know how to become a pediatric nurse, are you thinking of pursuing the training? Find opportunities in your specialty of choice with IntelyCare.