How to Become a Pediatric Nurse

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Written by Morganne Skinner, BSN Content Writer, IntelyCare
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Reviewed by Ayana Dunn, BSN Content Writer, IntelyCare
Pediatric nurse giving a high five to a patient

Do you like educating your patients and helping them find the resources they need? Have you always wanted to work with children and parents? Do you enjoy seeing patients over many years and seeing them progress and grow through different life stages? If so, you may want to learn how to become a pediatric nurse.

An impressive 88% of pediatric nurses reported good or excellent job satisfaction, which is closely tied to physical and mental health.

Whether you are considering becoming a pediatric nurse for the mood boost or to fulfill your childhood dream, 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. 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 they need 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?

The majority of this training will take place in the workplace or be developed as you gain experience on the job. For example, you will need to demonstrate competency in certain job-specific skills, like administering vaccinations or performing a newborn assessment, during orientation. Your employer will provide training on this.

Just like with any other job, you are not expected to know absolutely everything on day one.

How Long Does It Take to Become a Pediatric Nurse?

Pediatric nursing is an entry level nursing career. The good news for you is that it takes the same amount of time to become a pediatric nurse as it takes to become an RN: between two and four years.

What Are the Steps to Becoming a Pediatric Nurse?

Now that you know what a 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’s degree in nursing (ADN) or 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 can take the NCLEX exam to obtain your RN license.

2. Gain Experience

Generally speaking, you do not need prior nursing experience to work with pediatric patients. However, you may not know you want to work with that population until you get the opportunity to do so.

You can find entry-level positions to care for pediatric patients. While you may hear the advice that nurses should start out working in medical-surgical to gain broad experience, it’s not mandatory. If you know you want to work with pediatric patients, you can absolutely start there.

3. Pursue Certification

Once you’ve worked in a pediatric setting as a nurse, you can register for the Certified Pediatric Nurse (CPN) exam. It requires 1,800 pediatric clinical hours in the past two years or 3,000 pediatric clinical hours in the past five years.

While you don’t need a certification to begin working as a pediatric nurse, having one signifies competence and excellence. Depending on your employer, you may also get a raise or bonus for having this certification.

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.

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 hospital, or emergency department
  • Pediatric specialty care: oncology centers, neurology, or orthopedics
  • Public health: federally qualified health center (FQHC) or home-visiting programs
  • Community: schools or camps

How Much Does a Pediatric Nurse Make?

The median pediatric nurse salary is $77,000 per year, with a range of around $70,000 to $88,000. 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? IntelyCare can help you build a flexible schedule that allows you to do just that. Check out our job opportunities and apply today.