Pediatric nurses work in a variety of settings with children of all ages. By taking a preventative and proactive approach to providing care, pediatric nurses aim to mitigate health problems before they occur. Pediatric nurses not only work directly with children and their families, but they also serve as policy advocates for major change within the realm of pediatric health care. A Master of Science in Nursing is a gateway to a fulfilling career in pediatric nursing.
Providing Health Care to Children
Often perceived as some of the most vulnerable members of a society, children have extensive needs when it comes to health care. For example, children are often more vulnerable to illnesses because of immature and developing immune systems; children generally lack the ability to articulate what's wrong when they are unwell; children do not have the resources to provide preventative care making them dependent on care-givers and pediatric health care professionals.
Pediatric care is available to individuals from birth to 18 years of age. Many changes happen in a child's life during this time span, which means those working in pediatrics must be able to understand the growth and development changes, including the patient's mental and emotional states. Pediatric health care is a special calling reserved for those who possess a diverse array of qualities.
Qualities of Pediatric Nurses
Nurses are vitally important pediatric health care providers. Those who enjoy creative problem solving make good pediatric nurses. In addition to being open and innovative, pediatric nurses should:
- Care for Children: Pediatric nurses should have a love for children, hold empathy and compassion for the patient and their family; have flexibility in routine and mannerism, and enjoy a challenge.
- Remain versatile in different settings: These nurses work in variety of settings, such as clinics, hospitals, departments of acute care, pediatric oncology and critical care, as well as in schools and community organizations.
- Nurses can easily find more information on becoming a pediatric nurse and certifications required.
What Do Pediatric Nurses Do?
Pediatric nurses work in a variety of health care settings such as schools, community groups, doctor's offices, clinics, hospitals, and departments of acute care (neonatal, pediatric critical care, and pediatric oncology).
Within any given setting, pediatric nurses have three levels of priorities:
- Primary: The physical, mental, and emotional health and maturation of a child are on this level. Preventative care as well as growth and development are also on the primary level.
- Secondary: Providing care to a sick child. This includes assessing needs and/or evaluating a condition, planning for care, implementing the plan, and providing health education.
- Tertiary: On this level, nurses help children return to health following an illness or disability.
Pediatric nurses -- regardless of their role within an organization -- are advocates for their clients (both children and families). Nurses represent the child and family to other health care providers; in an administrative capacity, they represent these entities to policymakers. To do this, pediatric nurses must have a comprehensive understanding of child psychology fundamentals. They must also stay abreast of the most up-to-date health care research and policy modification.
Pediatric Nurse Roles
Pediatric nurses can fulfill a multitude of roles. They can educate future nurses as teachers, provide hands-on care working with clients, or facilitate structure within an organization in leadership and management positions.
Working families and children is the most commonly acknowledged pediatric nursing role. That is because to the general population, the nurse-patient role is the one that pertains directly to them.
One critical nurse function relates to preventative measures. Thus, nurses help parents understand the importance of ensuring proper nutrition, regular fitness, and staying on top of immunizations for their children.
In addition to playing the role of health educator and consultant, pediatric nurses also act as:
- Counselors by providing guidance to parents regarding making health-impacting decisions for their children.
- Coordinators and / or collaborators with the child, family, and other health-team members. This is especially important when care involves multiple entities, like social workers, mental health professionals, physical therapist, etc.
- Case managers who monitor and organize patient care and treatment.
Pediatric nurses in client-based roles are at the forefront of patient care. Whether they are providing a diversion by creating a welcoming environment for a chronically ill patient receiving treatment or helping a family get support for health care, they are the ones with whom young patients and families most interact.
Pediatric nurses in leadership and management roles are no less influential than those working directly with patients. Nurses in leadership must be visionaries who are innovative and creative in their professional approach. They must also be capable of teamwork and crossing organizational boundaries to inspire colleagues.
Pediatric nurse leaders are the ones who inspire change by:
- Being able to read society's needs, influence, and demands.
- Contributing to health care policy and politics.
- Getting involved in decision-making on the local, national, and regional levels.
Though it's possible for nurses to transition directly from their bachelor's program into a leadership position, many work with clients before segueing into management roles. To become a pediatric nurse, one must first be a registered nurse (RN). Once an RN earns his or her Bachelor of Science in Nursing, has undergone training, and passed certification requirements, then they’re eligible to positively impact the lives of children in one of many types of pediatric nursing jobs.
Those entertaining the idea of becoming a pediatric nurse must possess the qualifications necessary for working with children. They must be personable and capable of making the most of distressing situations. Ultimately, they have to be dedicated to their patients, their families, and the practice.
Sacred Heart University's Online Master of Science in Nursing is an accredited, evidence-based program that provides nurses the skills to advance into more specialized professional roles, with concentrations in Clinical Nurse Leader, Nursing Management & Executive Leadership, and Nursing Education. Sacred Heart nurses carry the distinction of having been trained to hold human dignity in the highest regard, a characteristic essential for compassionate pediatric nurses. The online format of Sacred Heart's MSN program enables nurses to continue practicing while earning the credentials necessary to evolve professionally.