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How to Become a Pediatric Nurse

The first step in becoming a pediatric nurse is attaining your RN license. Many people who go into the PEDS specialty know right from the beginning that it's what they want to do. Others may make that choice after spending a clincical rotation in a pediatric unit, or after working a pediatric job as an RN.

How to Become a Pediatric Nurse in 8 Steps

Step 1: Enjoy working with children, especially sick children

Step 2: Start by receiving your bachelor's degree in nursing

Step 3: Attain a passing score on the NCLEX-RN exam

Step 4: Attain your license as an RN in the state where you wish to practice nursing

Step 5: Gain experience working as a nurse in a pediatric setting

Step 6: Choose which area of pediatrics you want to go into (see "types" below)

Step 7: Gain certification in the area of pediatric nursing you wish to pursue

Step 8: Get your masters degree in nursing if you want to become a Primary Care Pediatric Nurse Practitioner or Acute Care Pediatric Nurse Practitioner

What is a Pediatric Nurse?

Pediatric nurses, also known as PEDS, work with children of various ages in a variety of settings. This could be infants, all the way up to 21 years old (and sometimes older in special circumstances  at hospitals, doctor's offices, home care, schools, public health centers, juvenile detention centers, and hospital-based intensive care units.

Pediatric Nurse Job Description

As a pediatric nurse, you'll perform the same types of duties as a regular nurse, only you'll be working with children and/or adolescents. Typical things you'd do as a pediatric nurse may include:

  • Perform patient vital signs including heart rate, blood pressure, and oxygen levels
  • Talk to parents and record patient history
  • Peform EKGs and other tests
  • Obtain accurate patient information needed for diagnosis and treatment
  • Explain tests, procedures, lab results, and care instructions to patients and their families
  • Educate patients about invasive and non-invasive procedures
  • Work with other medical staff and non-medical personnel
  • Communicate with other medical service providers
  • Processes patient paperwork
  • Arrange for hospital admissions
  • Clean and stock exam rooms
  • Clean and sterilize equipment

Types of Pediatric Nurses

Pediatric nurses exists for all aspects of nursing involving children and adolescents where the pediatric age range receive care. These are just a few of the different types of pediatric nursing specialties and positions available:

  • Pediatric Registered Nurse, also called Peds RN
  • Pediatric Emergency Room Nurse, also called Peds ER RN
  • Pediatric Operating Room Registered Nurse, also called Pediatric OR Nurse or Peds OR RN
  • Pediatric Peri-operative Registered Nurse, also called Peds PACU RN
  • Pediatric Oncology Nurse
  • Pediatric Surgery Nurse
  • Pediatric Home Care Nurse
  • Pediatric Nurse Practitioner
  • Pediatric Critical Care Registered Nurse
  • Pediatric Clinical Nurse Specialist
  • Pediatric Nurse Manager
  • Pediatric T/V (trach and vent) Nurse
  • Pediatric Night Nurse

Pediatric Nurse Certifications

In most cases, certification is not necessary to become a pediatric nurse. The exception to this is for the role of Pediatric Nurse Practitioner, which requires a masters degree and a certification exam that is linked to licensure and employment in the majority of states. In other cases, you may not be required by the state to gain certification, but your employer may request or require it. Not all sub-specialties have certifications available. For example, pediatric surgery nurses may hold a certification as a pediatric nurse, and/or as a surgical nurse, as there is no specific certification for pediatric surgery nurses.

There are multiple organizations that offer certification with many areas of specialty for pediatric nurses. Each area has it's own certification examination.

Requirements for Becoming a Pediatric Nurse

There are two types of pediatric nurses, RN pediatric nurses and advanced practice nurses (those with a master degree and the designation of nurse practitioner). The requirements for RNs are less than for advanced practice nurses. Anyone with an RN can pursue a career in pediatric nursing if they desire. The general requirements include:

  • Diploma, associates or bachelor's degree in nursing
  • Passing score on the NCLEX-RN exam
  • State licensure as an RN
  • Work experience in a pediatric setting

After you meet the above requirements, certification is usually the next step, although it may not be required by the state, but in some cases may be required or recommended by your employer.

Education Requirements

Pediatric nurses require at minimum, a diploma in nursing. Most states require an associates degree in nursing to be eligible for an RN.  However, many employers prefer a bachelors degree in nursing. For nurse practitioners who can diagnose, prescribe, and refer, as well as Primary Care Pediatric Nurse Practitioners and Acute Care Pediatric Nurse Practitioner, a masters degree in nursing is required.

Certification

Certification is generally not required to become a pediatric nurse, but may be required by your employer. Or you may desire to have certification to show your dedication to the specialty.

Certification for pediatric nurses is offered through several organizations, including the Pediatric Nursing Certification Board, and the American Nurses Credentialing Center. Other specialty certifications include oncology, emergency nursing, critical care and others (see certification section above).

In addition, you'll likely be required to have CPR, first aid, and AED certification. In some cases, you may also require instructor certification in those areas.

Work Experience

In order to become certified by the PNCB, you must have 1800 hours of experience in a pediatric clinical practice. In addition to certification, most employers want 2-3 years of experience in Pediatrics.

Pediatric Nurse Organizations

There are several pediatric nursing organizations. These include:

Pediatric Nurse Salary

To give you an idea of how much money you'll make as a pediatric nurse, we can look at the Bureau of Labor Statistics, who report that RNs made a median salary of $64,690 per year in 2010 with the top 10 percent earning more than $95,130. As a pediatric nurse practitioner, you are considered an advanced care nurse and you might expect to make more than an entry level RN. However, much of your salary will greatly depend on where you choose to work. For example, an RN with a BSN working in a major children's hospital may make more money than a master's prepared nurse practitioner in a public health center or private pediatrician's office.

Pediatric Nurse Jobs

Employment of registered nurses is expected to grow 26 percent from 2010 to 2020. This will create over half a million jobs in nursing. According to the bureau of Labor Statistics, all four advanced practice registered nurses—clinical nurse specialists, nurse anesthetists, nurse-midwives, and nurse practitioners—will be in high demand, particularly in medically under-served areas such as inner cities and rural areas.

Pediatric nursing jobs exist in hospitals, physicians' offices, outpatient care centers, and in-home healthcare and there are many websites that offer nursing job postings including monster.com, indeed.com and nursingjobs.org.

Many pediatric nurses learn their skills through on-the-job training. Some pediatric nursing jobs will have a multi-week training as a part of the hiring process, while others may not have enough nurses on staff to offer a residency program. In those situations, you may just have an orientation that covers basic information about your job. So be sure to inquire about training before you accept the job.

Additional Resources

Learn more about becoming a pediatric nurse.


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