A pediatric nurse practitioner is a professional registered nurse who has taken further education courses to become an advanced practitioner specializing in the care of infants, children, and young adults.
In most states, pediatric nurses care for patients from newborn until the age of 18, but in some states, they will care for patients until the age of 21.
Nurse practitioners of app specializations take a holistic approach to healthcare and work within a healthcare team to provide patients with the care and attention they need. Pediatric nurse practitioners are responsible for managing conditions such as preventative healthcare, primary care, growth and development issues, acute and chronic illnesses affecting patients under 18 (or 21).
State rules differ on the level of responsibility a nurse practitioner can take on, but being monitored or supervised by a physician may or may not be required, and some states allow nurse practitioners to sign off prescriptions and discharge patients.
The Important Role of a Pediatric Nurse
Pediatric nurse practitioners are vital for any healthcare setting where children and adolescents will be patients. They work within the team to provide specialized care where it is needed most.
The role of a pediatric nurse will be very varied. At any given time, they may be carrying outpatient assessments, analyzing lab work, organizing care plans, teaching parents, and carers how to manage chronic care, or even administering medicine and performing procedures.
Working with children can present its own challenge, a nurse practitioner must be able to work intuitively, with the information they have gained from the parent or carer, from the child, as well as form non-verbal signals. They must also be experts in gaining trust quickly. Often children cannot grasp the seriousness of an illness or injury, and they may be resistant to medical attention; it is a nurse’s role to ensure that they are kept at ease and willing to allow medical professionals to intervene.
What can pediatric nurse practitioners do?
The responsibilities of a pediatric nurse practitioner will vary from state to state. Each state has its own guidelines and rules on whether or not nurse practitioners can be responsible for such things as administering medicine, admitting or discharging patients, writing prescriptions, etc. Many states will allow nurse practitioners to do this but with the sign off from a physician, whereas other states this is not required.
Some of the tasks a pediatric nurse practitioner may do are as follows:
- Assessing a child’s condition or injury
- Making a care plan for the child
- Discussing with the child and their guardian or parents how to manage their chronic condition
- Administering medicine
- Performing small procedures
- Teaching other nurses
- Diagnosing patients
- Ordering and analyzing lab work
How to become a pediatric nurse practitioner
It is vital for any nurse practitioner program that the prospective student has completed their degree in nursing from an accredited program. Once this has been completed, nurses but then complete their NCLEX-RN exams to qualify and become a registered nurses.
The level of education required to become a nurse practitioner in any specialization is a doctorate level, meaning students must first complete the foundation levels of education before moving onto a doctorate program.
There are many online pediatric nurse practitioner programs available, and all take between 2-3 years to complete. Within the Pediatric specialization, students may choose to do Pediatric Primary Care or the dual option of Pediatric Primary Care and Acute Care.
The DNP (Doctorate of Nursing Practice) is fast becoming the standard requirement for nurse practitioners across all fields of nursing. However, it is still possible to become a nurse practitioner with an MSN (Master of Science in Nursing) only.
What does it take to become a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner?
To specialize in pediatric nursing, students must display a love of working with children. Although many nurse practitioners work with children in their daily work, pediatrics are specifically working with infants, children, and adolescents as part of their field.
They must be aware of the issues surrounding children and young people and be able to build a rapport with them quickly. It can be quite a challenge to be caring for an infant and have your next patient as a 16-year-old, but pediatric nurses should be able to adapt quickly and treat each patient as the individual that they are.
One of the most overlooked aspects of pediatric nursing is the ability to speak to all sorts of people from all sorts of backgrounds. While pediatric nurses have a duty of care to the patient to ensure they are not in any danger, pediatric nurses will encounter many different parenting styles, approaches, and lifestyles from all sorts of people across all sorts of socioeconomic backgrounds. It is a skill to remain calm and professional in all situations, but one that is vital in pediatric nursing.
What is The Work-Life Balance Like for a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner?
Pediatric Nurse Practitioners work hard. Shifts are generally between 6-12 hours long, with the average being around 10 hours. This could mean quite a lot of walking and move; on average, nurses do over 16,000 steps a day, but this can change depending on the specialism of the nurse.
Many different health care settings will require pediatric nurse practitioners. These may include:
- Acute Care Hospitals
- Community health clinics
- Neonatal intensive care units (NICU)
- Pediatric Intensive Care Units (PICU)
- Family Practice Clinics
The pediatric nurse practitioner’s role can be emotionally challenging, they may be working with children and adolescents who are seriously ill or who have become seriously injured. Still, they will be able to rest assured that their work is vital.
Pediatric care is an area of medicine that has been gaining more and more recognition over the last few decades, and it is only tipped to become more important too. Working in pediatrics can be an incredibly rewarding job, knowing you are partly responsible for a child going on to lead as a happy and as healthy a life as possible.