One of the great aspects of being a nurse is that there are so many different job paths you can take after gaining your initial registered nurse qualification. This gives you the chance to carve out a career that truly matches your interests, personality, skills and life circumstances. The flip side to this is that it can be hard to know which role to aim for, especially when you’re just starting out. There are various specialties you can focus on, from specific diseases such as cancer and heart disease to certain work environments such as trauma care.
Another option is to choose a particular patient group to focus on – for example by becoming a pediatric nurse practitioner. Read on for more information about the role, and why it might be the perfect path for you. If you like the sound of it, there is also some information at the end on how to get started.
What is a pediatric nurse practitioner?
A pediatric nurse practitioner specializes in treating children of all ages in a variety of environments. These include clinics, hospitals, schools and physicians’ offices. It’s a critical role because children have different health care needs to adults, can suffer from different diseases, and also often react differently to medications and illnesses. Likewise, they can’t always explain what’s wrong with them or how they feel as clearly as we can, so it’s important to have a nurse who understands how to communicate with children about their health and who can dispel any fears they may have.
In the role you can expect to undertake a variety of tasks such as physical examinations of patients, taking blood, conducting diagnostic tests, administering medication, and developing treatment plans. You’ll need strong communication skills, in addition to a friendly and upbeat attitude. It’s also important to have the ability to make potentially scary medical procedures feel less frightening. Patience is another key trait to cultivate, as well as the flexibility to try different tactics for working with young children when necessary. As with all nursing positions, you also need to be committed to personal development and lifelong learning, in order to keep up with all the latest developments in the field.
What are the benefits of becoming a pediatric nurse practitioner?
Working in pediatric nursing has many advantages. Firstly (and for many people most importantly) it is a way to help some of the most vulnerable people in their time of need. As mentioned above, children often find medical settings and treatments intimidating, but you’ll be able to put them at ease and be their advocate. For those who enjoy working with children, it can be an extremely rewarding career path. Plus, every day and every patient is different, which is great if you’re looking for a role with variety!
Pediatric nurse practitioners often work with their patients from infancy all the way through their teenage years, enabling you to build meaningful relationships with them and their families and also watch them grow up. This in turn gives you the opportunity to influence their lifestyle habits from a young age and help them become healthy adults. It might not be immediately obvious, but this can have a wider influence by reducing levels of certain diseases and medical conditions. For example, by encouraging those in your care to eat a balanced diet and exercise regularly, you could help to lower obesity and diabetes in the next generation. Likewise, you will be in a position to help persuade teenagers not to engage in harmful habits such as smoking, drinking alcohol or taking recreational drugs. Many feel uncomfortable talking to their parents about these issues, so don’t underestimate how important your role is.
Being a pediatric nurse practitioner not only brings you high levels of job satisfaction, it also raises your job prospects. Nurses are always in demand – especially when you have specialist qualifications – so you’ll see your employability and job security rise if you choose this career path. On average, pediatric nurse practitioners earn an annual salary of $92,324, which means you can expect good financial security too. In line with this, nurses in advanced roles such as a pediatric nurse practitioner also enjoy greater autonomy and responsibility in the workplace. This in turn raises job satisfaction even further.
How do I become a pediatric nurse practitioner?
In order to become a pediatric nurse practitioner, you first have to take a bachelor of science in nursing degree (BSN) and qualify as a registered nurse (RN). If you know that pediatrics is the area you want to specialize in, it’s a good idea to choose relevant modules and also get some work experience in the field early on.
When you’re ready, you can then apply for a master’s or doctoral level program in pediatric nursing. Don’t worry if you’ve been out of school for a while and are already working – some degrees, such as Baylor University’s pediatric nurse practitioner programs, enable you to complete your coursework online, so you can fit your studies around your existing commitments.
In addition to increasing your nursing knowledge and skills, taking a graduate program in pediatric nursing will help you to boost important transferable skills. These include teamwork, leadership, decision making, organization, time management and communication. All of these will be useful in your future career, whatever role you choose to progress to after graduating.
For those who are interested in becoming a pediatric nurse practitioner and are already qualified as an RN, the next step is to begin researching graduate degree programs. You’ll want to think about whether you would prefer to study full time or part time, and also if you’d rather attend a campus-based course or one that lets you complete your coursework online.
For the application you normally have to complete a form, provide evidence of your existing qualifications, and also give two or three letters of recommendation. Many colleges additionally ask for a written personal statement about why you want to take the course. This is an important part of the application, so take your time with it and allow your passion for pediatric nursing to shine through. Be sure to mention any relevant volunteering you’ve done or experience you have, and proofread it carefully before submitting.