How to Become a Pediatric Nurse
Can I start out as an LPN or LVN?
Those who wish to become pediatric nurses and want or need to get into the workforce as soon as possible can choose to train as licensed practical nurses (LPNs). The educational program that one must pursue to become a licensed practical nurse generally takes about a year to complete. However, licensed practical nurses generally get paid significantly less than their counterparts who obtain a bachelor's degree in nursing and become registered nurses.
In addition, the practice of licensed practical nursing is somewhat restricted and they cannot perform all the tasks that a registered nurse can. The allowable scope of a licensed practical nurse's duties varies from state to state. Some states allow licensed practical nurses to administer medication and start IVs. In some states, however, licensed practical nurses are not allowed to perform these routine and important tasks, which are reserved exclusively for registered nurses and pediatric nurse practitioners. In general, licensed practical nurses work primarily in school or clinic settings and rarely practice in emergency or acute-care departments in hospitals or other facilities.
What's the process for becoming an RN with a focus in pediatrics?
Becoming a registered nurse opens up many more career possibilities for those who wish to work in the challenging field of pediatric nursing. Comparatively, a pediatric nurse salary is often better than that of general RNs as well. Becoming a pediatric nurse through the RN route generally requires a bachelor's degree in nursing from an accredited four-year university. As an alternative, those who wish to train as registered nurses can obtain a bachelor's degree in another major subject, usually in the sciences, psychology, or another healthcare-related field, and then earn an additional degree in nursing or a nursing certificate. Post-graduate training to become a registered nurse generally takes about two years to complete. More and more, the bachelor's degree in nursing is becoming the preferred credential for registered nurses. Pediatric nurses who train as registered nurses have much more flexibility in the performance of their jobs, and a greater variety of workplace settings to choose from, than do licensed practical nurses. Pediatric RNs also have the option of obtaining additional training in an area of chosen specialty within the larger pediatrics field, such as psychiatry or oncology, and then becoming clinical nurse specialists.
How do I become a pediatric nurse practitioner?
Those interested in pediatric nursing and wish to take on more responsibility and authority can become pediatric nurse practitioners. Beyond the training necessary to become a registered nurse, a pediatric nurse practitioner generally requires aspirants to earn a Master of Science degree in nursing with a specialization in pediatrics, which takes about two years to complete.
Pediatric nurse practitioners must also meet the requirements to become advanced practice nurses set forth by the board of nursing in their state, and then apply for and obtain the appropriate credential denoting pediatric nurse certification. The Pediatric Nursing Certification Board is one of the national professional credentialing bodies that offer certification for both pediatric nurses and pediatric nurse practitioners.
What on-the-job training opportunities are available for pediatric nurses?
While some nursing students have the opportunity to take coursework in pediatric nursing, or specialize in this area during their academic career, most registered nurses who become pediatric nurses do so through on the job training. Nursing graduates who hope to work in the pediatrics field should obtain their license to practice as a registered nurse and then apply to work in a facility or office that serves the healthcare needs of infants, children, and adolescents.
Some hospitals offer internship programs for new graduates of nursing schools that train them specifically in the field of pediatrics through a combination of clinical training and classroom instruction. Such internships generally last about three months and teach the candidate all the specialized knowledge and skills required to work effectively and efficiently as a pediatric nurse.