Pediatric Nurse Practitioner Education Requirements

How do pediatric nurse practitioners differ from pediatric nurses?

Candidates interested in pediatric nursing, and who want to experience some of the autonomy and responsibility that goes along with being a physician, should consider pediatric nurse practitioner programs. Just like general pediatric nurses, pediatric nurse practitioners may find career opportunities in a number of healthcare settings, from private practices to hospitals to schools. However, unlike general pediatric nurses, pediatric nurse practitioners function as primary medical providers who can diagnose illness and injury, direct a course of treatment or therapy, and write prescriptions.

Pediatric nurse practitioners are generally limited to serving as primary care providers for individuals who are infants, children, and adolescents. State boards of nursing often place limits on the age range of the patients that pediatric nurse practitioners are allowed to treat. The upper age limit may be 18 or 21 depending on the state in which the pediatric NP works. Some states may require pediatric nurse practitioners not only to become certified as advanced practice nurses but also to become certified in the specialty area of pediatrics. Pediatric nurse practitioners in these states may choose to become certified in family or adult health as well as pediatrics in order to provide continuity of care for their patients as they mature into late adolescence and beyond. It is important to check the individual rules and regulations of the state in which you plan to work in order to understand all that will be required of you in order to embark on this exciting career.

Pediatric nurse practitioners work more independently than general pediatric nurses and have more responsibility for administering the care of their patients. They work closely with pediatricians who provide informational rubrics and procedural protocols, and who also offer consultations about specific patients and accept referrals in especially complicated or demanding cases. In addition, pediatric nurse practitioners generally make more money with salaries up to 33% higher than those of their registered nurse counterparts.

What additional education is needed to become a pediatric nurse practitioner?

Pediatric nurse practitioner education requirements are more demanding than those for general practice pediatric nurses. To become a pediatric nurse practitioner, a candidate must pursue at least two additional years of education at the master's level after earning his or her bachelor's degree in nursing. In order to enjoy the full benefits of practicing as a pediatric nurse practitioner, candidates need to obtain certification from a national credentialing board and meet the requirements of by their state board of nursing for becoming an advanced practice nurse.

All students of nursing programs receive some training in the care and treatment of infants, children, and adolescents in their formal instructional classes and during clinical practicum and internships. Some nursing school curriculums offer elective courses in pediatrics for those students interested in learning how to become pediatric nurses. However, most nursing schools at the bachelor's level do not offer special programs for pediatric nurses or pediatric nurse practitioners.

To obtain specialized training in pediatrics, pediatric nurse practitioners generally obtain on-the-job training in a clinic or hospital department that provides direct care to children through on-site internship programs. Through these programs, pediatric nurse practitioners familiarize themselves with the unique demands of caring for children and the special characteristics and needs of this patient population. In addition, a master's degree in nursing is required to become a pediatric nurse practitioner. Some master's degree programs in nursing offer specialized programs, certificates, or concentrations in pediatrics. Pursuing one of these specialized graduate programs will offer the aspiring pediatric nurse practitioner a leg up when it is time to enter the job market.

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