Pediatric Nurse Practitioner
By Bonnie Walker, allied health world contributing writer
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There are few allied health professions as rewarding and challenging as the field of pediatric nursing. Pediatric nurses and pediatric nurse practitioners perform the vital service of preserving the health of the youngsters who will grow up to become the next generation of political leaders, business people, health professionals, artists, scientists, teachers, and parents. Serving as a pediatric nurse or pediatric nurse practitioner requires patience, compassion, and discipline. Treating young patients can be emotionally taxing and even frustrating at times. However, pediatric nurses and pediatric nurse practitioners know that there is no accomplishment greater than that of alleviating a child's pain and providing him or her with guidance and encouragement.
What is the role of a pediatric nurse?
Individuals who work to become pediatric nurses may most often begin their careers as general registered nurses whose training consists of at least four years of nursing school at the bachelor's level. They may provide care to infants, children, and adolescents who are acutely, chronically, and critically ill. Their patients may range in age from newborns to as old as 21 years old, which is generally recognized as the official end of late adolescence from a medical and biological standpoint. They also provide preventative treatments and therapies and serve as educators and counselors on issues of infant, child, and adolescent health.
Generally, pediatric nurses provide assistance and work alongside and under the supervision of pediatricians, who are specially trained to tend to the health care needs of infants and children. Among the routine tasks handled by pediatric nurses are physical assessments of patients, which may include performing external head-to-toe physical examinations; obtaining vital signs such as temperature, heart rate, blood pressure, and respiration rate; and collecting samples of blood, urine, and stool. Other duties of a pediatric nurse include taking patient histories from parents or guardians, administering medications under a physician's orders, administering immunizations, performing routine developmental screenings, educating and counseling patients and their parents; dressing wounds and splinting bones, starting IVs and performing catheterizations, as well as performing child or infant CPR when necessary.
What is the role of a pediatric nurse practitioner?
Pediatric nurse practitioners obtain special education and training beyond what is required to become a pediatric nurse, may also prescribe medications and treatments, order diagnostic tests, and interpret the results of diagnostic and other laboratory tests. In addition to training as a nurse, pediatric nurse practitioners must also earn a master's degree. Unlike pediatric nurses, who work primarily under the supervision and direction of a physician, those who hold pediatric nurse practitioner jobs enjoy broader autonomy in diagnosing and treating illness and injury in their young patients. Both pediatric nurses and pediatric nurse practitioners address the psychological and psychosocial, as well as the physical, aspects of illness and injury when interacting with and treating their patients.
Some pediatric nurses and pediatric nurse practitioners specialize in psychiatry, which entails treating children who suffer from specific mental illnesses. Pediatric nurses and pediatric nurse practitioners may specialize in other practice areas as well, including cardiology, dermatology, oncology, gastroenterology, and emergency medicine. In many cases, they may collaborate or cooperate with physicians, nurses, and other health professionals from other specialty areas in order to coordinate patient care and provide the children they treat with the best possible diagnoses and therapeutic interventions.
What skills are needed to work as a pediatric nurse?
A pediatric nurse may require the sensitivity and social skills required to forge relationships with patients while providing direct care and treatment for illness and injury. Above all, because they routinely work with children, pediatric nurses should enjoy working with and spending time with children of all ages. Pediatric nurses must also be excellent team players, as they must work with one another, as well as with supervising physicians, to ensure that their patients receive the best care possible. In addition to applied medical skills, pediatric nurse education also involves developing excellent communication skills so they are able to explain treatments and diagnostic procedures to their patients and to their patients' parents and guardians.
Because they interact so closely with children, pediatric nurses often function as teachers and must develop a teacher's ability to explain complex concepts in simple, understandable terms. Since pediatric nurses may treat children of different ages, they must keep in mind developmental and cognitive milestones and communicate with each patient in a way that is appropriate for his or her age and background. Pediatric nurses must also have good memories so as to maintain familiarity with the different equipment and procedures that are appropriate to use with children of different age levels and physical sizes.
What additional skills might be needed to work as a pediatric nurse practitioner?
Pediatric nurses must also have the ability to manage stress and work under pressure. Dealing with the competing demands of physicians, patients, and patients' families can be a challenge. A pediatric NP must also have the emotional fortitude to work with children who may be in pain or who are otherwise distressed. It is therefore important that pediatric nurses maintain a healthy perspective on their work.
As with many allied health professions, pediatric nursing requires flexibility, as hours can be long and unpredictable, and unexpected emergencies may arise. Pediatric nurse practitioners, in particular, should have the ability to make decisions autonomously and work independently. They must be good critical thinkers and problem solvers. They should also be able to make swift and thoughtful judgments about patient diagnosis and care. Being flexible and adaptable will help a pediatric NP accommodate patients who will individually present unique challenges and demand a unique course of treatment and method of case management. Given the demands of their work environment, pediatric nurse practitioners must be able to respond quickly to crises and changing circumstances and be able to think and respond on their toes.
Pediatric Nurse Schools
- MS in Nursing/Family Nurse Practitioner
- Doctor of Nursing Practice (D.N.P.) - General
- Online Master of Science in Nursing- Adult Geriatric Nurse Practitioner
- Online Master of Science in Nursing-Family Nurse Practitioner
- Doctor of Nursing Practice