Pediatric nurses play a very important role and are responsible for taking care of children dealing with a wide range of health issues. They also often have to deal with children suffering from congenital disorders and work on prevention and education, both for the parent and the child.
Since children are very different patients than adults and have different needs, it needs a special type of person to work with them. If you are thinking of entering the field, or you are a working nurse thinking of specializing in the area, here are some of the traits and skills you’ll need to be successful as a pediatric nurse practitioner.
Just because you’re working with kids, doesn’t mean that your workload will be any lighter – quite the opposite, actually. “Pediatric care covers a huge scope.” Said pediatric nurse Teresa Keeling. “You are going to be challenged at the physical, emotional and mental level. It can be exhausting at times.”
So, unless you’re ready to deal with the challenge that comes with the job, you might struggle in your role. But if you like being close to the action and being hands-on, this is a perfect field for you.
As a pediatric nurse, you will be asked to:
- Perform physical exams
- Diagnose illnesses and injuries
- Offer education and support to children and families
- Performing routine developmental screenings
- Deliver immunizations
One of the best investments you can make as a starting nurse in pediatrics will be a good pair of sneakers because you’re going to be doing a lot of walking. “Pediatrics really has to be your calling.” Said RN Courtney Pollard. “If you’re only in it for a paycheck, it’s going to be a lot tougher. You have to be ready to accept that your life may get thrown upside down.”
However, she also stated that the reward will be well worth it. “One day you’re giving them chemo, and the next day you see them bouncing around the unit with their little IV poles.” She said, “Seeing them bounce back like that has always been so inspiring to me.”
Pollard also added that the struggles of her patients help her put her own into perspective. She says that she routinely reflects on how her patients were able to cope with harsh treatments and line placement after tough shifts, which gives her extra motivation.
If you’re already in the field, the solution could be to go for a bridge program. However, this isn’t always easy when you’re working. But one of the options could be to go for an online degree.
Did you know that there are online pediatric nurse practitioner programs that could allow you to get from a BSN to a Doctorate in as little as 3 years? If you have a master’s, some will also allow you to get your Ph.D. in 2 years.
Online degrees have a lot going for them besides speed. Some of the benefits of online nursing degrees include:
- Chance to interact with students from different fields and specializations
- Direct access to teaching staff during and after classes
- Greater choice of faculty
- Great flexibility
- Great support from faculty
- Lower overall costs
You could decide to take classes part-time or condense them to finish as fast as you can. On the other hand, you could also decide to work part-time and dedicate yourself to your studies full time. When you come out, you’ll not only be able to fill any pediatric nurse position, but be able to move into leadership, and start your own practice.
You also naturally have to have a good rapport with children and get along with them. Being able to build a genuine connection and relationship with younger patients will allow you to help them during tough times and treatments. A lot of your work will be about boosting their morale and reassuring them about treatments. You also have to be able to console them if they’re feeling sad and know how to be able to lift their moods in the most difficult times.
Pediatric nurses also need to have exceptional communication skills. Not only do they have to communicate with children, but they also have to deal with cross-disciplinary teams and doctors. You also have to be able to explain treatment options to patients and parents in a way that is easily digestible for them.
In addition, they have to be able to keep their composure when a parent may be hostile towards them or a particular type of treatment. They have to be able to explain in clear terms the benefits and inherent risks in different forms of treatments, and why one choice would be better than the other.
Empathy is another essential quality that any pediatric nurse practitioner should have. While you need to keep a professional attitude, this isn’t the place if you’re a naturally cold and apathetic person. You have to be able to put the needs of your small patients first, even if you’re having a bad day or had a dispute with someone else in the staff.
You’re dealing with some of the most vulnerable patients, and your mood will have a direct effect on them. You have to focus on giving them the best atmosphere for recovery, and that includes showing a smiley face even if you’re feeling like the whole world is coming down on you.
As a pediatric nurse, you’ll have to deal with multiple cases at once, and will have to be able to interpret a child’s symptoms based on the feedback they give to you. You’ll need to be able to decipher the information they give you and come to the correct conclusions. You’ll also need to be able to pry important information out of them or learn how to get clues from their families.
Working as a pediatric nurse is one of the most fulfilling and rewarding fields you can embark on. However, make sure that you have an actual passion for the job, and that you have all the skills necessary before you make the jump.