How to Become a Pediatric Nurse
Get a pediatric nursing career overview with education, salary and career outlook information.
What you'll do: Pediatric nurses provide preventative and acute care in all settings to children and adolescents. Pediatric Nurse Practitioners (PNPs) perform physical exams, diagnose illness and injury, and provide education and support to patients' families. They often work in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) with pediatricians and other health care providers.
Certification: Certification for pediatric nurses and pediatric nurse practitioners is available from the Pediatric Nursing Certification Board (PNCB).
Median annual salary: $65,470 for RNs; $89,960 for NPs*
Pediatric nurses and pediatric nurse practitioners work in a wide range of settings from doctor's offices and community-based settings to hospitals and critical care facilities.
Primary care services may include:
- Health maintenance care, including "well child" examinations
- Routine developmental screenings
- Diagnosis and treatment of common childhood illnesses
- Anticipatory guidance regarding common child health concerns
- Delivery of immunizations
- Performance of school physicals
Acute care and specialty services may include:
- Caring for children who are acutely, chronically or critically ill
- Performing in-depth physical assessments
- Interpreting results of laboratory and diagnostic tests
- Ordering medications and performing therapeutic treatments
Some pediatric nurses and nurse practitioners focus on a pediatric specialty area, such as cardiology, dermatology, gastroenterology or oncology.
Education and Training
After gaining experience providing nursing care for children, a pediatric nurse can take an exam to become a Certified Pediatric Nurse (CPN). To become a pediatric nurse practitioner, you will need to meet these requirements in addition to your RN:
- Earning a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree that includes specialized coursework in pediatrics. Many nursing schools offer this type of degree through a two-year program.
- Be recognized as an advanced practice nurse (APN) by your state board of nursing.
Certified nurses earn significantly more than those without such credentials. Certification is required in many states and recommended in the others.
As with all nursing careers, the demand for pediatric nurses is expected to increase significantly over the next ten years. In general, the more training, certifications and experience a nurse has, the more demand there will be for his or her skill set.
Sources: National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners; Society of Pediatric Nurses; U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics 2014-15 Occupational Outlook Handbook; Registered Nurses, Nurse Anesthetists, Nurse Midwives, and Nurse Practitioners.
*The salary information listed is based on a national average, unless noted. Actual salaries may vary greatly based on specialization within the field, location, years of experience and a variety of other factors. National long-term projections of employment growth may not reflect local and/or short-term economic or job conditions, and do not guarantee actual job growth.
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