Registered nurses (RNs) who gain experience working in a hospital, clinic, or medical facility can specialize in different areas. To see if pediatric nursing might be the right fit, RNs may explore internships alongside pediatricians or pediatric nurse practitioners.
Pediatric nurses meet patients at the intersection of health, knowledge, and care, providing routine checkups for youth of all ages. Typical daily duties include observing vital signs, helping to educate patients and families about illnesses and any stress revolving around it, administering developmental screenings and immunizations, treating illness, and more.
Caring for kids can be a responsibility filled with joy. One of the best aspects of pediatric nursing is the opportunity to watch children grow, from newborns to 21-year-olds. Being trusted by patients’ families to provide care can be a great honor and goes a long way when delivering healthcare.
A typical day may entail assessing a child’s needs and providing initial care, identifying symptoms, and administering medications. Nurses will ask children, and often their parents as well, about their health to document medical history and inform diagnoses. Sometimes nurses draw blood for lab work and administer vaccinations. They also evaluate children for signs and symptoms of abuse.
Nursing of any sort can be challenging and frustrating at times, and pediatric nursing comes with an additional layer of difficulty; trying to communicate with children who are too young to understand what is happening or to describe their symptoms might feel worrisome. After all, how do you explain to a little one that a temporary pinch of pain or an uncomfortable treatment will help them, making them healthier in the long run?
Adding to the difficulty, some nurses work with families with several social needs, which could be due to lack of education, not receiving mental health counseling or intervention, or living below the poverty line. Ensuring families with limited resources have equal access to care can take an emotional toll. As legally mandated reporters, pediatric nurses are obligated to report potential child abuse, which creates an emotional strain.
One of the best aspects of caring for children is how quickly their emotions change. Kids can go from crying about a vaccination injection one minute to laughing about a silly joke the next.
Being a good listener and communicator is an important aspect of nursing. Pediatric nurses act as healthcare team members, teachers, and patient advocates.
Seeing a child improve after an acute illness and moving on with their life provides a huge reward.
Pediatric nurses must build trust with their young patients, but they also need to build relationships with the parents or guardians of the child. Families come in varied shapes and sizes, so one type of solution won’t always fit.
Parents may not always understand the information being presented to them for a variety of reasons. Most of them won’t have a background in medicine, and for some, English won’t be their first language. Sometimes, they may feel so nervous about a potential outcome that they have a hard time listening and comprehending, so nurses will want to take as much time as they can to explain every direction and answer questions. Nurses may be primarily caring for a child, but they are also there to offer emotional care and support to the family as well.
When it comes to children, there’s a wide range of communication skills. On the younger end of the spectrum, newborns to toddlers, language isn’t yet developed, so they won’t be able to tell a nurse if they’re scared or nervous about an IV prick. Older children may speak easily but have a hard time communicating their feelings openly. Pediatric nurses who pay close attention to non-verbal cues will have an easier time connecting with a patient. Crossed arms or lack of eye contact may mean the child isn’t feeling good about what’s going to happen next.
When adults are worried about a medical issue, nurses can supply information to help calm fears, but with children, it’s different. Kids aren’t simply small adults; they require a unique approach that starts with gaining their trust.
Being a pediatric nurse offers the opportunity to follow individuals from infancy on, which can be deeply rewarding. But not all patients have the best outcome; some patients become ill beyond care. Pediatric nurses walk a fine line between providing compassionate care while maintaining a professional distance. Healthy emotional boundaries allow nurses to continue to nurture and heal despite unfavorable outcomes.
There are several pediatric nursing specialties to explore, from neonatal nursing, where care and support are provided for newborns, to palliative pediatric nursing, where terminally ill children receive treatment to relieve end-of-life suffering. Nurses who provide specialized care for children with mental and developmental disabilities are known as developmental disability nurses. They work with young patients who have Down syndrome, autism spectrum disorder, or any other conditions that affect their capacity to learn, communicate, and perform tasks in the same ways neurotypical patients do.