The path to become a Pediatric Nurse
If you've got patience to spare and a passion for helping kids, pediatric nursing may be a career for you. The work schedule can be intense sometimes, and health care careers can throw you curveballs once in a while, but at the end of the day there are few more rewarding careers out there than working hard to keep children healthy.
How to become a pediatric nurse
Pediatric nursing is one of many specializations within registered nursing. There are three separate paths that you can take to get there:
- A bachelor's degree in nursing is the most academic path to a pediatric nurse career. Programs typically consist of four years of full-time study, although some institutions offer part-time programs for working professionals.
- Another common route to nursing certification is an associate degree in nursing, which typically takes about two years for full-time students and can be obtained at junior and community colleges nationwide. Online course-work plans are usually available for this degree, although hands-on clinical and laboratory sections must be taken in person.
- For those who want to get some experience in the health care field before moving toward a full nursing degree, a diploma program is a good option. These two- to three-year programs can be offered by universities, junior colleges, community colleges and hospital nursing schools.
Once you've finished your training and passed the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN), the pathway to a career in pediatric nursing is almost complete. Your specialty as an RN has a lot to do with the jobs you choose in the health care field, so be sure to apply for open positions in children's hospitals or the pediatric wards of large medical centers.
More than 710,000 new positions are projected to open up for registered nurses between 2010 and 2020, or 26 percent, according to a recent study by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS.gov/ooh, 2012). This growth rate is faster than average for all occupations, so employment opportunities appear promising.
How to become a pediatric nurse practitioner
If you obtain some experience caring for children in clinical environments and want to take on a pediatric nursing career with greater autonomy and responsibility, you can move on to become a Certified Pediatric Nurse Practitioner (CPNP).
CPNPs, like all nurse practitioners, tend to work on the same sort of cases as general practicing physicians. It's necessary to earn a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree before you can qualify for nurse practitioner certification, and pediatric nurse practitioners in particular must complete a schedule of courses in child health and psychology before they approach the Pediatric Nursing Certification Board.
Once awarded board certification, you'll should have the necessary training to practice basic pediatric medicine, make independent diagnoses and prescribe appropriate medication. Some clinics also allow CPNPs to work without a doctor's supervision on patients suffering from straightforward complaints.
If working as a pediatric nurse sounds like the right fit for you, you may want to look into nursing degrees and diploma programs in your area. The first step toward a rewarding and in-demand health care career could be just a few clicks away.
WiseGeek, "What is Pediatric Nursing?" 2013, http://www.wisegeek.org/what-is-pediatric-nursing.htm
Discover Nursing, "Pediatric Nurse Practitioner," January 2013, Johnson & Johnson, http://www.discovernursing.com/specialty/pediatric-nurse-practitioner#.UWyqAsqbXSg
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, "Registered Nurses," U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Edition, March 29, 2012, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/registered-nurses.htm
Pediatric Nursing Certification Board, 2013, http://www.pncb.org/ptistore/control/index