What Makes Pediatric Nursing Unique?
Like the physicians we work with on a daily basis, nurses can specialize in different areas of medicine. One of these specialties is pediatric nursing. For people who love working with children, pediatric nursing can be an incredibly rewarding career. But what makes pediatric nursing so distinct among nursing specialties?
Pediatric Nurses: Specializing in Child & Adolescent Health
Like pediatricians, pediatric nurses work with children, ranging in age from newborn infants to teenagers. They work at children’s hospitals, in hospital pediatric departments, or for private practices owned by pediatricians.
To become a pediatric nurse, you need your RN license and a bachelor’s degree. Then, you can apply for national pediatric certification, which qualifies you to work with children.
What’s So Different About Pediatric Nursing?
Working with pediatric patients is quite different from working with fully grown adults. There are substantial physiological differences, for example, between a neonate and a 36-year-old man. There is also a very central focus on developmental issues, including both physical and cognitive development.
Children aren’t merely “little adults.” There are quite a few pertinent differences in anatomy and physiology between children and adults, which are important in pediatric medicine.
- Children’s tongues are larger, proportionately than those of adults. There are also differences in the shape and location of the epiglottis, the length and width of the trachea, and the shape and position of the larynx. This introduces special considerations to intubation in pediatric patients.
- Children also have cardiovascular differences from adults. These differences make heart rate a very important clinical factor.
- Children have a larger surface area, compared to their volume than adults. This can make them more susceptible to toxins and pathogens that enter the body through the skin. Their skin is also thinner and less keratinized than that of adults.
- Children have higher respiratory rates than adults and higher minute volumes. This can make them more susceptible to airborne toxins and pathogens than adults.
- The blood-brain barrier in a child is immature, and they can be more susceptible to neurological symptoms from poisoning.
- Children’s bones are not yet completely calcified and are more flexible than those of adults.
These are just a few examples of the physiological and anatomical differences that need to be kept in mind when treating pediatric patients.
Along with differences in treatment, there are also differences in communication. Working with young children is very different from working with adults. Even elementary school children are less adept than adults at describing and communicating things like where they’re feeling pain. There’s also a big element of keeping them calm. Going to the doctor can be scary for children, even for routine vaccinations.
Being able to work well with young children is an absolute must for pediatric nurses. You have to be one of those people who has a way with children. And needless to say, it takes tons of patience, too.
Careers in Pediatric Nursing
As we’ve mentioned, nurses who specialize in pediatrics obtain a post-graduate certification in that specialty. Usually, they’re RNs. The Bureau of Labor Statistics data points to a bright and promising future for RNs in general, and pediatric nurses are no exception.
There are also nurse practitioners who specialize in pediatrics, presenting another career option for aspiring nurses. This involves getting a master’s degree after your bachelor’s, which generally takes around two years to complete.
Where Can Pediatric Nurses Work?
Your options are limitless – indeed, you could have more options than a nurse who didn’t specialize. You could work in a school, in the emergency room, a hospital clinic, an ICU, a hospital floor, or a doctor’s office, assisting a pediatric physician when caring for children.
Your choice depends mainly on your personal preferences – each one of these areas of medical care always requires nurses, so you can pick whichever one is most appealing to you for personal, financial, or location-based reasons.
If you love working with kids, specializing in pediatric nursing is a fantastic choice. The field is always growing – after all, people are always having children – and the specialization of pediatric nursing can help you get a job after you graduate from nursing school and become an RN.
Just be prepared for the unique difficulties presented by pediatric nursing. Your patients will behave differently than adults, and you may have a harder time communicating with them, and you’ll have to have very good bedside manner, as children are usually frightened when the come to the hospital or visit a doctor.
If none of that scares you, a specialization in pediatric nursing is probably a great choice for you.