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.