It’s easy to pick a pediatric nurse out of a crowd — just look for the Elmo strapped to their stethoscope and the SpongeBob characters covering their scrubs.
It takes a specific personality type to work with small children, and it takes a certain combination of empathy and strength to care for sick children. Even before a pediatric nurse earns their credentials from the pediatric nursing certification board, unique character development is set into motion. A certified pediatric nurse spends hours shaping their futures in the field, even before they land their first job after they pass the NCLEX RN.
Through hours, days, months, and years running through diagnostic tests, working in doctor’s offices, advancing through nursing programs, earning a degree in nursing – whether it be a Bachelor of Science in nursing (BSN) or otherwise – pediatric nurse work involves far more than just basic training in pediatrics.
And it shows in the very best professionals out there. A registered nurse (RN) caring for children is a person who develops a certain aura around them, wherever they are. The demeanor with which they live day to day carries over from the floor to home to being out in public. It’s often easy to spot a pediatric nurse out and about amongst others.
I was intently observing my pediatric nurse coworkers one day at work and gathered a short list of what characteristics pediatric nurses display on a daily basis.
You know you are a pediatric nurse when:
- Stains in hues of white, off white, yellow, seedy yellow, and of course, various shades of brown brightly adorn your scrubs. And subsequently, you have mastered the creation of the perfect stain remover substance that works best on partially digested formula-based stains.
- Your locker is also stocked with a spare pink, teal, and Disney Princess scrub top in case of a stain emergency.
- Your friends who are new parents turn to you for advice on diaper changing skills (heck, you get more practice changing diapers than most parents do with their own kids).
- You don’t memorize medicine dosages by mg or mcg but instead by weight-based dosing such as mg/kg or mcg/kg.
- It’s normal to see the fairy godmother frolicking through the halls of the hospital.
- You think an eight-pound baby is one of the biggest, healthiest looking babies you’ve ever seen!
- You impress your fellow adult health nurses because you can do weight-based dosing calculations in your head without a calculator.
- People look at you funny when you check the pulse integrity and capillary refill on each new child that you meet, just by habit.
- You have mastered the art of making saline syringes into water guns, blue gloves into inflatable chickens, and tourniquets into the best sling-shots ever seen.
- You look forward to seeing clowns at work.
- Wagons are a hotter commodity than a wheelchair at your hospital.
- You have memorized the channel numbers for Cartoon Network, Disney Channel and PBS kids.
- Lidocaine cream is your very best friend.
- When it snows, your patient population is almost as excited about eating the snow as they are playing in it.
- Until your eyes adjust, you almost need sunglasses when you first get to work to help shade some of the bright colors that bounce off the walls of your floor.
- Your patients don’t sleep at night — instead they demand to eat all night long (but you don’t mind)!
- Diapers harbor multiple functions including using them as a boxing glove to wrap up IVs so they don’t get pulled out.
- The art of distraction is the best pre-med you have found.
- You have mastered the skill of holding a baby in one arm while changing a bed with the other.
- Your downtime is spent loving on babies whose parents aren’t at the bedside. Sometimes multiple patients can be found nestled in the arms of nurses behind the desk.
- You can swaddle a baby and have them asleep in 2.5 seconds.
- Even your strapping attending physician speaks in higher child-like tones when speaking to his patients.
- Your favorite part of the day is seeing a mother dress her baby in his “home from the hospital outfit,” free of wires, tubes, and drains, and then watch her take him home for the very first time.
- Your refrigerator looks like a preschool art class exploded on it.
- You know you are a pediatric nurse when you get excited each day that you come to work because you get to experience one of the most endearing, resilient, and beautiful patient populations.
Never underestimate the power of a certified pediatric nurse who has devoted their life to caring for children. Not everyone can do the job – in fact, very few can do it well. It’s emotionally and physically draining, but rewarding, too. The same goes for pediatric nurse practitioners (PNPs) as well. You’d be hard pressed to find healthcare professionals who are stronger, more dedicated, more resilient, and more loving than those who walk among us with the experience that comes with pediatric nurse work. At the same time, despite the unique challenges, the struggle, the stress, the emotional roller coaster that takes us for rides on a daily basis, we wouldn’t change our paths for a million dollars. Children are the future of our world, and to be able to take care of them, help them, “fix” them, and make them smile is truly a gift all on its own. You know you’re a pediatric nurse when you can read this and smile, quietly nodding your head and thinking, “Yep! I’ve been there.”