How to Become a Pediatric Nurse
Many aspiring professionals are eager to find a job that makes a difference. In fact, 90% of people say they would take a pay cut if it meant they could pursue more meaningful work.
If you’re seeking a rewarding career, pediatric nursing may be your perfect match. As a pediatric nurse, you can make a notable impact and earn a great income at the same time.
Before you can become a pediatric nurse, however, you have to acquire certain degrees and qualifications. Below, we’ll review what nursing programs bachelor’s graduates can take in order to pursue this fulfilling career path.
What is a Pediatric Nurse?
A pediatric nurse is a registered nurse (RN) who specializes in pediatrics. Pediatrics is the branch of medicine that focuses on caring for infants, toddlers, children, adolescents, and young adults up to the age of 21.
Since pediatric nurses care for children of all ages, they must possess an in-depth understanding of children’s physical, emotional, and cognitive developmental stages. Great pediatric nurses know how to speak to children of every age and make them feel comfortable and safe during their treatment.
What Do Pediatric Nurses Do?
In collaboration with physicians and other medical staff, pediatric nurses work to ensure the best health outcomes for children as they grow and mature through the various stages of development.
Some of the daily responsibilities for a pediatric nursing professional include:
Collecting a history of current symptoms and medical conditions
Measuring vital signs like blood pressure
Assessing children’s physical, mental and social health
Facilitating diagnostic tests
Performing well-child screening exams
Providing interventions for common childhood illnesses, injuries, and health conditions
Caring for children before and after surgery
Counseling parents and patients (when old enough) on treatment implementation and medication use
Educating parents about expected developmental milestones
As a pediatric nurse, you’ll be responsible for a variety of direct patient care measures depending on your experience, level of education, and workplace.
How to Become a Pediatric Nurse?
Whether you’ve always dreamt of being a pediatric nurse or you’re just considering the idea, it’s helpful to know the steps involved in becoming one. These include:
#1 Earn your Degree in Nursing
Before you can specialize in pediatrics, you need to become a registered nurse. To do so, you must earn one of the following degrees in nursing:
Associate degree in Nursing (ADN)
Bachelor of Science degree in Nursing (BSN)
Direct entry masters (MSN)
ADN programs generally take two years to complete, whereas BSN programs take around four years. Individuals who already have a bachelor’s degree in another field can also earn their BSN in as little as 12-15 months through an accelerated program. While an associate degree is all you need to become an RN, earning a bachelor’s degree can increase your job options and earning potential. In fact, studies conducted by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing reported that BSN nurses are significantly more prepared in terms of quality and safety—with patient mortality rates 10.9% lower than ADN nurses.
What Will You Learn?
No matter what type of nursing program you enroll in, your courses will introduce you to the basic principles of nursing. BSN programs, however, strive to teach a deeper understanding of the following fundamentals:
Healthcare policy and systems
Clinical nursing skills
During your BSN education, you may also get the chance to learn about the health challenges that children face and how to treat them. If your degree program offers them, make sure to sign up for classes in child health, child development, and child psychology. These courses will prepare you for your work in pediatrics.
#2 Take the National Council Licensure Exam
Once you’ve completed your nursing program, you must take and pass the National Council Licensure Exam (NCLEX-RN). This exam is required to obtain RN licensure in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.
The NCLEX-RN will test your knowledge of various nursing principles and concepts, including:
Safety and risk mitigation
Illness prevention and treatment
Once you pass this exam and obtain your license from the state, you will officially be a licensed RN. This means you can legally practice as a nurse in your state and start applying for nursing positions.
#3 Apply for a Position in Pediatrics
Once you’re qualified to practice as an RN, it’s a good idea to look for positions that will allow you to gain real-world experience in pediatrics.
Here are the most common pediatric nursing workplaces:
Pediatric intensive care units
Private practice physician’s offices
Pediatric oncology wards
Urgent care centers
Rehabilitation care facilities
By practicing in pediatric settings, you’ll gain valuable experience within the field. You’ll also set yourself up to qualify for a pediatric nursing certification in the future.
#4 Consider Getting Certified by the Pediatric Nursing Certification Board
If you want to showcase your expertise in pediatrics and enhance your earning potential, you can take a certification exam from the Pediatric Nursing Certification Board (PNCB).
The PNCB offers four different types of pediatric nursing certifications:
Certified Pediatric Nurse (CPN)
Certified Pediatric Nurse Practitioner – Primary Care (CPNP-PC)
Certified Pediatric Nurse Practitioner – Acute Care (CPNP-AC)
Pediatric Primary Care Mental Health Specialist (PMHS)
You can take the CPN certification exam as an RN. To qualify for the other three types of certifications, you may need to earn a Master of Science degree in Nursing (MSN) first.
CPN Certification Eligibility Requirements
Before you can take your certification exam, you must also fulfill one of the following eligibility requirements:
Complete a minimum of 1,800 hours of pediatric clinical experience within 24 months of taking your certification exam
Have at least 5 years of RN experience in pediatric nursing and 3,000 hours in pediatric nursing with 1,000 of those hours occurring within the past 24 months
As long as you’re eligible, you can schedule your exam and start preparing for it. The exam will test your mastery of the various topics relating to pediatric nursing, including illness management, health restoration, and health promotion. The PNBC provides plenty of helpful exam preparation resources on their website.
#5 Consider Pursuing a Graduate Nursing Degree
While you don’t need an advanced nursing degree to become a pediatric nurse, obtaining a master’s or doctoral degree can help you advance your career.
For example, earning your Master’s of Science in Nursing (MSN) or Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) can help you qualify for more lucrative positions and take on more responsibility at your workplace. It can help you become a pediatric nurse practitioner (PNP) or a clinical nurse specialist (CNS).
Most MSN programs take around two years to complete.
How Long Does it Take to Become a Pediatric Nurse?
Now that you understand the steps to becoming a pediatric nurse, you may be wondering how long it takes to get your nursing degree.
The general timeline for becoming a pediatric nurse is as follows:
Earning your ADN or BSN and taking the NCLEX-RN – Two to five years
Getting the initial work experience to become eligible for certification – Two years
Earning your MSN – Two years
As you can see, it can take a minimum of two years to become a pediatric nurse—although an additional two to four years may be required depending on your chosen degree and certifications. Continued education is helpful (and in some cases, required) for a specialization in pediatric nursing. For non-nursing bachelor’s graduates, an accelerated BSN degree program can significantly speed up this process.
What Skills Do You Need to Become a Pediatric Nurse?
While earning your degree and license is an essential part of becoming a pediatric nurse, it’s also important to develop your interpersonal skill set.
Children are often fearful and anxious about receiving medical care. Likewise, their parents may be understandably concerned about any health problems that arise.
Thus, aspiring pediatric nurses should know how to stay calm under pressure and soothe their patients during treatment. Having compassion, empathy, and emotional stability will serve you well on this career path.
What is the Job Outlook and Salary for Pediatric Nurses?
Most people pursue pediatric nursing because they are passionate about helping children stay healthy and making a difference. However, job security and earning potential are also important considerations for any job.
Fortunately, pediatric nursing checks both of these boxes quite well:
- Job Outlook – According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the job market for RNs is growing faster than average. It’s currently projected to grow 7 percent from 2019 to 2029.
For nurses who complete an MSN program, specialize in a specific field, and obtain certifications, the demand is even higher.
- Salary – Pediatric nurses also enjoy attractive salaries. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average salary for a registered nurse is $73,300. Nurse practitioners earn even more, with an average salary of $114,510.
It’s important to note that your salary will depend on your state, experience, specialization, education, and workplace—these salaries reflect average RN salaries as documented by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Accelerate Your Pediatric Nursing Career with a Distanced ABSN Program
Are you ready to kickstart your career in pediatric nursing? If so, you may want to consider pursuing an accelerated Bachelor of Science degree in Nursing online.
If you already have a bachelor’s degree in another subject, an accelerated BSN program will allow you to learn the fundamentals of nursing without repeating your general education courses. Many ABSN programs only take as little as 12 months to complete, rather than four years.
By enrolling in an online ABSN program at a respected university, you can expedite your journey of becoming a pediatric nursing professional and embark on your rewarding career.
Harvard Business Review. 9 Out of 10 People Are Willing to Earn Less Money to Do More-Meaningful Work. https://hbr.org/2018/11/9-out-of-10-people-are-willing-to-earn-less-money-to-do-more-meaningful-work
NCSBN. NCLEX & Other Exams. https://www.ncsbn.org/nclex.htm
Pediatric Nursing Certification Board. Homepage. https://www.pncb.org
Pediatric Nursing Certification Board. Steps to CPN Certification. https://www.pncb.org/cpn-certification-steps
Pediatric Nursing Certification Board. CPN Exam Resources. https://www.pncb.org/cpn-exam-resources
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Registered Nurses: Job Outlook. https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/registered-nurses.htm#tab-6
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Registered Nurses: Pay. https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/registered-nurses.htm#tab-5
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Nurse Practitioners. https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes291171.htm