Pediatric nursing is a specialized area of nursing that focuses on providing healthcare to infants, children, and adolescents under the age of 18.
It can be a very rewarding career, as you are able to help care for and nurture young patients, in a variety of medical settings, during some of the most important years of their lives. If you are interested in becoming a pediatric nurse or are looking to learn more about the field in general, keep reading.
In order to become a pediatric nurse, you'll first need to obtain your Registered Nurse (RN) designation. You can do this by completing a four-year Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) program, or a two-year RN diploma program. Since Canada has some of the best nursing schools and nursing programs it shouldn’t be hard to find a great one near you.
Once you have your RN license, you’ll then need to complete a pediatric nursing certification program. These programs typically last one to two years and will prepare you for the specific challenges that come with working in pediatrics. As you may have already guessed, working with children can present different challenges, practices, and protocols than working with adults or the general public.
There are many different types of pediatric nursing, including:
These nurses are responsible for caring for and monitoring newborns who are in critical, or stable (but threatening) conditions. NICU nurses care for babies of many conditions and sizes, including preterm ones, or babies who required surgery after birth. Pediatric nurses are expected to exercise a great deal of care, compassion, and patience when dealing with these little ones and their families.
Direct nursing care pediatric nurses have a typical nursing role: they monitor patients’ vitals, care for patients, administer drugs, report to physicians accordingly, and complete routine check-ups. Direct Nursing Care pediatric nurses work closely with patients in hospitals–perhaps patients admitted or recovering from surgery–clinical settings, doctor’s offices, and even rehabilitation centers.
Pediatric nurses with an interest in developmental disabilities (ranging from Autism, Down Syndrome and many other conditions) will often specialize in this field because they would be working routinely with children and teens of many ages who have mental, physical, and developmental disabilities. These nurses provide care similar to that of a direct nursing care pediatric nurse, but may also help with equipment and feeding, as well as mobility, and spend the majority of their time with a similar type of patient (ex: a hospital wing or clinic dedicated to children with developmental disabilities).
When a child enters palliative care, it means they have a terminal illness; you will very likely witness your patient pass away in this setting. Pediatric nurses in this area of specialization must be extremely compassionate and tend to their young patient and their families throughout their time in palliative care.
The type of pediatric nursing you choose to specialize in will depend on your interests and career goals. Regardless, you must complete your required years in school, pass with good grades, and complete the appropriate placement/practicum that is required by your program.
It’s important to note that no matter what type of pediatric nursing you pursue, being able to communicate well with other staff, as well as your patient’s family members, is a vital part of this role. As a pediatric nurse, you are an advocate for your patient, and likely someone they will put a lot of trust in; their parents and family members will be relying on you as well. You must provide compassionate, professional care at all times.
As much as you may come to care for your patient, it is important (with any field of nursing) that you understand you must not become emotionally attached. This can be particularly difficult with children, and schooling can help prepare you for this. It is easy to want to hug, hold, or develop a love for a child, however, this can be emotionally draining and damaging to you, the nurse; especially when the patient is discharged from care, or, in unfortunate cases, passes away.
As a pediatric nurse, it’s fair to expect some emotional moments between you, your patients, and even your fellow pediatric nurses. Again, this depends on how you, as a person outside of your role, are able to deal with injured or ill children. It is important to remember that these young people are unwell, and are in your care for a reason. They need you to be strong. You’ll have the opportunity to use your skills, qualifications, and personality to brighten their day.
If you’re looking to hear more about the pediatric nurse experience, registered RPN Holley Gabrielle explains what to expect:
To hear stories from a newly registered pediatric nurse check out What It's Like to Be A Brand New PEDIATRIC NURSE
If you’re looking to learn about why a former pediatric nurse did not become a pediatric nurse practitioner Nurse Liz tells all in this video:
Pediatric nurses in Canada earn a median salary of $77,000 per year or $38/hour. Jobs in pediatric nursing (and registered nursing in general) are expected to grow by 19% over the next decade, which is much faster than the average for all occupations. If you are interested in a career in pediatric nursing, now is a great time to get started.
There are many different types of pediatric nursing, each with its own unique challenges and rewards. If you’re interested in a career in pediatric nursing, the best route to take is to discover colleges and universities near you that could lead you toward obtaining your desired designation. Many post-secondary institutions have a broad range of information (including admission requirements for current grade 12 students, and/or mature students) available on their websites.
Before applying, we recommend checking out reliable sources and researching in-depth about pediatric nursing. With the right education and training, you can be well on your way to a rewarding and successful career in pediatric nursing, and change many young lives for the better.