How to Become a Pediatric Nurse
What Does a Pediatric Nurse Do?
- Analyzing test results.
- Conducting and ordering medical tests.
- Creating and/or contributing to patient care plans.
- Diagnosing medical issues.
- Giving patients medicines and treatments.
- Operating medical equipment.
- Performing physical exams.
- Hospitals, including children’s hospitals, major medical centers and community hospitals.
- Primary care physicians’ offices and outpatient specialty care offices.
- Pediatric rehabilitation and extended care facilities.
- Ambulatory and urgent care healthcare services.
- Patient homes.
- Mental health and psychiatric facilities.
Educational Requirements to Become a Pediatric Nurse
- Pediatric Licensed Practical or Licensed Vocational Nurse: Licensed practical nurses (LPNs) and licensed vocational nurses (LVNs) are entry-level nurses who provide basic medical care, supervised by RNs and doctors. LPNs and LVNs must complete an approved educational program, typically by a community college or technical school, and obtain licensure.
- Pediatric Registered Nurse: RNs must complete at least a bachelor’s in nursing (BSN) or associate degree in nursing. There may also be opportunities to become an RN with an approved nursing program diploma. RNs must obtain licensure.
- Pediatric Nurse Practitioner: Pediatric NPs must complete at least an MSN with a pediatric specialty or one that’s related, like a family nurse practitioner (FNP) or nurse midwifery specialty. They must also be licensed RNs in their state, have a state NP license and pass a national certification exam.
How Many Years Does it Take to Become a Pediatric Nurse?
- Nursing diploma/LPN/LVN program: 12 months.
- Associate degree in nursing (ADN) program: 24 months.
- BSN program: 36-60 months.
- BSN-to-MSN program: 18-24 months.
- RN-to-BSN program: 12-36 months.
- RN-to-MSN program: 24-36 months.
- DNP program: 48-72 months.
4 Common Steps to Becoming a Pediatric Nurse
While every pediatric nurse’s journey is different, there are typical steps to take if you want to specialize in pediatric nursing as an APRN. These include getting the required education, taking tests, obtaining licensure and gaining experience to become specialized as a pediatric nurse. Consider the following common requirements to become an advanced pediatric nurse:
- Become a Registered Nurse
Typically, a valid unencumbered RN license is required to enter a pediatric NP (PNP) program. RN requirements vary by state, but the first typical step to become a registered nurse is to complete nursing education, with a minimum of a nursing diploma from an approved program. Then, an aspiring RN must pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX exam) and pay licensing application fees.
With an RN license, some PNP programs will consider candidates who have an ASN or diploma in nursing. More commonly, at least a BSN degree is required for MSN program admittance. Some programs may accept candidates who have RN licensure and a non-nursing bachelor’s degree, if they’ve completed certain prerequisites.
- Obtain an MSN with a Pediatric Nursing Specialization
There are dozens of pediatric nursing specialty MSN programs, many with online, part-time, full-time and accelerated options. Typically, MSN pediatric programs are categorized by acute care and primary care.
Some pediatric nursing school programs may require experience as a pediatric nurse to be considered. Some programs provide accelerated options for those who have an MSN degree and want to specialize in pediatrics. Others will consider RN candidates who have a bachelor’s degree in a non-nursing field who have completed prerequisites and other requirements.
- Get Clinical Experience
Some pediatric MSN programs require clinical experience. These are pediatric practice hours completed under professional academic supervision.
You’ll need to complete these hours to graduate with an MSN and to pursue certified pediatric nurse practitioner (CPNP) credentials. The CPNP-PC for pediatric primary care nurse practitioners requires at least 500 supervised direct care clinical practice hours in primary care pediatrics. The CPNP-AC for pediatric acute care nurse practitioners requires at least 500 (with a strong recommendation for 600) supervised direct care clinical supervised hours in acute care pediatrics. Depending on what type of CPNP credential you’re interested in, it helps to attend a school that provides students with those clinical practice hours.
- Become a Certified Pediatric Nurse
Once you have an RN and have graduated from an accredited college or university offering a Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) or Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN) accredited nursing master’s in pediatric nursing, you can apply to become certified with the Pediatric Nursing Certification Board (PNCB). These include the CPN certification, the CPNP-PC certification and the CPNP-AC certification.
The education requirements to become certified as a CPNP-PC or CPNP-AC will include graduate courses in subjects like advanced physiology and advanced pharmacology. You’ll need to take the PNCB exam to become certified.
Pediatric Nurse Careers
- Hospitals and ambulatory/urgent care healthcare services: Pediatric nurses work in children’s hospitals dedicated to pediatric care and in general hospitals. At a general hospital, a pediatric nurse may specialize in treating babies, children and teens in units such as neonatal, oncology or critical care. Pediatric nurses who specialize in acute care also help patients requiring ambulatory or urgent care services.
- Family medicine offices: Pediatric nurses may assist doctors who specialize in pediatric care in a pediatrician’s office. PNPs may also provide primary care in family medicine offices under the supervision of a doctor.
- Schools: Pediatric nurses who work at schools help students who are feeling sick at school. They may provide care and treatment at the school or make diagnoses and recommend sick students be released from school. Pediatric nurses in schools may also educate students about health and wellness.
- Pediatric rehabilitation and extended care facilities: Like hospitals, rehabilitation and extended care facilities dedicated to pediatric care employ pediatric nurses. These facilities serve children and teens who require skilled nursing care for issues like chronic conditions, developmental disabilities and life-limiting conditions.
- Patient homes: Some pediatric nurses help patients in their homes. These may include pediatric hospice patients or children and teens with developmental disabilities who require home care.
- Mental health and psychiatric facilities: Pediatric nurses may also work with children and teens living in mental health and psychiatric facilities. Nurses may administer medicine and provide treatment for medical issues in these facilities.
How Much Does a Pediatric Nurse Make?
- The job outlook for LPNs and LVNs is projected to grow 9% from 2019 to 2029, much faster than the average for all occupations.
- The job outlook for RNs is projected to grow 7% from 2019 to 2029, which is faster than the average for all occupations.
- The job outlook for nurse anesthetists, nurse midwives and NPs is projected to grow 45% from 2019-2029, much faster than average.
Is Pediatric Nursing a Good Career?
- Who you want to work with: Do you want to work with babies, children or teens?
- Where you want to work: Do you want to work in a healthcare setting or place where healthcare is provided?
- What you’re interested in: Does the medical field interest you?
- How you want to contribute in your career: Do you want to work in a helping career where you can assist people in need?