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A Passion for Science, a Heart for Kids
As every mother knows, the bodies and health issues of babies and children are much different from those of adults. Pediatric nurses are dedicated to the care of youngsters from infancy through the teen years.
Pediatric nurses perform physical examinations, measure vital statistics, and assist with the diagnosis and treatment of children’s illnesses and injuries. Young patients can be frightened and may not be able to clearly communicate what’s wrong. Pediatric nurses know how to talk to children. They also know how to talk with parents, caregivers and families about protecting children’s health and, as necessary, about home health care plans for children with chronic conditions.
The first step toward becoming a pediatric nurse is earning a nursing degree from an accredited program and passing the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCEX-RN). The RN can be earned in a two-year associate’s program, although nurses who earn a bachelor of science in nursing, a four-year degree, may find a broader range of opportunities with better pay. Coursework in a nursing program includes mathematics, chemistry, life sciences, psychology, English and communications. Nursing students interested in pursuing a career in pediatrics also should take courses in human development and child psychology.
Pediatric nurse practitioners must earn a master of science in nursing, which requires two years of training after the bachelor’s. While it’s possible to earn credits toward a nursing degree online, the required clinical components necessitate attendance in residence.
Licensure is required for nurses in all states, but there may be some variations in specific requirements. Board certification is optional for pediatric nurse practitioners, but it can be an asset in the job search and for salary negotiations.
Continuing education is required to maintain board certification and may be required in some states to maintain licensure. Continuing education courses are offered through nursing schools, professional organizations and online.
Pediatric nurses work in a variety of settings, including private group practice with other health care professionals, in hospitals, in community health centers and in public health clinics. They work closely with physicians, including pediatricians and other specialists. Pediatric nurses typically spend more time communicating with families than do nurses practicing in other specialties. Nurses with advanced degrees may teach in nursing programs.
Workplace settings affect the number of hours a pediatric nurse may work. Hospitals usually require eight–12 hour shifts, though a nurse may not work every day. Evening, overnight and weekend work may be required, and nurses often have the option to pick up extra shifts if they want to earn more money. Nurses in clinics and private practice may have more flexibility for part-time work. Because nurses are in high demand, they have more opportunities than individuals in other professions to create work schedules that fit the needs of their families.
Years of Experience
Geographic location, level of education, specialization and years of experience are factors responsible for the variation in pay for all nurses. The average national salary for a pediatric nurse is $69,770 annually. Here’s what you can expect based on years in the field:
- 0–1 year experience: $57,752
- 4–6 years’ experience: $66,433
- 10–14 years’ experience: $73,166
- 15+ years’ experience: $80,248
Job Growth Trend
Opportunities for all types of nurses, including pediatric nurses, are expected to grow by 19 percent over the next decade, which is much faster than average when compared to other occupations. The increase in population is one reason for projected growth, along with the fact that approximately one-third of nurses currently working are approaching retirement. More nurses will be needed in hospitals and in outpatient and long-term care centers.
Denise Dayton is a a freelance writer who specializes in business, education and technology. She has written for eHow.com, Library Journal, The Searcher, Bureau of Education and Research, and corporate clients.