Pediatric nurse practitioners work with their patients from infancy right through to their adolescent years. Along with providing care, they must also have the ability to successfully communicate with their young patients, who often may not yet be able to voice their needs, in addition to their families.
Pediatric nurse practitioners need to be exceptionally compassionate as they will be required to give emotional support to children and psychologically prepare them for procedures that can range from vaccines to complex surgeries.
But what are the actual day-to-day duties of a pediatric nurse practitioner?
What does a pediatric nurse practitioner actually do?
Pediatric nurse practitioners work in both children’s and general hospitals as well as in healthcare facilities that target younger patients such as pediatric oncology clinics.
Their day-to-day duties also include interactions with other healthcare providers such as laboratory technicians and doctors, and they often serve as a liaison between professionals and patients.
Responsibilities of a pediatric nurse practitioner
The bodies of children are highly unique. The way that their symptoms physically present themselves can be very different from that of adults, and they have different reactions to medications because of their smaller bodies.
Pediatric nurse practitioners are required to have specific medical knowledge relating to pediatric care that allows them to identify the signs of disease and make appropriate diagnoses as well as administering treatment.
Their duties also include carrying out physical examinations, recording health histories, ordering and interpreting diagnostic and laboratory tests, and establishing and implementing treatment plans.
The training and certification accrued by pediatric nurse practitioners, as well as the state they work in, determine the degree of independence with which they can prescribe medication.
Children are also unique patients because they are unable to speak for themselves and in some cases may not even be able to talk yet.
Because they are minors, they do not have the legal right to make their own decisions in regard to their own care, with that right belonging to their parents or guardians.
A pediatric nurse practitioner, therefore, has to communicate with parents and children alike, a communication that may sometimes come with an educational focus such as teaching parents about preventive care to help safeguard the health of their children.
Pediatric nurse practitioners who want to be able to offer the highest possible standard of care for their patients may sometimes need to advocate for them, such as in the case of an autistic child who has symptoms that their parents may not have picked up on.
It is also the duty of a pediatric nurse practitioner to evaluate signs of abuse in patients, such as if an infant appears to be malnourished.
How to become a pediatric nurse practitioner
There are a number of steps that will need to be taken in order to become a pediatric nurse practitioner, including taking on online nursing programs.
The first step is to earn an associate’s or bachelor’s degree and then successfully pass the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN), after which it is then possible for them to put in an application for a state license to work as a registered nurse.
After they have received a license, a registered nurse is able to enroll in a master’s in nursing program that has a specialty in pediatrics that includes coursework in pharmacology, physiology and anatomy, and also hands-on physical experience.
Those who graduate from this program are then able to seek certification as a pediatric nurse practitioner.
For those who wish to pursue an advanced nursing degree, an online master’s of science program can provide students with the knowledge they will require for the completion of child-appropriate developmental and health screenings, the identification of hurdles to the mental and physical development of children, and the pinpointing of unhealthy lifestyle habits.
Students will also gain the skills they need to interpret diagnostic tests, perform in-office primary care procedures such as writing prescriptions, develop treatment plans, and refer acute or chronic cases to specialists.
There are a number of examples of coursework that a pediatric nurse practitioner is required to have successfully completed.
Health Promotion of the Pediatric Population is a course that teaches students about the promotion of health and the prevention of illness in children, as well as teaching about the incorporation of individual, ethnic, cultural and spiritual preferences in working with patients and their families.
Pediatric Assessment and Diagnosis is a course that teaches students how to manage patients within a primary care setting, including performing a patient history, conducting a physical exam, the use of diagnostic tools, and the interpretation of patient data in the making of diagnoses, in addition to teaching students about common pediatric illnesses.
The Advanced Pharmacotherapeutics course teaches students about the different ways that drugs interact with the bodies of young patients and the medications that are safe to prescribe for concurrent use, which is vital for nurses who may have to prescribe treatment regimes that include medication for children.
Where do pediatric nurse practitioners work?
Pediatric nurse practitioners can work in ambulatory care centers, hospitals, doctor’s offices and long-term care centers.
Pediatric nurse practitioners focus more on acute care than primary care in ambulatory care centers, dealing with patients who have more debilitating or chronic disabilities or illnesses.
In hospitals, pediatric nurse practitioners are again more focused on acute care specialties, working within nursing units such as neonatal or pediatric intensive care.
However, pediatric nurse practitioners focus to a greater degree on primary care when working in doctor’s offices, where the spotlight is on developmental screenings and monitoring, preventative care, and offering patients and their families educational resources.
In long-term care centers, where patients require daily health assistance or oversight, pediatric nurse practitioners use their expertise for caring for debilitated or chronically ill patients from infancy up to the age of 21.
Job outlook, skills and salary for pediatric nurse practitioners
Pediatric nursing places a number of unique extra demands on professionals in regard to advanced communication, critical thinking and interpersonal skills.
Professionals need to be able to interact with parents as well as young children, and a tremendous amount of compassion is needed, making it an emotionally taxing job, particularly for those in fields such as pediatric oncology, where young children are fighting cancer.
Although it is challenging, the role of a pediatric nurse practitioner can also be very rewarding. There is an excellent job outlook for nurse practitioners in every field, according to studies from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, with growth expected at a fast rate of 28% between 2018 and 2028.
The expected shortage of physicians will also make a contribution to this expansion, as a greater number of nurse practitioners will be required to fill the gap in primary care.
Facts about pediatric nurse practitioners
Pediatric nurse practitioners have an average of 15 years of experience, according to statistics.
A full-time pediatric nurse practitioner who has been certified in primary care will have the same average total annual income as a pediatric nurse practitioner who is certified in acute care, including base salary, incentive payments, productivity bonuses, and more.
Pediatrics and pediatrics subspecialties and primary care are the top clinical focus areas for pediatric nurse practitioners.
The top practice settings for pediatric nurse practitioners are hospital outpatient clinics, hospital inpatient units and private group practices.
Abdominal pain, otitis media and migraines were the top diagnoses reported as being treated by pediatric nurse practitioners.
Pediatric nurse practitioners essentially take on the roles of educator and caretaker, making sure that young patients and their families remain fully informed and receive the proper level of support.
Pediatric nurse practitioners can function without the oversight of a physician in many states in the US, which allows them to serve their patients in the manner of a primary care provider and to run their own practices.
Those who are seeking a career in medicine that allows for the independent diagnosis and treatment of patients, and also enables them to function as a trusted educator and ally to patients and their loved ones, may find it very rewarding to become a pediatric nurse practitioner.
Whether independent or otherwise, a pediatric nurse practitioner is relied upon to offer comprehensive and consistent care to patients, making sure that they are aware of any unique healthcare needs or risks.
As educators and providers, a pediatric nurse practitioner needs to build relationships with their patients by creating an environment in which any concerns or questions can freely be raised.
This enables communication with patients and parents to allow for the prioritization of overall health and wellness.
Pediatric nurse practitioners are vital to the healthcare team as they improve patient outcomes via making use of the nursing process of assessment, analysis, planning, implementation and evaluation.