Just like any other patient group, children need specialized care givers. As such there are specially trained registered nurses who perform nursing duties in children wards.
Children are a special group of patients who fear going to physicians, but pediatric nurses are trained to make a child fearless and comfortable when in a hospital environment. There are also special health conditions affecting children only and specializing on how to deal with them is all in the curriculum of a pediatric nurse degree program.
On the other hand, pediatric nurse degrees train nurses to perform diverse responsibilities including care for adolescents and teenagers. They may be involved in educating the youths on issues about relationships, healthy feeding habits, drug abuse among others. It’s all not about confinement within hospital walls after earning your pediatric nurse degree.
How do you Become a Pediatric Nurse?
Basically, any registered nurse can become a care-giver to any group of patients on a generalist basis. This means generalist pediatric nurses do have special training beyond the usual curriculum of other registered nurses (RN). Here are common pathways:
Registered Nurse Degrees
All children nurses starts as registered nurses by taking either an associate degree or Bachelor of Science in nursing degree (BSN). This enables the nurse to take the NLCELX-RN exam to become a registered nurse. An RN with an associate or BSN degree is able to work in a children ward or pediatric hospital on a generalist basis. Since such nurses receive no specialized training on care of children, they learn the skills of becoming pediatric nurses by taking advantage of on-the-job training.
Pediatric Nurse Graduate Degrees
Graduate degrees are a way of enabling Registered Nurses to move from a generalist to a specialized level in the care of pediatric patients. These degrees are specifically designed with courses covering issues affecting this group of patients. After completing a graduate level pediatric nurse degree, you can perform your duties autonomously and even acquire prescriptive authority. By taking graduate degrees, one becomes an advanced practice pediatric nurse and is able to take national Certified Pediatric Nurses exams. Below are pathways to earning a pediatric nurse degree at masters, DNP or PhD levels:
Master of Science in Nursing-Pediatric Nursing
The Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) in pediatric nursing is usually designed for BSN-prepared candidates. Some colleges and universities may ask for some RN experience in pediatric nursing to be eligible to apply. Three pathways exist at the MSN level:
MSN-Pediatric Nurse Practitioner
A pediatric nurse practitioner (PNP) is an advanced practice registered nurse (APRN) who has received extensive and specialized training in caring for pediatric patients. PNP take core MSN level courses during their first year and pediatrics specialty courses during their second year. They become experts in this field can even take extra pharmacology courses to gain prescriptive authority while handling their patients.
Normally, pediatric nurse practitioner programs; primary or acute care PNP programs, take two years to complete on a full time basis. At this point, you can take the Certified Pediatric Nurse Practitioner (CPNP) exam following guidelines given by the Pediatric Nursing Certification Board (PNCB). Besides PNCB, graduates can also become certified through:
- American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC)
- American Academy of Nurse Practitioner Certification Program
Upon completion of studies, a PNP graduate can work independently as the primary care giver to pediatric patients or can work under the supervision of a senior doctor.
MSN- Clinical Nurses Specialist
Clinical nurse specialists (CNS) are APRN who receive training with focus on one area of nursing. A pediatric clinical nurse specialist student has similar coursework as a PNP with a few differences in specialty courses. For the CNS, the outcomes of the MSN program are not entirely confined to direct clinical care giving. Instead, their scope involves evidence-based research, clinical leadership, ethical decision making and expert coaching and consultation on pediatric issues.
Post-Master Certificate in Pediatric Nursing
This program is designed for MSN prepared nurses who would wish to become certified as pediatric nurses. Often, those interested in this program are generalist MSN graduates who wish to specialize or APRN who are certified in another area but want to add pediatric certification. Compared to an entry-level MSN student, post-master certificate program are shorter since students have already covered all core MSN courses. Usually, post-master certificate programs take one year to complete. Upon completion, students become eligible to take national certification exams to become Certified pediatric nurse practitioners.