Pediatric nurse practitioners serve as specialty health care providers for newborns, infants, toddlers, preschoolers, school-aged children, adolescents and young adults. These nurses work with patients from infancy into adulthood diagnosing illnesses, providing routine wellness exams, and preventing or managing acute or chronic conditions.1
As with any specialization in the nursing field, possessing certain skills, education and certifications may be important for a career as a pediatric nurse practitioner.
Skills and Characteristics
Nurse practitioners specializing in pediatric care tend to work with children from a very young age to adolescence. Since child patients can behave differently than adults and may not communicate well, it is important for potential pediatric nurse practitioners to understand the development of a child in relation to the normal anatomical, physiological and social behavior expected for their age. Effectively communicating with a child and accurately diagnosing health concerns are essential to this career.1
Nurse practitioners, in general, should also have certain personality traits and skills including:2
- Ability to communicate with patients and healthcare professionals
- Critical-thinking and detail-oriented mindset
- Compassion for patients experiencing emotional distress
- Resourcefulness to find answers in a timely fashion
Even with these abilities in hand, a prospective pediatric nurse practitioner must fulfill certain academic requirements and licensing.
Nurse practitioners, including those specialized in pediatrics, are considered advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs). ARPNs must have a registered nursing (RN) license before pursuing education in an advanced type of roll.2
In order to become an RN, a nursing candidate must first earn a diploma, associate degree or a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree from an accredited nursing program. The candidate is then required to pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) and become licensed through their state board of nursing.3 While there are multiple avenues available to become an registered nurse, APRN programs prefer candidates who have a bachelor’s degree in nursing.2
Following RN licensing, pediatric nurse practitioner candidates must receive a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree from an accredited graduate-level nursing program. Although a master’s degree is the most common form of entry-level education for APRNs, some choose to continue with their education and earn a doctoral degree in nursing either a Doctor of Nursing practice (DNP) or a Ph.D.2
Certifications and Licenses
In most states, ARPNs must become certified through a professional association in their specific clinical area.2 There are a few certification opportunities available for pediatric nurse practitioners, in particular.
Offered by the Pediatric Nursing Certification Board (PNCB), the Certified Pediatric Nurse Practitioner-Primary Care (CPNP-PC) is one option for certification. The CPNP-PC designation must be recertified every year.4 Other specialty certifications offered by the PNCB include Certified Pediatric Nurse (CPN), Certified Pediatric Nurse Practitioner-Acute Care (CPNP-AC), and Pediatric Primary Care Mental Health Specialist (PMHS) credential options.5
Another possibility, the Pediatric Primary Care Nurse Practitioner-Board Certified (PPCNP-BC) accreditation, is obtainable through the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC). The PPCNP-BC certification is valid for five years.6
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the job market for nurse anesthetists, nurse midwives, and nurse practitioners is favorable, with a projected growth of 31% through 2024. The growth will occur partly due to a higher demand for health care services. Factors that contribute to the demand include a large number of insured patients resulting from health care legislation and an increased emphasis on preventative care. APRNs will be needed to provide preventive and primary care in physicians’ offices, clinics and ambulatory care.7
What to Expect on a Day-to-Day Basis
The American Association of Nurse Practitioners, as of 2017, estimated that most pediatric nurse practitioners work in hospital outpatient clinics with a primary care clinical focus.8 For most of these nurses, daily activities may include the following:9
- Manage acute, chronic and critical pediatric diseases, including asthma, diabetes and cancer
- Provide regular pediatric health care maintenance and in-depth physical assessments
- Diagnose and treat common childhood illnesses or health concerns like allergies, otitis, acne, nutritional issues, obesity and weight management
- Prescribe medication, therapies and medical equipment
- Order and interpret results of laboratory and diagnostic tests
- Provide behavioral counseling in areas such as school failure, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and risk-taking behaviors
- Develop and evaluate therapeutic management plans
- Screen and manage mental health illnesses
- Perform developmental screenings, school physicals or provide childhood immunizations
- Analyze the family system to identify factors that may influence the health of a child, including family dynamics, values, stresses, and management or coping with chronic illnesses
No matter the workplace or daily responsibilities, nurses looking to move forward in their career by specializing in the care of children may find that becoming a pediatric nurse practitioner is a very rewarding career path.
Earn a BSN Degree from CTU
Colorado Technical University offers an RN-to-BSN program, as well as master’s degree in nursing. The Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree program at Colorado Technical University is accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (http://www.ccneaccreditation.org). Learn more about CTU’s nursing degree programs.