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Pediatric Nurse Salary and Career Guide: All You Need to Know

Pediatric Nurse Salary and Career Guide: All You Need to Know

Registered nurses specializing in children’s health and overall care are called pediatric nurses. Licensed to treat children from birth to 18 years old, pediatric nurses take blood samples, perform complete physical examinations, order diagnostic and imaging tests and evaluate a child’s vital statistics. Pediatric nurses also do developmental screenings, give vaccinations and educate parents on children’s health issues. Sound interesting? Keep reading our pediatric nurse salary and career guide to learn more!

What are the Top 5 Tasks Performed By Pediatric Nurses?

The primary role of a pediatric nurse is to ensure children receive optimal care in a clinical setting. Other tasks include:

  • Supporting physicians and surgeons involved in the treatment of an ill child—this support is usually in the form of providing information about vitals, giving doctors up-to-date descriptions of emerging symptoms and completing functions as requested.
  • Educating parents about caring for children who have been discharged following outpatient surgery or hospitalization. How to give medications, dietary restrictions and level of physical activity are some things pediatric nurses discuss with parents before taking their child home.
  • Using knowledge of child psychology to talk to children, calm them during treatment and prepare them for surgery. Pediatric nurses are trained to soothe frightened children or encourage children who are unwilling to talk to communicate their symptoms and fears. Pediatric nurses in clinical settings may wear everyday clothes instead of white smocks or “doctor” apparel to avoid scaring children who associate “the doctor’s office” with shots or uncomfortable treatments.
  • Some pediatric nurses with many years of experience may supervise other nurses in large hospitals. They may also be involved in training newly hired pediatric nurses and perform evaluations on new hires.
  • Upon examining a sick child, pediatric nurses will inform doctors of their initial assessment and suggest one or more diagnoses to help physicians come to a determination regarding their own diagnosis.

Where Do Pediatric Nurses Work?

Work environments of pediatric nurses include physician’s offices, hospitals, neighborhood medical clinics, outpatient surgical centers and local health care facilities treating low-income children. The ability of a pediatric nurse to comfort sick infants and children in neonatal units, oncology wards and critical care units makes these nurses indispensable to hospitals with pediatric, care-intensive departments.

Pediatric nurses may also be employed by schools or other organizations providing preventive medical care services in areas where access to health care is difficult. Pediatric nurses who have private practices are pediatric nurse practitioners who have completed a masters or doctorate degree in nursing. They have also completed a state-specified number of hours working under the supervision of a pediatrician or medical doctor.

How To Become a Pediatric Nurse

Completion of an accredited registered nursing program is necessary before obtaining a pediatric nursing license. Students should enroll in a nursing program that leads to earning a bachelor’s degree in nursing (BSN). Upon being awarded a BSN degree, students will need to pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN) to get their license to practice as a registered nurse.

Accredited undergraduate RN programs devote several courses to treating infants and children. Clinical experience and internships are prerequisites of earning a BSN, which could lead to students becoming employed immediately after graduation. Nursing students wanting to work as pediatric nurses should focus their clinical experiences in the field of pediatrics.

Examples of pediatric nursing courses included in a BSN program:

  • Interpreting examination and laboratory results (using data to improve diagnoses and treatment recommendations)
  • Common pediatric illnesses and healthcare needs of infants and children under 12 years old (typically followed by a separate course concerning the physical and psychological problems of adolescents)
  • Developmental child psychology
  • Infectious diseases and immunizations
  • Childhood disabilities
  • Chronic illnesses in children (diabetes, cancer, genetic disorders)
  • Public health policies, guidelines and theories (educating parents, teachers and other community leaders about the health needs of children)

Students can obtain their pediatric nurse certification by taking examinations given by the Pediatric Nursing Certification Board or the American Nurses Credentialing Center. To be eligible to take the PNCB, students must have:

  • An active license to work as a registered nurse in the United States or other U.S. territory
  • Proof of working at least 1,800 hours in clinical pediatric environments. These hours must have been completed within the past two years. OR
  • At least five years of experience working as a registered nurse in pediatric nursing AND at least 3,000 hours in a pediatric nursing setting in the most recent five years

Students should also know that the CPN examination is not specifically intended for nurses working only in hospitals. Additional clinical experience considered eligible for taking the exam includes clinical research, school nursing, emergency pediatric nursing, public health, ambulatory care and home health care.

Nationally recognized for the Magnet Recognition Program (Magnet designation), the CPN certification is considered a prestigious certification by hospitals looking for pediatric nurses. Developed originally by the American Nurses Credentialing Center, the MRP identifies hospitals and other healthcare organizations providing consistently high levels of patient care and nursing excellence. U.S. consumers depend on Magnet designations when choosing hospitals because this recognition indicates the hospital is an exceptionally run and staffed, “gold standard” type of medical facility.

American Nurses Credentialing Center Exam

The examination for pediatric nursing certification given by the ANCC is based on the experience and competency of the RN taking the test. Eligibility requirements for taking the ANCC exam include:

  • Having worked at least two years as a registered nurse
  • Showing proof of working at least 2,000 hours in a clinical pediatric nursing environment within the past three years
  • Completing at least 30 hours of continuing education courses in pediatric nursing within the past three years

CPNs must recertify their license every year. Recertification of pediatric nursing licenses requires completion of continuing education classes (CECs). These classes may be offered by independent education organizations, professional organizations, hospitals or other medical facilities. Awarded contact hours provided by CECs are considered “non-accredited.” However, be aware that nurses cannot have over 50 of their contact hours coming from non-accredited sources.

Pediatric Nurse Specialists vs. Neonatal Nurse Specialists

A pediatric nurse is not a neonatal nurse. Neonatal nurses work with premature, acutely sick infants in hospitals. Larger hospitals have at least one floor dedicated to treating extremely ill infants. Most neonatal nurses have a master’s degree and special licensing that allows them to care for extremely ill infants. They also collaborate with doctors called neonatologists who work solely with pre-term and full-term infants. Many pediatric nurses want to work as a  neonatal nurse after they are initially exposed to neonatal departments in hospitals operating in urban and metropolitan areas. Earning a license as a neonatal nurse requires one or two years of additional formal education, accumulating a certain number of clinical practice hours and taking the neonatal nurse exam given by the National Certification Cooperation (NCC).

Annual Pediatric Nurse Salary

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), registered nurses earned nearly $72,000 (median salary) in 2018. The BLS does not distinguish between registered nurse salaries and a pediatric nurse salary so it may be assumed nurses specializing in a certain field of medicine will make slightly more than a general RN.

Located in Salt Lake City, UT, Nightingale College states that Washington, Minnesota, Illinois, Texas, Nevada and Arizona pay the highest wages for registered nurses (between $88,000 and $93,000). States paying the lowest wages for RNs include most of the New England states and Washington, D.C. (between $46,000 and $75,000). In addition to geographical areas, certain factors can influence the pediatric nurse salary, including years of experience working as a pediatric nurse and if the nurse specializes in specific areas such as neonatal or genetic disorders.

What is the Job Outlook for Pediatric Nurses?

The BLS reports prospective and current registered nurses can expect a 15 percent increase in the number of open positions between now and 2026. The estimated openings for registered nursing positions over the next 10 years is approximately 438,000. Like most other medical and healthcare positions, RNs and pediatric nurses will remain in high demand as the baby boomers (those born between 1946 and 1964) continue aging and subsequently requiring more medical care.

Additionally, rapid advances in the medical sciences are making it possible for adults to live well into their 80s and 90s. Some experts think the need for pediatric nurses is going to increase because so many parents are raising young children while taking care of their aging parents. In many cases, parents working two and sometimes three jobs would rather take sick children to pediatricians for quicker diagnosis and treatment of illnesses than a primary care physician who does not have the educated insight into childhood illnesses that pediatricians and pediatric nurses do.

Learn More About Working as a Pediatric Nurse

Visit the website of the Society of Pediatric Nurses, the Institute of Pediatric Nursing or the Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners for more insight into the field of pediatric nursing.

Feel free to contact us for more information!

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