Pediatric nurses work exclusively with children and their families to ensure a child’s healthy well-being until reaching adulthood. Individuals in this career field have expertise not only in general health, but also have a strong understanding of how a child’s body grows and develops and the countless conditions that can affect that process.
Pediatric nurses provide a variety of services to their young patients ranging from offering preventive care, performing general screenings, making diagnoses and providing support to the patient’s family. This nursing focus is an exciting choice that will allow you to work closely with patients. But first, you must accomplish these five things in order to become a pediatric nurse.
- Obtain a Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing
Every career journey starts with a good foundation. For pediatric nursing, that foundation consists of obtaining a bachelor’s degree in nursing from an accredited university. During these programs, you’ll learn the basics of nursing and get exposure to the types of scenarios you’ll face in your career. Consider taking more specialized courses (if your school offers them) to develop your knowledge of pediatric nursing further, such as classes that cover child development or child psychology.
- Pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN)
After obtaining a bachelor’s degree, future pediatric nurses must pass the National Council Licensure Examination for registered nurses (NCLEX-RN). This is a general aptitude exam that tests the nurse’s knowledge of the general nursing concepts. By passing the NCLEX-RN, you’ll be able to acquire a license that allows you to begin practicing nursing.
- Get Exposure to the Job
Before becoming a pediatric nurse, you will need to gain some work experience in the pediatric field in order to become fully certified. You must either complete a minimum of 1,800 hours of pediatric clinical experience in the 24 months prior to sitting for the certification exam, or complete at least five years of work as an RN in pediatrics.
You will also need to complete 3,000 hours in pediatric nursing with at least 1,000 hours having occurred within the past 24 months. You may be able to get pediatric experience through hospital externships. Regardless of which route you take to certification, use this time to develop your skills and learn as much as possible as your experiences here will help you become a better pediatric nurse in the future.
- Potentially Pursue a Master’s Degree
You do not need a master’s degree in order to become a pediatric nurse. However, many future pediatric nurses get a master’s degree in order to enhance their knowledge, build their resume, and get exposure to unique opportunities. Furthermore, if you hope to become an advanced practice registered nurse (APRN), you will need to hold either a master’s or a Doctorate of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree. Pursuing a master’s degree can also be beneficial because you can log the clinical pediatric hours needed to become board certified while attending these programs.
- Get Certified as a Pediatric Nurse Through the Pediatric Nurse Certification Board
The final hurdle to becoming a pediatric nurse is sitting for the Certified Pediatric Nurse (CPN) exam. Unlike the NCLEX-RN exam, which generally tests your overall knowledge of nursing, the CPN exam requires you to demonstrate your knowledge of the important topics specific to pediatric nursing. The exam will test your understanding of managing illnesses, promoting health, and assessing patients. You will also have to pay a fee in order to sit for the exam. RNs that have completed a master’s program or Doctorate of Nursing Practice degree can also choose to sit for either the certified pediatric nurse practitioner-primary care (CPNP-PC) or certified pediatric nurse practitioner-acute care (CPNP-AC) examinations.
After all of that hard work, you will be in the clear to find a job as a pediatric nurse and begin a long and rewarding career helping children and families stay healthy.