Pediatric nurse with child and father

What is a pediatric nurse?

Pediatric nurses treat infants, children, and adolescents in various healthcare settings. For example, they can work in hospitals or physician’s offices, supporting young patients and their parents/caregivers.

These nurses specialize in pediatrics, a discipline of medicine devoted to the healthcare of children from birth through young adulthood. 

Pediatric nurses deeply understand child development, childhood diseases, and the unique healthcare needs of young patients. Some even specialize in different areas of medicine, such as allergies, cardiology, and oncology (cancer). 

What does pediatric mean?

Pediatric, or pediatrics, is the branch of medicine that focuses on diagnosing and treating children and adolescents. Pediatric care ranges from birth through age 18. In some clinics, adults up to 20 will still see pediatricians and nurses. 

The unique scope of pediatrics makes it an exciting field with a vastly different approach to healthcare. Treating children and their common ailments requires a different approach from treating adults. So, someone who becomes a pediatric nurse must learn the specific requirements for managing the healthcare of younger patients. 

What is the difference between a pediatric nurse and a registered nurse (RN)?

Pediatric nurses work exclusively with patients 18 and younger. As a result, they have a unique understanding of childhood diseases and health conditions, and they must be able to collaborate with parents and caregivers as they tend to their patients.

Most patients in pediatric care have limited medical history and usually only one or two medical problems. So, in many instances, pediatric care is much more straightforward than adult care.

RNs must have a broader understanding of disease pathology and be comfortable working with patients of all ages, ranging from a 20-something with no prior health problems to an 80-year-old with chronic conditions. 

This isn’t to say that pediatrics requires less knowledge, however. On the contrary, pediatric medicine is a specialty, meaning a nurse must not only train to become an RN but also follow up their primary education with specialized experience and courses in pediatrics.

What qualifications does a pediatric nurse need?

To become a pediatric nurse, you must hold a valid RN license in your state and a CPN certification. CPN stands for a certified pediatric nurse, and you can earn this credential by passing the CPN exam issued by the pediatric nursing certification board (PNBC). 

To become a CPN, you’ll need a minimum of 1,800 hours as an RN in a pediatric setting in the past 24 months, or at least five years in pediatric nursing, and 3,000 hours in pediatric care in the last five years. 

You can use the hours you earn during a pediatric nursing residency to count toward your CPN eligibility. 

What work does a pediatric nurse do day to day?

Pediatric nurses examine patients, administer shots, draw blood, collect diagnostics samples, and take vitals. They also collaborate with physicians, talk with parents/caregivers, and comfort young patients who often experience fear and anxiety in healthcare settings.

In hospitals, pediatric nurses perform daily care for young patients admitted. They will feed patients, bathe them, change diapers, and keep them company. However, providing emotional support is just as crucial for a child's development.

Every day is about giving children the greatest attention, compassion, and care. No matter what their ailments are, pediatric nurses are there to administer care with a smile. 

Where do pediatric nurses work?

Pediatric nurses work in regular hospitals, children’s hospitals, medical clinics, family health practices, and pediatrician offices. Some also work in schools and treat children as the lead school nurse. 

What is it like to be a pediatric nurse?

Pediatric nursing is a heartwarming job filled with lots of smiles and laughter. You have to be a constant source of comfort and positivity for your patients, so you need a sense of humor and a willingness to act silly if it makes their experience a little easier to deal with.

Whether they’re visiting for a regular checkup or hospitalized to undergo cancer treatment, every pediatric patient needs a nurse they can count on.

You get to support children as they heal and grow while also being a source of comfort and education for parents and caregivers.

The job can sometimes be challenging, especially when you work with children with terminal diagnoses or severe health problems. Losing a patient is never easy, and it can be particularly devastating when a child's life is cut short. 

But overall, being a pediatric nurse is a wonderful job that’s rewarding if you enjoy being around kids and want to make a difference in their lives.

How much do pediatric nurses make?

Nurse salaries aren’t fixed; some pediatric nurses can earn more than others, depending on their years of experience and location. The average pediatric nurse's salary in the United States is $69,473.96. However, wages for pediatric nurses range from $69,000 to over $100,000.

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Are there different specialties of pediatric nurses?

Yes! Pediatric nurses can choose a subspecialty to work with a particular set of patients. Typical pediatric nurse specialties include pediatric hematology and oncology, cardiology, pediatric surgery, pediatric intensive care (PICU), and neonatal nursing. 

Advantages and disadvantages of a career as a pediatric nurse

Below are several pros and cons of working as a pediatric nurse. While the field has plenty of advantages, there are also some challenges you should know about as you consider this career option. These advantages and disadvantages highlight some of the strengths and setbacks of being a pediatric nurse, which will help you decide whether it’s the right career path for you.

Advantages of choosing a career as a pediatric nurse

1) Work with children

Working with children is a pediatric nurse's most appealing and rewarding part. They love spending time with their patients, getting to know them, and helping them heal and grow. Even though many of them can face serious health problems, they are incredibly resilient and often inspire the adults around them to be better people.

2) Diverse career options

Whether you want to work with patients in a children’s hospital or be part of a family health practice, a pediatric nurse can work in many places. You can even become a school nurse if you want to work in a more laid-back setting. 

Being a pediatric nurse also provides new opportunities every day. From administering vaccinations to collaborating with physicians, there is always something new to do.

3) Make a difference in people’s lives

Ask any parent whose child has been hospitalized, and they’ll tell you what a difference pediatric nurses have made in their lives. These nurses aren’t only a source of comfort to patients; they help parents and caregivers get through challenging times. 

People remember their hope, strength, and persistence for years. Some hospitalized children are so inspired by their nurses that they choose to become nurses themselves. 

4) Dedicate yourself to a fulfilling career

Job satisfaction is not always easy to come by, but for passionate pediatric nurses, it’s a guarantee. You are there to support children throughout their lives and, sometimes, during the most critical periods of their health. You get to watch your patients improve directly because of your care, and it’s enriching to see the difference that your presence, skills, and compassion make in their lives.

Disadvantages of choosing a career as a pediatric nurse

1) Difficulty communicating with patients

When many of your patients haven’t even learned how to walk, communicating with them can be challenging. Pediatric nurses must learn the unspoken language of children to understand how to identify symptoms. Even older children may not always know how to voice their feelings, which can pose challenges as you perform assessments.

2) Anger from parents

Seeing your child suffer is the most challenging thing a parent can go through. Unfortunately, watching them in pain and feeling helpless can cause many parents or caregivers to lash out at nurses and physicians. 

You will likely be on the receiving end of parents’ frustration at some point or another. Therefore, it’s important to practice empathy and remember where their emotions come from — the desire for their children to only be healthy and happy.

3) Losing patients

It’s never easy for a nurse to have a patient pass away. It can be challenging for pediatric nurses to spend a child’s last moments with them or try to save them. In addition to witnessing the children's pain, watching their parents grieve and mourn can be incredibly painful for the nurses.  You must have a sound support system and resources to turn to for coping with the trauma you might experience. 

How to become a pediatric nurse

You can earn an associate’s degree in nursing (ADN) or a bachelor’s degree (BSN) to start your career as a pediatric nurse. Nursing school in the United States typically lasts 2 to 4 years, and you’ll spend your education in a mix of classroom lectures and clinical rotations at hospitals and other healthcare facilities. 

After you’ve passed the national exam for nurses (NCLEX), you can begin looking for pediatric jobs. You could apply for positions at a pediatrician’s office, family health clinic, or pediatric hospital ward.

Because pediatric care in hospitals has more seriously ill patients, at least 1 to 2 years of prior experience is often required. 

You can also work a pediatric nursing residency shortly after graduation to gain valuable clinical experience that will help you find other jobs in the future. Nursing residencies can last up to 1 year, so they’re perfect for new nurses who want to gain clinical experience as licensed RNs.

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Frequently asked questions about pediatric nurses

How long does it take to become a pediatric nurse?

It takes approximately four years to become a pediatric nurse and six years if you earn a bachelor’s degree. 

What is the highest-paid pediatric nurse?

The highest earning pediatric nurses make over six figures, and they can either hold CPNs or PNPs. PNPs are pediatric nurse practitioners. They are advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) with master’s degrees and extensive clinical experience with children and adolescents. 

The average salary for a PNP is $112,900, according to

What is the difference between a pediatric nurse and a pediatric nurse practitioner (PNP)?

Pediatric nurse practitioners have higher education and have spent extensive time working in pediatric nursing. They have greater responsibilities than pediatric nurses, and they can see patients independently, make diagnoses, and write prescriptions for medication. A PNP is one step below a pediatrician, a medical doctor.

What skills does a pediatric nurse need?

You need many skills unrelated to nursing to thrive in pediatric care. Here are a few of them:

  • Empathy. You must feel what your patients do and be emotionally present during treatment. Children are sensitive to adults’ reactions and responses. So they’ll look to you for guidance and comfort during medical procedures. 

  • Creativity. You must be willing to speak children’s language and get imaginative. They cannot answer questions about their healthcare directly. You’ll need to employ different strategies that help them express what’s happening in their bodies. 

  • Teamwork. Pediatric nurses work alongside other nurses, pediatricians, and other specialists in their patients’ care. They recognize the importance of a united healthcare team and ensure they always fulfill their role.

  • Time management. You will be responsible for multiple patients throughout every shift. You must balance their needs with administrative tasks, such as record keeping and collecting lab samples for diagnostic tests. 

Can you become a pediatric nurse in nursing school?

No, you will first graduate with an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in nursing. You may gain some experience in pediatric care during your schooling, but you have to become a licensed RN before becoming a certified pediatric nurse.