How to Become a Pediatric Nurse

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5 Steps to Becoming a Pediatric Nurse

Step 1 Complete a Bachelor of Science Degree in Nursing.

This is widely considered the baseline educational attainment for registered nursing professionals. Although some nursing schools offer associate degree and diploma programs, registered nurses typically are required to hold a BSN or equivalent degree, especially those who work in hospitals. RNs with associate’s degrees often further their education by completing RN-to-BSN programs to satisfy the educational requirements of the profession. Students who earn nursing degrees from an accredited nursing school are eligible to sit for the national certification exam.

Step 2 Pass the NCLEX-RN exam.

The National Council Licensure Exam is administered by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing. The standardized exam provides an assessment of candidate’s competencies to meet four core patient needs: providing a safe and effective care environment; health promotion and maintenance; psychosocial integrity and physiological integrity. All registered nurses and licensed vocational nurses must pass the NCLEX exam.

Step 3 Gain on-the-job experience.

Nursing is a wide profession encompassing dozens of different positions within various healthcare settings. Licensed RNs who desire to work in pediatrics should apply for positions in a hospital’s pediatric or similar department. Requirements for the certified pediatric nurse credential include a minimum of 1,800 hours of clinical experience in pediatrics within a two-year period.

Step 4 Decide if you want to pursue a Master’s Degree.

All advanced practice registered nurses (APRN) hold master’s or Doctor of Nurse Practicing degrees. Nurses who seek certified pediatric nurse practitioner designations must meet this educational requirement. Students in these programs log clinical pediatric instructional hours, which can be used toward the minimum clinical requirement established by the Pediatric Certification Nursing Board.

Step 5 Pass a certification examination.

RNs with the required clinical experience can sit for the CPN exam. RNs who have completed M.S. or D.N.P degree programs can sit for the certified pediatric nurse practitioner-primary care or certified pediatric nurse practitioner-acute care examinations.

FAQ on Becoming a Pediatric Nurse

  • There are many resources available for pediatric nurse job seekers. Among the most popular are national job boards such as Indeed, Glassdoor, CareerBuilder, Monster and ZipRecruiter. There are many specialty job boards for nursing professionals as well, including Nurse Recruiter, Nurse.com, Nursingjobs.com and Health eCareers. The Society of Pediatric Nurses has an employment center, and hospitals also usually post available positions on internal job boards or on their web sites.

  • Yes. The Society for Pediatric Nurses awards two scholarships each year at its annual conference in April. The site nursingscholarships.us also provides a list of scholarships for nurses, as does the online community Nurse Journal.

  • Yes. There are many well-respected industry organizations dedicated to pediatric care specialties (a list of 10 is provided below). Membership in these organizations can lead to increased career prospects, a deeper understanding of optimal care practices, and other tangible benefits.

  • Organizations such as the National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners typically offer a wealth of important career resources, from career path and long-term goal planning to job search strategies, tip on creating winning resumes and curriculum vitae and resume review. These resources can give job seekers an edge, especially for highly competitive pediatric nursing positions.

  • Guidance here depends entirely upon the student and the program. For instance, Duke University’s School of Nursing reports that students pursuing DNP degrees typically work full- or part-time. However, some programs require a full-time study commitment that inhibits full-time employment (or creates a very difficult school-work balance). Working RNs who wish to remain employed while earning advanced degrees should search for programs that don’t require full-time study.

Pediatric Nurse Salary, Employment and Job Growth

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were just over 2.9 million registered nurses working in 2017. The BLS does not parse out the number of pediatric nursing professionals employed in the U.S. from the pool of RNs or nurse practitioners.

However, the National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners reports that in 2015 there were more than 18,000 nurses who held its two specialty nurse practitioner certifications, and the Pediatric Nursing Certification Board reports that more than 25,000 RNs have earned the certified Pediatric Nurse credential.

Median annual wages for RNs in 2017 was $70,000, the BLS reports. However, wages for nurses in specialty fields such as pediatrics can be higher, especially if they complete graduate-level degrees and demonstrate their competency by earning certifications such as the Certified Pediatric Nurse designation. Median annual wages for nurse practitioners, meanwhile, was $103,880. The higher salary is commensurate with their higher level of education and greater range of responsibilities. For both professions, wages were higher in hospitals than other healthcare settings. Wages also increase for mid-career and highly experienced professionals versus entry-level candidates.

According to Payscale.com, the average annual salary for pediatric nurse practitioners in the U.S. was $85,815. Pediatric nurses, meanwhile, earned median annual wages of $57,360. Wages likely are higher for more specialized positions, such as pediatric operating room nurse, pediatric emergency room nurse, or pediatric oncology nurse practitioner.

Alabama Mean wage annual: $94,880
Currently Employed: 3,230
Change in Employment (2016-2026): 32.80%
Alaska Mean wage annual: $125,140
Currently Employed: 440
Change in Employment (2016-2026): 18.90%
Arizona Mean wage annual: $104,190
Currently Employed: 3,120
Change in Employment (2016-2026): 34.80%
Arkansas Mean wage annual: $95,230
Currently Employed: 1,830
Change in Employment (2016-2026): 36.30%
California Mean wage annual: $126,770
Currently Employed: 13,570
Change in Employment (2016-2026): 38.90%
Colorado Mean wage annual: $110,440
Currently Employed: 2,810
Change in Employment (2016-2026): 42.70%
Connecticut Mean wage annual: $118,500
Currently Employed: 2,220
Change in Employment (2016-2026): 25.50%
Delaware Mean wage annual: $105,380
Currently Employed: 650
Change in Employment (2016-2026): 28.50%
Florida Mean wage annual: $99,930
Currently Employed: 10,380
Change in Employment (2016-2026): 46.80%
Georgia Mean wage annual: $103,890
Currently Employed: 5,200
Change in Employment (2016-2026): 52.70%
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Nursing professionals are in high demand due to America’s rapidly aging population and its continued battles against diabetes and obesity. According to the BLS, the number of registered nurses is expected to grow 15 percent, or 438,100 new jobs, through 2026. The online community Nurse Journal estimates similar demand for pediatric nurses.

According to the Institute of Pediatric Nursing, nearly a third of all pediatric nurses work in standalone children’s hospitals, while another 28 percent work in children’s hospitals associated with a major medical center. Just under 10 percent work in community hospitals.

Finding a Pediatric Nurse Program

There are many different considerations that go into choosing a pediatric nursing program. Students who enroll at a nearby college don’t have to weigh as many factors (location, class size, placement of clinical rotations, etc.), but students who pursue online nursing degrees have a lot more options to consider.

Here are a few of the primary factors students should weight before applying to a nursing program:

  • What’s the end goal? Working as a pediatric nurse in a hospital typically requires a minimum educational attainment of a Bachelor of Science in nursing degree. Earning one of the specialty certifications in pediatric nursing or working as a nurse practitioner requires graduate-level education. Placing the end-goal in mind narrows down what type of degree to pursue.
  • Cost. Tuition cost should be a primary consideration prior to making a long-term commitment to a college or university. Ensuring adequate funding is available to complete the program prior to enrollment helps avoid any missteps or financial hardships. Keep in mind that tuition costs are much higher for out-of-state students – cost-minded students may have to choose a college in their home state.
  • Length. How much time can you realistically dedicate to your studies? First-year college students who wish to work as pediatric nurse practitioners are looking at roughly six full years of study between their bachelor’s and master’s degrees. A lot can change in that span.
  • Type of program. Today’s students have more options than ever before with accelerated degrees, online degrees, self-guided degrees, hybrid degrees, and of course, on-campus degree programs. Knowing what type of program best fits your learning style helps alleviate difficulties in completing the program.

Other factors to consider include location, accreditation, specialties offered, and NCLEX-RN exam pass rates.

Use the search tool below to help begin narrowing down the search for the right nursing education program.

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Top 10 Pediatric Nurse Associations & Groups

Pediatric nursing associations provide a wealth of resources for nursing professionals, including networking opportunities, national conferences, continuing education, job search strategies, interviewing tips and many forms of personal development. Membership in these organizations promotes opportunities to develop key industry relationships, as well as build and refine nursing skills and care practices.

These are 10 of the top industry organizations for pediatric nurses and pediatric nurse practitioners:

  • NAPNAP – National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners

    This organization founded in 1973 has some 9,000 members, which includes advanced practice pediatric nurse practitioners, child healthcare experts, noted authors and professionals working in the pediatric healthcare industry.

  • SPN – Society of Pediatric Nurses

    Founded in 1990, the SPN has more than 3,330 members who are pediatric nurse professionals working in 28 different pediatric specialties. The organization promotes career advancement for pediatric nurses through many different educational resources, networking opportunities, annual conferences, webinars and the like. Members also receive a subscription to the Journal of Pediatric Nursing.

  • IPN – Institute of Pediatric Nursing

    Provides a unified voice for the nation’s various pediatric nursing associations and is a standing committee of the Pediatric Nursing Certification Board.

  • APHON – Association of Pediatric Hematology/Oncology Nurses

    The APHON provides educational, leadership and career resources for pediatric nurses who work with patients suffering from cancer or blood disorders.

  • APSNA – American Pediatric Surgical Nurses Association

    Founded in 1992, this organization promotes excellence among pediatric surgical nursing professionals through continuing education, networking, peer support, professional development and annual conferences. Members also receive subscriptions to the Journal of Pediatric Surgical Nursing.

  • SPCN – Society of Pediatric Cardiovascular Nurses

    This international organization founded in 1985 is dedicated to fostering pediatric cardiovascular nursing knowledge and care practices for infant/child patients with heart disease.

  • PES – Pediatric Endocrine Society

    Organization of more than 1,200 members that’s dedicated to increasing nursing knowledge and promoting health of children and adolescents afflicted with bone, reproductive, thyroid, adrenal, pituitary and related disorders.

  • APGNN – Association of Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition Nurses

    Founded in 1989, this organization promotes professional educational opportunities for pediatric nurses who care for children with gastrointestinal conditions.

  • NASN – National Association of School Nurses

    National organization dedicated to optimizing student health and increasing educational opportunities for school nurses.

  • AACCN – American Association of Critical Care Nurses

    Promotes educational opportunities, standards of nursing excellence and certifications for critical care nurses, many of whom work in pediatrics.

Additional Resources for Pediatric Nurses

From mobile phone apps to websites, there’s no shortage of resources to help pediatric nurses do their jobs more efficiently and gain additional knowledge about their specialty nursing field. Here’s a handful:

  • Pediatric Nursing Certification Board

    Certification body for the most widely recognized pediatric nursing certifications.

  • PediatricNurse.Org

    A top online resource for nurses interested in pediatrics that provides a wealth of resources on how to become a pediatric nurse.

  • Pedi QuikCalc

    Ranked as one of the top-10 apps for pediatrics, Pedi QuikCalc provides easy weight-based drug dosages, weight conversion from kilos to pounds, body mass index per age and other key functions.

  • AAP – American Academy of Pediatrics

    Provides professional resources, educational opportunities and advocacy at federal, state and local levels for issues that impact U.S. children.

  • Medical Spanish

    This app helps non-Spanish-speaking nurses better communicate and overcome language barriers with Hispanic patients.

  • HealthChildren.org

    Sponsored by the American Academy of Pediatrics, this site can be a valuable tool for pediatric nursing professional to help educate parents on childhood health and wellness issues such as nutrition, fitness, safety and the importance of immunizations.