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Pediatric Nurse Practitioner Basics: The Salary and Rewards of Becoming One

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If you are interested in venturing into the world of nurse practitioner jobs, know that you have plenty of opportunities before you. To narrow down your selection, if you love children and healthcare, why not consider a career as a pediatric nurse?

Pediatric nurse practitioners (PNPs) are one of the strongest nurses in the field. They practice advanced treatment and communication techniques since they work with children. Working with young patients who are unable to talk yet or decide on their healthcare requires a unique insight into diagnostics. So, if you work as a pediatric nurse, you’ll receive a good salary, compensation and plenty of experience.

Do Pediatric Nurses Make Good Money?

So how much does a pediatric nurse make?

As of July 2021, the average pediatric nurse earns a salary of $114,700. Pediatric nurse practitioners have a salary range that falls between $96,000 and $126,000. The salary depends on many important factors such as educational background, experience, skills and certifications.

A pediatric nurse who possesses years of experience and works at a prestigious private hospital can earn more than an entry-level nurse working for a smaller clinic. Still, the average weekly salary of a pediatric nurse is $1,244, which is higher than other nurse salaries (for some nurse practitioner jobs, the starting range is only $200).

The high salary of a pediatric nurse is justified by how specialized their roles are. Becoming a pediatric nurse requires a combination of patience and love for children (and their parents) and being courageous in the face of their health concerns.

What Does a Pediatric Nurse Do?

Nurse wheeling in a baby
Photo by 东旭 王 on Unsplash

Pediatric nurses serve at hospitals, private pediatric practices and health clinics. Their patients are mostly babies, children and teens. Apart from the typical nursing abilities, pediatric nurses must possess an advanced understanding of childhood development so they can administer age-appropriate medications and treatment, as well as interact and communicate properly with their young patients.

The level of communication skills and patience required of a pediatric nurse justify the salary. These nurses must observe the child’s behavior, looking for symptoms that the patient may be unable to communicate themselves.

On top of that, pediatric nurses must deal with the parents, who are a constant presence during the child’s medication or treatment. They must educate the parents and caregivers about the right way to improve the child’s health and provide general care. Pediatric nurses are responsible for keeping their patients (and the parents) secure and safe in a healthcare environment, especially now in the time of a pandemic.

Pediatric Nurse Job Description

The unique combination of expert nursing skills and advanced medical knowledge that a pediatric nurse brings to the table simplifies life in pediatric wards. Pediatric nurses are encouraged to practice a holistic approach in nursing while honing their treatment and diagnostic skills.

Pediatric nurses work in different specialty areas and can take on a variety of tasks. However, most pediatric nurse practitioners share certain job duties, such as:

  • Physical exams and diagnostics. Pediatric nurses are in charge of physical examinations and diagnoses of younger patients. They must be well-versed in communicating with kids, especially those who are easily frightened by hospitals. Pediatric nurses must know how to empathically break the ice and get more information from the patient without scaring them.
  • Updating and monitoring the patient’s wellness. Although pediatric nurse practitioners can perform many advanced procedures, they are expected to know the fundamentals, which include updating and monitoring the needs of patients.
  • Communicating and coordinating with families, guardians and medical staff. Pediatric nurses must also have an edge when it comes to communication. They combine their medical knowledge with their ground-level view of the patient and their families. This places PNPs in a unique position where they communicate the family’s concern to the doctor, explain complex procedures to the family and finishing some admin work.
  • Handling patient well-being and comfort. Pediatric nurses must have plenty of patience, understanding and empathy. You must love kids. You must also be passionate about easing the anxiety and pain of your young patients. This could involve handing out hugs, explaining a procedure in kid-friendly terms or arranging access to requested games or entertainment.
  • Providing immediate care for injuries and illnesses. A huge chunk of a pediatric nurse’s to-do list involves direct care. Performing specialized and general procedures is your important contribution to the well-being of your patient.

nurse holding a newborn baby

The role of a pediatric nurse also depends on where they are working. For example:

  • If you work in private practice, you offer comprehensive, long-term and continuous care to patients. You are in charge of tracking their developmental progress, monitoring their overall health status and keeping up with their basic treatments.
  • If you work in a hospital pediatric ward, your responsibilities are similar to that of PNPs in private practices but you may be working in acute care. Pediatric nurses in hospital wards treat and diagnose vulnerable, unstable and critically ill children in the PICU (Pediatric Intensive Care Unit), NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit) or emergency rooms.
  • If you work in a surgical setting, you function as an assistant to the surgeon working on the pediatric case. They are responsible for performing basic surgery procedures like dressing up wounds, wound site closure and handling other elements of the surgery.
  • If you work in a community health center, you’ll be in charge of different roles, which range from handling acute care cases to primary care treatments.

How to be a Pediatric Nurse

Nursing students learn how to care for younger patients via guided clinical experiences and formal courses. However, undergraduate nursing curriculums do not offer specialization for pediatric nurses.

To start specializing in pediatric nursing, however, you have to be a registered nurse first. Some employers require an applicant to have a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) while others are content with an associate’s degree. The bachelor’s degree programs in nursing include additional education in social and physical sciences, critical thinking, leadership and communication.

Pediatric nurses must also pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN). It’s also a plus if they received specialized training in interacting with the kids.

Finally, you must get a certification from the Pediatric Nurse Certification Board either during or before your employment.

“How long does it take to become a pediatric nurse?” many ask. A bachelor’s degree will take four years. Once you’ve earned your BSN degree, you apply for a master’s degree program, which can take up to two years. You’ll be studying for a total of six years or more, especially if you get certified or apply for a license.

How to Increase Your Salary as a Pediatric Nurse

The top 10 percent of registered nurses earn a median yearly income of $116,000. The lowest 10 percent of the RN population earns $53,000. Education, certifications and experience can positively impact a pediatric nurse’s salary.

Self-improvement is the key to better salaries. So if you’re interested in becoming a PNP or a pediatric nurse practitioner who wants to increase their salary, consider the following:

  • Increase your level of education. Earn $17,000 more than other nurses by gaining a doctorate degree! A rule of thumb in earning a higher salary as a pediatric nurse is to earn advanced degrees.
  • Pursue certifications. To earn a certification in pediatric nursing, you must complete at least 3,000 hours of clinical experience for five years as a pediatric nurse or 1,800 hours of pediatric clinical experience for two years. If you meet these requirements, you’ll be eligible to take the CPN exam. Once you receive your certification, you can earn around $10,000 yearly.
  • Gain experience in management roles. Some pediatric nurses gain professional and financial benefits by training as managers. Management roles like charge nurse or shift leader let nurses acquire new skills while strengthening their current talents.

Is Pediatric Nursing Hard?

Pediatric nurses are expected to offer a certain type of comfort to kids being treated in acute care departments, such as the PICU, NICU and pediatric oncology ward. Working with sick children can be emotionally draining, especially if you spent the day delivering treatment while consoling scared or anxious kids. Burnout is also a common problem with pediatric nurses.

But like any job, patience, endurance and discipline are needed to ensure your success in this field. Plus, all of your hard work will not go in vain, especially for your young patients.

Being a pediatric nurse is a rewarding job. Apart from the salary, you get to save young lives. Your job requires you to care for children physically and emotionally and that is a big and meaningful service, especially to your younger patients.

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