Nursing is a highly respected profession that many people aspire to join. As a parent or guardian, you’ve certainly encountered a nurse at some point during your parenting journey, maybe at the doctor’s office, at your child’s school, or possibly even at an outpatient clinic or hospital. Nurses who have taken care of your child at any point in their life will have spent many years studying and working in medical environments to learn what is necessary to help them get better or maintain their health. The care provided by a nurse can range from giving your child first aid after a fall to assessing and treating them during a serious illness. Yet, a nurse’s experience and knowledge will have given you and many other caregivers the reassurance that your offspring are in safe hands.
There are many people who elect to specialize in pediatric care when studying for a nursing degree, and you might be one of them. If you’re considering a career in nursing, here’s what you need to do.
What nurses do
As a parent, you have probably encountered nurses completing all sorts of tasks with you and your child. You’d have had a nurse working with your midwife in the lead up to and during your child’s birth, for instance, as well as at postpartum appointments. They’ll have checked your child’s general health, administered treatments, taken care of them, and given you advice on how to look after them during illness or injury.
It may be easier to list what nurses don’t do rather than what they can do. They carry out procedures, assist other medical practitioners, look out for potential complications, and teach colleagues, patients and their caregivers, all while using their own medical knowledge and assessing the patient’s condition.
Nurses spend the most time with patients, so many treatment plans put in place are guided by a nurse’s assessment. They will also carry out a number of procedures (e.g. starting IVs) and will help physicians to carry out more complicated tasks. A nurse will check on someone’s progress, too, so they can try to prevent complications with their conditions.
As well as providing primary care, a nurse will also pass on their knowledge and teachings. They will help both the patient and their caregiver, whether that’s a parent, guardian, or family member, to learn about their illness or condition, what it means to them, and how to treat it. A nurse will also demonstrate how to administer any medicine and/or other treatments. Patient outcomes improve when they learn about what’s happened to them, so nurses are a vital part of a person’s healthcare journey.
Education requirements for nursing roles
As with any other job within the healthcare industry, the path to becoming a nurse will take a number of years to complete. However, the length of time it takes will depend on what your ultimate goal is and how you are able to achieve it.
There are two entry-level paths into nursing, both of which require studying and practical medical practice followed by state licensure. The quickest way to enter nursing is to become a licensed practical nurse (LPN) or a licensed vocational nurse (LVN). This is essentially the same role, but the name differs between US states. Training for this role will typically take about a year to complete, for which you can take classes at a technical school or community college.
Once you have completed the course, you will then need to pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-PN). When you’ve passed that exam, you will have to apply for certification to practice in the state in which you wish to work; this will vary from state to state, so check what the requirements are for yours when you first apply or move to another state.
The next step is to become a registered nurse (RN). The associate degree will take about two years for you to complete, and before you can practice, you will need to pass the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN) ahead of state licensure, much like you would do for the LPN or LVN roles.
Once you’ve become a registered nurse, though, there are a variety of nursing paths that are now open to you. This will give you more responsibility, but your role as a nurse will vary, and you can decide to continue your route into the area of specialty.
If this is for you, then your next qualification to achieve is to have a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) degree. Achieving your BSN degree will typically take about four years to complete and, for some healthcare facilities, is required to be considered for entry-level roles. Keep in mind that there are RN to BSN options to get your BSN degree.
It is usually by this point that you can choose to specialize in an area, such as pediatrics or family medicine, if you have decided that you want to dedicate your nursing career to caring for children, teens, and/or young adults. But, there are other advantages to having this level of education, too: nurses with BSN degrees are highly sought-after by many hospitals and are more likely to be eligible for promotions into supervision or managerial roles. Their level of education and training means that they can also deliver a better level of care and better understand their practice.
To specialize in your chosen field even further, you will need to complete a graduate degree program. This means getting a master of science in nursing (MSN) degree and/or a doctorate of nursing practice (DNP), each of which can take another couple of years to complete. You can then become eligible to fulfil one of these four specialist roles as an advanced practice registered nurse (APRN):
- Nurse practitioner (NP): you can give advanced care to patients, including immunizations and medications. These nurses can also examine patients and analyze and treat certain conditions and injuries. Such issues can include high blood pressure, depression and diabetes.
- Clinical nurse specialists (CNCs): nurses in these roles will develop practice standards and offer expertise in specialist areas by mentoring, educating, and supervising other nurses. They will also assess patient records as well as research and develop plans for the improvement of services.
- Certified nurse midwives (CNMs): if you are a CNM, you will primarily care for and treat women during childbirth as well as pre-conception, pregnancy, postpartum, and even pre-post-menopause. These nurses will provide advice during a woman’s reproductive period and perform scheduled gynecological services. This role may interest you in particular if you are looking to have a highly qualified nursing role involving childcare.
- Certified registered nurse anesthetists (CRNAs): working with surgeons, physicians, and other medical professionals (e.g. dentists), these nurses will administer anesthesia to patients who are undergoing medical or surgical procedures. They will assess patients, administer the anesthesia, and aid with patient recovery.
Many degree-level qualifications for nursing – that’s bachelor, master and doctorate level – are tailored to suit nurses who are currently in employment. This means they can carry out their studies and career advancement while they continue with their regular working hours and commitments. Many of these classes can be completed online; this nurse practitioner school program is one of these and can help you study in the area of expertise in which you wish to specialize.
If full-time study isn’t for you, there are plenty of part-time study program options that can be a better fit for you and your commitments. However, this will mean it’ll take you longer to get your next nursing qualification.
Where you can care for children
Once you have your basic nursing qualifications, you can start looking for jobs in many different medical areas. If you want to pursue a nursing career that involves caring for children, you aren’t limited to working solely in a hospital environment.
Of the approximately 3.1 million registered nurses working in the US in 2018, only 60% of those were working in a hospital. The next largest employers of RNs were:
- Ambulatory care (including physicians’ offices, outpatient care centers, and home healthcare) – 18%
- Nursing and residential care facilities – 7%
- Government – 5%
- Education – 3%
You may wish to work within a pediatrics department at a hospital, but you can care for children at other facilities as well, such as summer camps, community centers, or as part of a family care program. You can even be a school nurse.
Becoming a nurse will involve a lot of hard work, both with studying the curriculum and learning the practical skills you will need to carry out your role once you have qualified. However, becoming a nurse that specializes in the care of children is an incredibly rewarding one that also allows you to give something back to your local community as you look after someone’s son or daughter at what could be a difficult time in their life.