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How To Become A Pediatric Nurse Practitioner
Pediatric nurse practitioners (PNPs) are advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) who care for children from infancy through adolescence. They are primary care providers, educators, and advocators, and they play a very important role in the life of every child under their care.
What is Pediatric Nurse Practitioner (PNP)?
The word "pediatrics" comes from the Greek words meaning "child" and "doctor". Pediatric nurse practitioners (PNPs) specialize in caring for infants, children, and young adults, and they deal with an array of illnesses, diseases, and disorders.
In 22 states, PNPs are allowed to operate completely independently. In other states, they work alongside pediatricians and other healthcare professionals.
Some of the duties performed by pediatric nurse practitioners include:
- Conduct examinations to monitor the health of children under their care
- Assess a child's development
- Conduct physical exams
- Give vaccinations
- Diagnose illnesses and disorders
- Care for common childhood illnesses and rare diseases
- Educate families on patient outcomes
- Offer counseling to patients and their families
- Prescribe medications
- Arrange and conduct diagnostic tests
- Perform medical procedures, including suturing, wound care, and administering IVs and medications
Where Do Pediatric Nurse Practitioners Work?
Pediatric nurse practitioners typically work in medical clinics, where they see patients by appointment, or in hospitals and emergency departments, where they deal with acute care and emergency care.
As a pediatric nurse practitioner, you can also work in schools, health centers, and specialty clinics. Generally speaking, you go wherever children are treated, supported, and educated on health matters.
How to Become a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner
If you think that the role of a pediatric nurse practitioner is right for you, follow the steps below.
Step One: Get a Nursing Degree
Before you can think about nursing licenses and master's degrees, you need a bachelor's degree (BSN).
You can opt for a traditional 4-year BSN program or get an associate degree (ADN) first. If you already have qualifications, look into fast-track programs and bridge programs.
The BSN will teach you some essential aspects of nursing, including primary care, health assessments, and pharmacology.
Step Two: Become a Registered Nurse
After graduating, apply for the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN) to qualify as a registered nurse.
The NCLEX-RN costs $200, contains a number of multiple-choice questions, and is administered by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN).
Step Three: Get Some Nursing Experience
The best nursing programs are very competitive. There is no shortage of ambitious and educated students waiting to sign up, and committees can be very picky. They may insist that you have a minimum of one or more years of relevant high-level experience and additional experience as a registered nurse.
Check the requirements of your preferred accredited nursing program and make sure you meet them before going any further.
Step Four: Attend an Accredited Nursing Program
When you have the necessary experience, it's time to apply for a master's degree specializing in pediatric nursing. There are hundreds of accredited schools offering these programs throughout the United States and they can be completed on campus, online, or as hybrid programs.
There are schools offering either pediatric primary care or pediatric acute care, as well as a combination of both. In any case, these programs will prepare you for the specifics of pediatric care and ensure you're ready for the final step.
Step Five: Become Certified
The last step is to earn a PNP certification. There are two different options available:
- Certified Pediatric Nurse Practitioner - Primary Care (CPNP-PC): Targeted toward PNPs seeking to provide primary care services (health assessments, immunizations, diagnosing illnesses, prescribing medications) in private clinics, schools, and non-acute settings.
- Certified Pediatric Nurse Practitioner - Acute Care (CPNP-AC): Targeted toward pediatric nurse practitioners who wish to provide acute care (treating illnesses and diseases) in settings such as hospitals, emergency rooms, specialty clinics, and surgical units.
Both of these certifications are administered by the Pediatric Nursing Certification Board.
Step Six: Find a Job as a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner
Now that you're fully qualified and certified, you're ready to go!
Start looking for work as a pediatric nurse practitioner and see what's available!
What Degree Do Pediatric Nurse Practitioners Need?
To work as a pediatric nurse practitioner, you must have completed a master's program in nursing (MSN) or a doctoral degree program (DNP).
How Long Does It Take To Become A Pediatric Nurse?
If you're starting from scratch and going down the quickest route, it could take around 5 years to qualify as a pediatric nurse practitioner.
However, the exact timeframe will depend on where you study, whether you study part-time or full-time, and whether you have any existing credits.
How Much Do Pediatric Nurse Practitioners Make?
The US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) doesn't have any salary data specific to pediatric nurse practitioners. However, it does have a lot of data on nurse practitioners in general and notes that the average in 2020 was $111,680.
This is the median average annual salary and it applies across the United States. In some cities, the average is much higher while in others it's over $10,000 less.
The top 10% of employees in this sector earn $156,160 while those in the bottom 10% earn just $82,960.
Where Are the Best Places to Work as a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner?
There is a strong demand for nurse practitioners across the United States, but it seems to be at its strongest in many Californian cities. In fact, according to the BLS, the top 10 highest-paying metropolitan areas for nurse practitioners are all in California, with Vallejo, Fairfield, San Francisco, Oakland, Hayward, and Salinas all at the top of the list.
You stand to make twice as much money in San Francisco, California than in Jackson, Tennessee. But the cost of living is also much higher in San Francisco, so what you gain on your paycheck you'll probably lose on your rent and living costs.
What Is The Difference Between A Nurse Practitioner And A Pediatrician?
Pediatricians are more qualified than pediatric nurse practitioners. They start their education in college and then progress to residency programs and medical school. It can take 12 years or longer to go from a basic high school education to qualifying as a pediatrician.
On the plus side, pediatricians earn more money and are also given more responsibilities.
You don't need to study as long to be a pediatric nurse practitioner, but you won't earn as much, either.
Both pediatricians and pediatric nurse practitioners work with children of the same ages. They also deal with many of the same issues.
Is it Hard to Become a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner?
PNPs, like all nurse practitioners, are required to have an in-depth understanding of pharmacology, biology, pathopsychology, and a range of other subjects. They must also have good communication skills to work closely with children and their parents and good critical thinking skills to make it through nursing school.
Not only is it tough to work as a PNP, but it's tough to qualify for this role in the first place.
Still, if you want to work with children, support parents, and help the next generation, the role of a pediatric nurse practitioner could be perfect for you!
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