Pediatric Nurse Practitioner Specialization Guide - 2022

Last Reviewed: September 30th, 2022

Pediatric Nurse Practitioners are advocates for children, experts in pediatrics, and dedicated to helping teens lead healthy lives.

PNPs focus on the care, wellness, and treatment of children from infancy to early adulthood. It’s also a lucrative career option for medical students and Registered Nurses.

Here’s a comprehensive guide to pediatric nurse practitioners to help you make the right career choice:

What is a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner?

A Pediatric Nurse Practitioner is a registered nurse or advanced nurse practitioner specializing in children’s care from birth to young adult.PNPs focus on primary care, preventive health, growth, and managing acute and chronic illnesses.

Their work settings may include subacute or acute care settings, home care agencies, long-term facilities, health maintenance organizations, and schools. They primarily work as caretakers and educators to provide independent support and medical information during various stages of life.

In many cases, they don’t work under the supervision of a doctor yet are aware of the various healthcare risks associated with the ailment. Therefore, they foster environments for open communication with the patient and the guardians, ensuring optimum care and wellness.

Overview of What a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner Does

Pediatric Nurse Practitioners provide holistic care, including counseling, assessment, examination, planning, and evaluation.

A PNP may diagnose and treat patients or order diagnostic tests and medications. Typically, their job responsibilities comprise:

  • Assessment and screening of child development
  • Care of acute illnesses
  • Collaborating with specialists and other professional nurses
  • Conducting physical exams for educational institutions and sports teams
  • Offering education or counseling to patients, caretakers, or family members
  • Performing suturing, administering medications, taking care of wounds, starting I.V.s, etc.
  • Prescribing medications or ordering diagnostic tests
  • Providing treatment for chronic illnesses
  • Well-child examinations

In addition, Pediatric Nurse Practitioners may choose to work in convenient care clinics, specialty practices, inpatient settings, or emergency departments. Let’s discuss the duties of a Pediatric Nurse Practitioners in detail:

Providing Care

When ill, Children’s bodies tend to experience and present different physical symptoms than adults. And since their unique bodies are smaller, medications also have varying effects.

PNPs boast in-depth pediatric-specific medical knowledge that allows them to pinpoint signs and symptoms of diseases. This way, they can diagnose the appropriate illnesses and curate treatment plans.

The general duties of a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner include conducting physical exams, examining laboratory tests, recording health histories, ordering diagnostic tests, and implementing treatment plans for children.

The degree of independence with which a Pediatric Nurse prescribes medications and diagnostic tests varies depending on their training, certification, and state.

Offering Education

Children often cannot speak for themselves or explain their symptoms correctly. Moreover, as minors, they cannot decide their care, medications, and diagnostic tests.

Therefore, a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner must communicate the illnesses and their relevant information to both children and their parents/guardians.

In most cases, communicating means educating parents about preventive care to ensure their children’s health. For instance, if parents cannot decide whether they should vaccinate their child, a PNP might educate them on the importance of immunization.

Advocating for Young Patients

Pediatric Nurse Practitioner dedicated to providing the best care for young patients often finds themselves advocating for the child. For instance, a PNP that picks up on symptoms of ADHD in a child may recommend the parents/guardians to get them tested. A Pediatric Nurse Practitioner may also advocate for children who deserve therapeutic measures to deal with everyday stresses. They may even evaluate patients for potential physical, mental, or emotional abuse signs.

What Pediatric Nurse Practitioner’s Do Everyday

Pediatric Nurse Practitioners offer dynamic care to their patients, including standard physical exams, specialized diagnosis, and holistic treatment plans. PNPs care for patients by using a deep knowledge of their health and personal history.

Moreover, they provide a safe space for their patients. Here’s a closer look at what PNP’s do on a day-to-day basis:

Collaborate

Pediatric Nurse Practitioners collaborate with patients and their parents or guardians to provide appropriate care and treatment.

Effective collaboration relies on PNP’s trust with patients through regular appointments and visits. It also plays a critical role in pinpointing severe health concerns.

A PNP also connects patients with other healthcare providers to help them access specialized care.

Counsel

Apart from offering standard clinical care, Pediatric Nurse Practitioners also provide patients and families with wellness advice, preventive measures, and emotional support.

It’s a PNP’s responsibility to foster an environment where patients feel safe and honest enough to communicate openly with you. This way, practitioners can offer comprehensive and appropriate care.

Examination

Pediatric Nurse Practitioners are also responsible for providing thorough examinations.

With the help of these routine check-ups and screenings, PNPs can quickly and effectively identify potential health risks.

Treatment

Pediatric Nurse Practitioners are responsible for diagnosing chronic illnesses, ordering diagnostic tests, prescribing medications, and curating treatment plans.

They may even connect patients with necessary specialists to provide preventive care.

Education

Pediatric Nurse Practitioners also ensure that patients and their parents understand their health concerns or needs comprehensively.

PNPs are responsible for educating patients about prescribed medications, their effects, precautions they must take, and their susceptibility to potential illnesses.

An Example: A Day in the Life of an HIV Pediatric Nurse Practitioner

HIV Pediatric Nurse Practitioners specialize in providing dynamic care to teens and young adults with HIV. These specialty nurses boast extensive experience assessing, diagnosing, and providing care to patients with a life-threatening chronic disease.

An HIV PNP’s day-to-day responsibilities include educating teens about HIV and how they can achieve a high quality of life. They work with teens to help them learn practical ways of maintaining wellness while avoiding potential health risks of HIV.

A professional HIV Pediatric Nurse Practitioner also counsels and educates family members and communities about HIV and its risks. Moreover, HIV PNPs also teach new nurses to learn more about their careers.

Pediatric Nurse Practitioner vs. Registered Nurse

Pediatric Nurse Practitioners and Registered Nurses have a lot of duties and responsibilities in common. However, these specialty nurses have several noticeable differences, such as:

What Does a Registered Nurse Do?

A registered nurse focuses on assessing a patient’s current health and identifying their critical needs. This way, an RN curates and implements a medical plan.

These specialty nurses perform the following primary tasks:

  • Administering and monitoring prescribed medications and treatment for potential reactions or side effects
  • Analyzing patients
  • Creating and evaluating treatment plans with medical teams
  • Caring for wounds
  • Drawing blood and collecting urine samples for lab work
  • Recording symptoms in detail
  • Supervising licensed practical and vocational nurses, assistants, and students

RNs work in hospitals or clinical settings, assisted living facilities, patients’ homes, large corporations, schools, or the military.

What Does a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner Do?

Pediatric Nurse Practitioners typically work closely with patients to assess and monitor their health. However, their roles may change depending on their location, position, facility, and specific field:

  • Assessing medical and tests results
  • Collecting information from patients
  • Collaborating with other specialists to communicate knowledge and create proper treatment plans
  • Creating holistic treatment plans
  • Performing referrals and detailed examinations
  • Prescribing medications and diagnostic tests
  • Operating some medical equipment
  • Recording patient’s medical histories and symptoms
  • Supervising nurses and other staff members

Pediatric Nurse Practitioners typically work in pediatric care, hospitals, managed care facilities, government agencies, family practice, private care, emergency room care, and university faculty.

Roles and Responsibilities

Registered nurses and pediatric nurse practitioners alike focus on analyzing, observing, and caring for patients.

However, the most significant difference between their roles is that PNPs are legally allowed to prescribe treatments, order diagnostic tests, and make diagnoses.

On the flip side, RNs work under physicians who identify diagnoses, treatment plans, and follow-up care.

Education Requirements

The education requirements for a registered nurse include earning a bachelor’s degree in nursing from an accredited educational institution and passing the NCLEX exam. You also have to apply for state licensure.

On the other hand, nurse practitioners must hold a master’s degree in nursing and complete additional clinical hours. Moreover, if you wish to work in a particular field, you’re required to gain further certifications and training.

Salary

Although PNPs and RNs earn generous salaries, pediatric nurse practitioners enjoy a greater median salary due to their independent career skills. According to BLS’ 2020 report, RNs earn $82,750 per year, and NP’s gain $118,040 annually.

Career Stability and Projections for a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner

Registered Nurses with a bachelor’s degree in science in nursing may hesitate to grow their pediatrics careers. But we’re here to tell you that earning a master’s degree in nursing is indeed a productive next step.

Let’s discuss the career stability, demand, and projected growth of nurse practitioners:

What is the Demand for PNPs?

Although the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) does not offer reports for pediatric nurse practitioner growth, the employment of NP’s will likely grow by 45% between 2020 and 2030. According to this study, nurse practitioners and midwives will enjoy a faster than average growth.

Since they work independently, PNPs bring down healthcare costs to offer affordable medical treatment. While lower costs are beneficial to everyone, they have an outsized benefit for underprivileged individuals.

Moreover, there will likely be 29,400 new nurse practitioners and midwives openings until 2030. Further research reveals the highest levels of employment industries for NPs:

  • Offices of Physicians- 101,220 employments
  • General Medical and Surgical Hospitals- 49,920 employments
  • Outpatient Care Centers- 18,290 employments
  • Colleges, Universities, and Professional Schools- 6,970 employments
  • Offices of Other Health Practitioners- 6,170

State-by-state research by BLS reveals which areas in the U.S. experience the highest employment rates:

  • California- 15100
  • New York-14,850
  • Texas-14,680
  • Florida-13,010
  • Ohio-9,430

What is the Future for Nurse Practitioners?

NP’s are essential across healthcare institutions like surgical centers, physician group practices, community health centers, and urgent care centers. You’ll also encounter Nurse Practitioners in hospital-based roles since they offer acute and subacute care.

With NPs consistently ranking in the top five jobs of the U.S., more nurses will likely start pursuing NP Certifications. And with an increasing number of new Nurse Practitioners, insurance companies, hospitals, and patients alike will start seeing its benefits.

Overall, the field of Nurse Practitioners will likely continue to grow vast as they fill the gaps to meet the needs of the growing population. The AANP’s report even reveals that:

  • More than 89.2% of NPs’ boast primary care medicine certification
  • Approximately 62.4% have certifications in family medicine
  • 4.8% have a pediatric medicine certification

Thus, it’s apparent that the opportunities and practice are consistently expanding for NP’s and enterprising.

Career Satisfaction Levels of Pediatric Nurse Practitioner

In-depth research reveals that most Nurse Practitioners are highly satisfied with their careers. 38% of all NP’s are ‘very satisfied with their career, and 44.1% are ‘satisfied.’ Only 10.2% are ‘dissatisfied,’ or ‘very dissatisfied with their career.

The research provides further insight on why Nurse Practitioners are dissatisfied with their careers:

  • 24.3% of dissatisfied NPs believe they get inadequate time with patients
  • 22.4% experienced denial of coverage by insurance companies
  • 18.1% of gained lack of organizational support
  • 17.4% of gained lack of administrative support
  • 16.9% of could not give patient’s adequate care because of inability to pay
  • 16% of experienced difficulty in accessing qualified specialists

Moreover, 1/3rd of NPs experienced insufficient income resulting in an inability to support quality, high liability insurance rates, non-reimbursable overhead costs, and non-paying patients.

According to another recent research, a whopping 95% of medical facilities hired temporary allied nurses to cover the shortage of doctors. Plus, the U.S. News and World Report show that Nurse Practitioners experienced a 1.2% unemployment rate, making it one of the best career options.

Plus, Nurse Practitioners job satisfaction in terms of stress level and flexibility is as follows:

  • Stress Level- Includes work environment and complexity of job responsibilities (below average)
  • Flexibility- Such as alternative working schedule work-life balance (below average)

An in-depth report by the U.S. News also reveals that Nurse Practitioner is the 2nd best job of 2022. The careers’ high work-life balance, lower stress levels, high median salary, and excellent growth percentage. All these factors make up for NP’s limited flexibility.

Common Challenges of Pediatric Nurse Practitioner Career

Nurses often find their patients distressed due to emotional pressures and medical ailments. The same is with PNPs, as these common challenges affect the health and well-being of the children. Pediatric nurse practitioners have reported the four most common yet essential nursing concerns:

Bullying

Almost 1/3rd of the children face bullying at school and other places. Since it has long-term effects on a child’s well-being, the PNP needs to identify behavioral signs and symptoms of bullying. Moving forward, they can intervene and prescribe desired treatment.

Obesity in Young Children

Childhood obesity affects 1 in 3 children globally that can cause life-long mental and physical issues. PNP must counsel and educate the parents and primary caregivers of potential risks to combat weight-gain issues. They should also enforce healthy eating habits and physical activities, especially during the first two years.

Chronic Illnesses

As per CDC, children are at a greater risk of suffering from asthma and miss an average of four days of school per year. While PNPs cannot reduce the likelihood of asthma attacks; however, they can control the symptoms and educate parents on the most common triggers. They can also develop effective action plans to avoid the onset of asthma.

Requirements to Become a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner

According to insightful research, 11 million nurses are essential to avoid a further shortage. Overcoming this shortage requires the world needs more potential educators and high turnover.

Since the PNP career is projected to experience significant growth, an increasing number of medical students are likely to lean towards this career path. Read on to uncover the requirements of becoming a licensed Pediatric Nurse Practitioner:

Educational Requirements

Pediatric Nurse Practitioners must meet the following education requirements:

  • Bachelor of Science in Nursing
  • Pediatric and Advanced Life Support Certifications
  • Master of Science in Nursing (Pediatrics or Family Health)
  • Continue gaining education to maintain your licensure
  • Advanced Practice Licensure

Core Competencies and Required Skills

Moreover, licensed and professional Pediatric Nurse Practitioners must boast the following skills:

  • In-depth knowledge of pediatric illnesses, symptoms, and signs, and their treatment
  • Remarkable understanding of children’s growth and development
  • Ability to work and communicate with children and their families or guardians
  • Ability to set priorities and function independently
  • Effectively collaborate with other health care providers and specialties

Step by Step Process to Becoming a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner

Reap the benefits of becoming a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner by following a step-by-step guide:

Select your state for specific actionable step-by-step guides to earn your license, or continue reading for a basic overview of steps to earn your license:

Earning a Degree in Nursing

Start studying for a Master’s degree in Science in Nursing or Doctor of Nursing Practice, and you must hold a Bachelor’s degree in Science in Nursing.

Typically, a bachelor’s program lasts four years. But you may take a circuitous route by starting your AND degree and then taking supplemental classes.

Once you complete your BSN program, you’ll have a solid foundation of relevant and essential topics, including anatomy and pharmacology.

Remember that PNP is a highly competitive career, so the higher your grades, the more likely you will gain entry.

Getting Licensed as a Registered Nurse

Becoming a part of an accredited NP program requires licensure as an RN. You can achieve this license by passing the NCLEX-RN examination administered by the NCSBN.

Remember that varying states may have additional requirements.

Gaining Experience

It’s no surprise that Advanced Practice Nursing programs are competitive. Thus, the committees responsible for providing students access follow stringent guidelines to pinpoint dedicated applicants.

To demonstrate your commitment to nursing practice is by building up your real-world experience, preferably in pediatrics. This way, you can learn more under the supervision of mentors and doctors who can provide testimonials on your talent and work ethic.

Remember that most APN programs require at least one year of experience and favor students who pursue certifications.

Attending an Accredited Nurse Practitioner School

Nurse Practitioner programs typically provide specialized training to students who want to become PNPs. These programs generally require students to hold:

  • Valid RN licensure
  • BSN degree
  • Excellent communication skills
  • Minimum GPA
  • Minimum two year’s experience as an RN and one year working in a pediatric care setting
  • References

Getting Certification

After successfully graduating from an accredited PNP program, it’s time to achieve recognition of your educational status. Pursue your specialty certifications by the PNC board and kickstart your professional career.

The Bottom Line

According to insightful research by the AANPs, over 400 educational institutions offer NP programming. Out of these, approximately 100 provide Pediatric Acute Care, Pediatric Primary Care, or both programs.

Unlock better work-life balance while helping patients achieve wellness and health by earning a Pediatric Nursing Practitioner certification. The journey from a Registered Nurse to a Pediatric Nursing Practitioner is not easy; however, it’s extremely rewarding.