Of all the different specialisations within the universal term of 'nursing', paediatric care is perhaps one of the most highly regarded both inside and outside of the profession. This is because the way that a society looks after children is a benchmark of its development. It, therefore, stands to reason that the nursing and other medical staff who care for children suffering from a wide variety of conditions are standard bearers in an extremely important sense. Paediatric nursing is one of the healthcare careers that offers real job satisfaction in terms of being able to help some of the most vulnerable members of society and at the same time help realise very real positive effects that can reverberate into the future.
On the job
As might be expected of any specialised nursing role, paediatric duties cover many aspects of assessments, planning and of course actually providing any and all care as it is needed. This means typical responsibilities that a paediatric nurse would most likely carry out include providing care before and after operations, monitoring and administering medication, taking samples from young patients, keeping accurate records and writing reports. Due to the wide-ranging nature of the circumstances patients might find themselves in, dealing with emergencies and obtaining parental consent for treatment are also likely to be situations which are encountered on a regular basis.
Having to go under the care of nursing staff can be a worrying and distressing experience at any age, so being able to deal sympathetically with children going through the process is an essential part of a paediatric nurse's skill set. Equally important is knowing how to work with parents and guardians who need to be provided with accurate information and who often require emotional support and reassurance too. This means that a wide range of communication skills are key for becoming a successful paediatric nurse.
Many paediatric nurses work within the community which means making domestic visits in order to support those who are caring for children at home. The work also involves operating as part of a multidisciplinary team of professionals which can include other medical staff, health visitors, social workers and therapists. The varied duties mean that good health, fitness, resilience and stamina are all needed in order to fulfil the role, as well as being adept at handling different working environments and adapting to sometimes challenging situations.
Qualifications and training
Paediatric nursing involves qualification criteria in the same way as most other nursing roles. A pre-registration nursing degree course must be taken, although graduates who already have a degree in a relevant subject including physiology or psychology, as well as medical, health, biological or social sciences, can gain a qualification by means of a shortened two-year postgraduate diploma course. Degree course applications should be made through UCAS while those for the shortened postgraduate courses can be made directly to the relevant institutions. As with many other healthcare and nursing roles, direct previous experience isn't an essential requirement but can be useful in attaining the desired work placement.
Employers and vacancies
Because of the wide range of settings for the work, typical employers of paediatric nurses can include hospitals, NHS trusts, GP practices, nursing agencies, community and health centres, and private healthcare organisations. Opportunities also arise directly with schools, residential homes and as part of the work done by various charities and voluntary organisations.
The right choice
Becoming a nurse is a career decision that is not usually taken lightly, so deciding whether to specialise in paediatric care is simply another step along the same path. With demands that are different from other areas of nursing, matched with rewards that also cannot be found elsewhere, working with children in the healthcare system is something that offers a unique experience.
Opportunities can be found in the vast majority of towns and cities, although they may be limited in more rural environments. As well as requirements in hospital wards and specialist units, some roles may be tied to certain aspects of care, such as assisting those with complex requirements or physical and learning difficulties. Such roles bring with them their own challenges, but with that comes the ability to have a lasting impact on the lives of others.