Becoming a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner: Job Description & Salary Info

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A pediatric nurse practitioner's median annual salary is around $93,000, but is it worth the education and licensure requirements? Get the truth about job descriptions and career prospects to decide if it's the right career for you.
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A Pediatric nurse practitioner (PNP) has many of the duties of doctors, including patient assessment and diagnosis, prescribing medications, and managing patient care for babies and children. Examine the pros and cons below to help you decide whether this career is the right choice for you.

PROS of a Career as a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner
Excellent job growth potential (34% between 2012 and 2022)*
High salaries (about $95,000 as of 2014)***
Ability to work independently*
Ability to work in a variety of settings***

CONS of a Career as a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner
Lengthy education requirements for some positions (6+ years)*
Continuing education and licensing requirements**
Exposure to diseases and other workplace hazards*
Shift work may be required*
Stressful work environments****

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **National Council of State Boards of Nursing and the Pediatric Nursing Certification Board, ***American Academy of Nurse Practitioners, ****Various job ads from November 2012

Job Description and Duties

Pediatric nurse practitioners (PNP), who are sometimes referred to as advanced practice nurses, handle a lot of duties that are typically performed by doctors, including assessing and diagnosing patients, prescribing medications and treatments and managing patient care. PNPs can work in a variety of settings, such as hospitals and pediatricians' offices, and often specialize in various areas of nursing practice, like neonatal care, pediatric health or pediatric palliative care. PNPs can also work in the area of nurse-midwifery, overseeing all aspects of pre-natal care up to the delivery and the care of newborns.

Salary and Job Prospects Information

In 2014, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimated that there were about 2.8 million nurses working in the U.S., a figure which included both registered and advanced practice nurses. The BLS reported a salary range of approximately $69,000 (lowest 10%) to about $131,000 (highest 10%) for nurse practitioners. The most recent survey released by the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners in 2011 reported that full-time nurse practitioners (NP) working in pediatrics earned base annual salaries of almost $88,000, with a total income figure of about $92,000. The BLS projected that job opportunities in nursing were expected to grow by 34% between 2012 and 2022.

Education, Licensing and Credentials

To become a PNP, you'll first need to become a registered nurse by earning a bachelor's degree in nursing and passing the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses. From there, you'll need to enter a graduate nurse practitioner program to either earn a master's degree or a post-master's degree certificate. These programs will include classes in advanced pathophysiology, pediatric theory and clinical studies, human diversity and health care economics.

Credentialing for PNPs is offered through several organizations. The American Nurses Credentialing Center offers the Pediatric Nurse Practitioner - Board Certified credential. The American Academy of Nurse Practitioners offers a Family Practice certification, while the Pediatric Nursing Certification Board offers PNP certifications in primary care, acute care and pediatric mental health specialist.

Each state has its own regulations regarding nursing licenses, so you'll need to be familiar with your state's requirements regarding licensing, transfers and renewals. You'll also need to get Basic Life Support and Pediatric Advanced Life Support (PALS) certifications and keep them up-to-date.

Skills

Nursing requires attention to detail, up-to-date skills and compassion. You'll need to be able to clearly communicate with patients and their families, accurately record treatment for medical records, and remain calm in stressful situations. Continuing education will be necessary to keep up with changes in technologies and pharmacological treatments.

What Do Employers Look For?

Organizations seeking nurse practitioners were specific about requiring current state licensing and, in some cases, medication approvals. Several requested the ability to speak Spanish and most also mentioned the ability to provide compassionate care. A summary of jobs advertised in November 2012 is below:

  • A Florida hospital advertised for an NP to work in pediatric neonatology. Florida licensure and completion of a neonatal critical care NP program were required. Candidates needed to be able to assess and manage the care of ill and premature infants. Ability to work in stressful situations and under heavy workloads was requested.
  • A mental health and substance abuse center in southern Florida posted an opening for a child/adolescent PNP to work in their outpatient unit. The candidate needed to be able to deal with acute mental health and substance abuse symptoms, speak Spanish, be credentialed and have two years of experience in a psychiatric setting.
  • A Pennsylvania pediatric specialty hospital advertised for a full-time NP to provide primary in-patient health care to pediatric patients from neonates through age 21. State license, two years of pediatric experience and successful completion of a PNP or family NP program were required.
  • A California children's hospital posted a PNP position in inpatient acute care. Required qualifications included a master's degree from a qualified NP program, state licensing as an RN and NP, CPR and PALS certification and national certification as an NP. Two years of experience and clearances to work with controlled substances and scheduled medications were also required or preferred.

Add Specializations or Credentials

Additional certifications in nursing practice and continuing education coursework will typically serve to enhance your resume. Joining an organization, such as the National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners, can provide you with networking and additional educational opportunities.

The Pediatric Nursing Certification Board also certifies pediatric nurses, and passage of the exam should show proficiency to prospective employers while you are working toward earning your PNP credentials. Additionally, some job ads sought candidates fluent in Spanish or another language.

Physician Assistant (PA)

Like NPs, PAs examine and treat patients and need to earn a master's degree and pass a certification exam. This might be an avenue to pursue if you are considering becoming more of a generalist, rather than specializing in pediatric nursing. The BLS has projected a 30% increase in job opportunities for PAs, and reported an annual median salary of about $89,000 for the profession as of May 2011.

Registered Nurse (RN)

Requiring less education (associate or bachelor's degree), RNs earned a median yearly salary of about $66,000 in 2011, according to the BLS. The BLS also projected an increase of 26% in job opportunities for RNs between 2010 and 2020, making it an attractive option in terms of job availability. RNs work under the supervision of a doctor and cannot write prescriptions or make diagnoses.

Pediatrician

If you are interested in working completely independently and are not fazed by up to 12 years of post-graduate study, becoming a pediatrician specializing in the care of children from birth through adolescence may be an option to pursue. The BLS reported a median salary figure of about $192,000 a year for pediatricians in 2010, and projected a 24% increase in job opportunities between 2010 and 2020.

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