Specialty Spotlight

Specialty Spotlight: Is Pediatric Nursing for You?


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Not only does the pediatric nurse care for the physical, psycho-social and cognitive needs of the pediatric patient, but also the needs of the parents. "It is really working as a team to meet the needs of the parents and provide expert care to the child," said Sandra Mott, Ph.D., RNC, associate professor of maternal child health at Boston College and former president of the Society of Pediatric Nurses. 

Dr. Mott shares valuable insight for new nurses interested in pursuing the pediatric nursing specialty. 

What do you enjoy most about pediatric nursing? 

I am both a nurse and professor, so I have dual favorite aspects of my job. As a nurse, my greatest challenges and rewards are working with parents whose children are critically and/or chronically ill as a supportive presence. This means sometimes offering anticipatory guidance or resources, but often means being there for parents to talk to about their concerns, fears, dreams, disappointments, problems and options. 

It is important to be present, and to show interest and caring, which enables parents to self-solve the difficulty. I also enjoy teaching opportunities with parents, answering their questions and giving hints and advice about aspects of care, whether it's healthy child care or special-needs child care. 

As a professor, I take pleasure observing the growth of undergraduate students as they progress from beginning courses when terminology and thinking about the role of a nurse are challenging, to the graduating seniors who have mastered skills, gained sensitivity and insight, and who are excited about entering the profession as a nurse. I take pleasure in seeing their confidence in gaining the critical-thinking skills to make clinical decisions in the best interest of the patient. 

I also thoroughly enjoy working with doctoral students in their discovery of new knowledge, as well as their ability to further develop knowledge and theory through research as they find answers to difficult questions—information that, when disseminated, will improve the care for patients and their families. 

What can a new nurse in the pediatric specialty expect in the first few months on the job? 

The new nurse can expect a lot of on-the-job learning as she/he transitions from student to professional. Some institutions have six-month orientation programs with classes and precepted experiences that provide a mentoring relationship. That is ideal. 

The new nurse in pediatrics has all the same adjustments as a new nurse in any other specialty. The importance of working in partnership with parents is an added component for the new pediatric staff nurse and may be challenging, depending on how confident the nurse is with her/his skills and knowledge. 

What is the most challenging thing about being a new pediatric nurse? 

To care for assigned patients and provide for their physical, psycho-social and cognitive needs, as well as the needs of their parents. This always includes ongoing assessment and evaluation of status and any changes, and it may include medications, treatments, teaching, nutrition, activity encouragement, monitoring response to treatments and recovery trajectory. It is really working as a team with the family to meet the needs of the family and provide expert care to the child. Often the child is too young to verbalize his/her needs and fears. 

Intellectual curiosity is essential, as are patience, good listening skills, critical thinking, diligence, organization, creativity, adaptability, and decision-making that synthesizes all information available—both theoretical and personal from the patient and family. 

What advice can you offer a new graduate looking for a job in pediatric nursing? 

Go for it, you will never be sorry. If you love working with children and families, it is the most rewarding job. If you have no pediatric experience, it may be best to start on general medical or surgical type unit before going into one of the sub-specialties. 

For more information on the pediatric nursing specialty, visit the Web site of the Society of Pediatric Nurses

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