Are you interested in taking your nursing career to the next level and specializing in caring for children? If so, consider becoming a pediatric nurse practitioner or PNP.
Many nurses feel called to the profession because they want to help people daily as part of their job. Working with children can be incredibly rewarding, as excellent nursing care can help children feel less frightened and anxious while in the hospital receiving care.
As you can imagine, the PNP career path has a number of highs and lows, making it a special role that is only for some. Keep reading to learn more and discover whether or not the PNP path is for you.
What is a pediatric nurse practitioner?
PNPs are registered nurses, or RNs, with advanced practice degrees who specialize in providing children’s care. The pediatric title covers a range of ages and stages of development, including newborns, infants, toddlers, adolescents and young adults.
The human body and its needs change significantly in the first 18 years of life, and PNPs must be familiar with all these growth stages. Typically, PNPs will focus on child healthcare, such as encouraging health and wellness and a well-rounded diet. They will also help children prevent or manage common acute illnesses and chronic conditions.
PNPs have an RN degree and a master’s or doctorate degree in the subject. They are also certified by a board and an official certification body. The hospital is not the only place where PNPs can be found – many PNPs also work in pediatric clinics, specialty clinics, and health centers that are based in schools and urgent care centers.
The difficulties of being a PNP
The first few hurdles for PNPs begin in school. Some of the most challenging steps in a PNP’s career will be attaining both an RN license and a master’s degree, along with passing all of the requisite body certification exams.
That being said, the most apparent difficulty associated with being a PNP is undoubtedly working with children who are very sick. While science has made incredible progress in the last few years, not every illness has a cure and not every patient will thrive or survive.
Working with sick children is especially emotionally and psychologically difficult because they are so young and have many potential and possibly future years ahead of them. Not everyone can manage the heartbreak that comes with watching children suffer, and this is sometimes the reason why a PNP may take up an administrative role.
One of the benefits of a master’s in nursing is that it is very versatile. If you start working as a PNP and find that it is too complicated and draining for you, then there are other ways you can still use your degree to help others without having to come into daily contact with patients.
How to become a pediatric nurse practitioner
The first step to becoming a PNP is attaining an RN license and passing the certification exams. Once you are a board-certified RN, you may want to work in the field for a few years before pursuing postgraduate education, even if you know that you want to get your master’s. This is because working in a healthcare setting helps boost your resume when applying to competitive programs and allows you to check out what potential specializations you may be interested in when you progress to graduate school.
Many of the Bachelor of Science in Nursing specializations can be studied through online master’s programs as well as traditional, in-person degree programs. For example, Spring Arbor University Online offers a BSN to MSN-PNP-PC program with highly flexible online learning options. This particular course also provides students with a dedicated advisor, faith-based learning and prep for certification exams.
Choosing the right degree program for you
There are many different degree programs, and it is important to choose the program best fits fit your needs. The first and more important factor is, of course, content. You should look for courses that teach the subjects you are interested in and have high degrees of academic rigor.
Another consideration is tuition, as program costs can range from around $10,000 per year to several times that amount. Depending on your budget and your interest in a certain school or program, you made need to be flexible with your budget or examine your choices realistically.
Finally, you may also want to consider the flexibility you require to succeed in the program. For some people, they can only be successful students if they are held accountable by others through in-person classes, labs, seminars and projects.
However, other students find that they are able to work on their own initiative and that they prefer an educational model that provides more flexibility. These students are perhaps better suited for online programs, as remote learning gives students the option to work or care for family members while also studying either on a full- or part-time basis.
Job prospects and future roles
The job market for PNPs is just as bright as it is for nurses with other specializations and Master’s of Science in Nursing degrees. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) envisions a bright outlook for nurse anesthetists, nurse midwives and nurse practitioners for the next 15 years.
BLS predicts that overall employment of these specialized nurses will grow about 40% in just 10 years from 2021 to 2031. This is a much faster rate of growth than for many other professions both inside the healthcare sector and outside.
Additionally, BLS has predicted that there will be roughly 30,200 job openings for these specialist nursing roles every year for the next 10 years. It is projected that many of these roles will be to fill the place of someone who has retired or moved on to a new role within the healthcare sector.
Taking your career a step further
Pursuing a PNP is a big step academically, professionally and financially, and for some people, attaining a PNP is exactly what they set out to do. However, other students obtain their PNP degree and realize that their passion wholeheartedly lies in pediatrics, and they want to pursue further avenues for career development.
There are several different paths that PNP-holders can take. One direction is becoming a manager on a floor and working up your way through leadership roles in the clinic or hospital you work at. This is an excellent option for people who enjoy leadership, efficiency, management best practices and working every day with other people.
Another career path that some PNP degree holders have followed is public health. Public health is an incredibly exciting and interesting field for those who are keen on making a difference and being part of something that is much bigger than they are. Working in public health is also ideal for individuals who are ambitious but who appreciate the stable, secure and relaxed nature of a public service role.
While the path into a public health role will be different for everyone, many people have obtained higher-level nursing degrees, such as PNP degrees, and then begun to work for a governmental health service. Others have decided to pursue further education that provides explicitly the kind of training and exposure needed to succeed in the sector.
Finally, pursuing a doctorate is another path for those who are extremely academically motivated and interested in getting into academia. Completing a doctorate degree such as a DNP or PhD is a serious undertaking as it requires years of work and rigorous academic work.
However, the academic career path is ideal for those who genuinely want to become academics and further study pediatric nursing. There will always be a need for researchers and professors who train the next generation of pediatric nurses and who are on the cutting edge of new technology and developments.
So, is it for you?
It is undeniable that working as a PNP comes with a host of different challenges and difficulties and that it is a challenging field of work to break into in the first place. However, for those who feel called to become PNPs and who are passionate about providing healthcare to children, the PNP career path is an ideal choice.