Pediatric nurses are a breed of their own. Although your first thought of a peds nurse may be of someone enjoying a fun shift full of playing games and holding babies, there is a serious skill-set that takes nurses years to master. Treating precious children and babies is immensely rewarding, but here are some skills you can’t quite describe on a résumé.
Patience is truly key when working with the pediatric population. Kids operate on their own clock. Whether it’s bathing, eating, toileting, bedtime, or the even more difficult daily events like getting a weight, ambulating in the halls, taking unpleasant medicine, or getting painful injections, pediatric patients do not and will not align their days with a nurse’s task list. And that’s okay. Children need as much independence and freedom as they can get while confined to hospital walls. Pediatric nurses realize this and embrace it. We ask our patients how they would like to schedule their day with us. It’s a conversation, not a demand.
Eye for detail.
As a peds nurse, your senses are always on high alert. Most children won’t tell you if they are feeling unwell, won’t necessarily stop playtime just because they are short of breath or dizzy, won’t show the obvious symptoms of decompensation like adults will, and the ones who are too young to even speak will just cry and leave it up to you to interpret their distress. Pediatric nurses heavily rely on their “nurse instincts.” Incredibly observant and constantly thinking critically, pediatric nurses intercept dangerous situations before they transpire.
With children, that is. Having a conversation with a 3-year-old as opposed to a 10-year-old as opposed to a 17-year-old is like switching from English to Japanese to Portuguese in a matter of minutes. There is such a steep learning curve for children between infancy and adolescence. Each year, children transition between milestones with communication, behavior, cognition, and motor skills. Compound those variations with the emotional influence of a hospital setting and the additional population of learning-disabled children that frequent the hospital, and the spectrum of pediatric patients becomes extensively wide-ranging. Pediatric nurses learn to master caring for all ages and the challenges that come with that.
Pediatric nurses need to convince children that getting better and going home means participating in the not-so-fun procedures that come with that. There are numerous approaches that nurses learn over the years, but the more creative you get, the better the results. Trying to convince children to endure a painful procedure or take a potent medication is an incredible challenge. They are often too young to reason with, and their lives are in your hands. It is up to pediatric nurses to strategically and successfully negotiate with patients for their ultimate well-being.
Every pediatric nurse knows that your patients’ families are often more than you bargained for—moms, dads, grandmas, grandpas, brothers, sisters, great aunt’s twice-removed cousins. Don’t get us wrong, we love how involved families can be in the care of their loved ones. Pediatric nurses know that the outcome of a diagnosis is just as dependent on emotional well-being as it is physical, and family presence is key. But pediatric nurses do have to deal with a lot of family pressures. An event as distressing as a sick child brings out all sorts of coping responses in families, whether it is anger, sadness, or denial. As the most frequent person in and out of that hospital room, pediatric nurses bear the brunt of all of those feelings. They are the punching bag, the sounding board, and the shoulder to cry on. Pediatric nurses care for the entire family, and we wouldn’t trade it for anything.
Although there are endless inside secrets I could share, I hope these few examples shed light on the complexity and gratification of pediatric nursing. Happy Pediatric Nurses Week!
Special thanks to Brittany from the entire THS team for her insight into the world of pediatric nursing!