If you are pursuing a career in pediatric nursing, you may be wondering if you need a Master’s in nursing to be a pediatric nurse. Pediatric nursing is a specialty involving the specific care of babies, children and youth. If you enjoy working with young patients and want to pursue this specialty, there are differing ways you can approach your education and training. Much depends on where you currently are in your nurse’s training, and in what ultimate direction you would like to take your career.
The Basic Requirements
Your first step in becoming a pediatric nurse is to become a registered nurse (RN). There are several ways you can do that. You can take a certificate or diploma program, pursue an associate’s degree that takes about two years, or pursue a bachelor’s degree that takes about four years. Regardless of which path you take, you will need to pass the national exam, referred to as the NCLEX, in order to become an RN. Some nurses who begin with a diploma or associates degree discover the value of going on for a BSN after they begin working as nurses, and many times employers will encourage and even assist RNs in that process. There are RN to BSN programs that will allow you to continue working while you complete requirements for your BSN. If you know early on you have an interest in pediatrics, try to take courses like child psychology or other relevant courses that will help you prepare for work in the field. Once you are an RN, look for work opportunities in which you can gain skills in pediatrics.
Opportunities in pediatrics are important because, in order to become a certified pediatric nurse (CPN), you must have 1800 hours of relevant pediatric experience within a two year period. The Pediatric Nursing Certification Board (PNCB) accepts various kinds of clinical experience, including direct care of patients, along with teaching, research or consultation activities. Once you have enough hours, you can sit for the certification exam. There is different credentialing criterion for those who want to work in pediatric emergency care. You can find out more about all certification processes by going to the PNCB website.
Certified Pediatric Nurse Practitioner (CPNP)
You will only need to go on for a master’s degree if you decide you want to further your career by becoming a certified pediatric nurse practitioner. A CPNP is an advanced practice nurse, which means a nurse who has had advanced, graduate level training in a given field. A CPNP has a wider range of practice than a CNP. For instance, they can diagnose illnesses and order lab tests. If you plan to stay in the field for a long time, it may be worth your while to invest in further education and pursue this sort of career path, though much depends on your own goals and aspirations.
The role of a pediatric nurse is one that requires not only education but patience and creativity. Working with young patients is rewarding and challenging. While you do not need a Master’s in nursing to be a pediatric nurse, you may discover you want to pursue further education to advance your career.