What are Pediatric Nurse Practitioner Programs?
A nurse practitioner (NP) is an advanced practice registered nurse (APRN) who has completed his or her graduate-level education with either a master’s or doctoral degree. A pediatric nurse practitioner (PNP) is a person who specialized in pediatrics when completing their graduate degree, or through a certification process after earning their graduate degree. According to the International Council of Nurses, a pediatric NP is “a registered nurse who has acquired the expert knowledge base, complex decision-making skills and clinical competencies for expanded practice, the characteristics of which would be determined by the context in which she or he is credentialed to practice.”
Common Pediatric Nurse Practitioner Program Objectives:
Different schools’ PNP programs have their own curriculum and method of education. Even so, there are core topics that all programs must teach to help a nurse become an effective PNP. If you complete a master’s degree or certificate PNP program than you should learn the following skills:
- Demonstrate skill in interpreting pertinent biopsychosocial evidence derived from individual and family assessments including health histories, physical examinations, laboratory and diagnostic sources, and current literature.
- Formulate different diagnoses and treatment plans for selected acute and chronic illnesses based on an analysis of biopsychosocial data and current research findings.
- Develop and initiate management strategies for common health problems.
- Present assessment data, both orally and written, in an organized manner.
- Evaluate community resources that provide services to clients with particular health needs.
- Successfully pass the ANCC or NAPNAP certification examination for Pediatric Nurse Practitioner.
Curriculum of Pediatric Nurse Practitioner Programs:
Nurses can become PNPs through master’s programs or, if a master’s degree has already been acquired, through post-masters certificate programs. Through these programs nurses are trained to become advanced PNPs for the current and future healthcare systems. Typically these programs offer full-time or part-time study. Full-time programs are around 12 months in length. They emphasize community-based primary healthcare for pediatric patients. Sometimes programs will focus on a certain population, such as specific healthcare needs of youth and families in underserved and rural communities.
Course work includes core courses such as graduate research and sciences, electives, and theory or clinical courses. PNPs are trained to identify acute illnesses. They’re also taught skills in nursing and medical management of commonly encountered acute and chronic illnesses in collaboration and consultation with an interdisciplinary team; development of a knowledge base of community needs and resources available for health promotion; health teaching, guidance, and counseling of clients and their families about illness and its prevention; and health promotion, maintenance, and management. Core courses for PNP programs may include the following classroom topics:
- Advanced Physical Assessment
- Theoretical Foundations in Nursing
- Research & Biostatistical Processes in Health Care
- Epidemiology in Health Care
- Primary Care
- Nutrition in Health Promotion
- Health Policy: Local to Global
Typically the theoretical and clinical courses include classroom work, lab sessions, and clinical precepts focused on the management of common acute and chronic health problems in children. Some programs offer a specialty in acute care pediatrics in which students are trained to manage critically ill infants, children and adolescents. Advancement in the career comes from work experience and specialization in specific areas of children’s medicine, which may require more formal education.
After completing a PNP master’s program, graduates are ready to apply for national certification from the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) or the Pediatric Nursing Certification Board (PNCB). Successfully passing one of these tests will allow the graduate to become a certified pediatric nurse practitioner (CPNP).
What does a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner Career Look Like?
To practice as a PNP you must be a licensed RN, complete a master’s or doctorate degree with a specialization in pediatric care, and pass the National Board certification. As a pediatric NP you’ll be caring for children and adolescents. Commonly, PNPs focus on preventative medicine including checkups, exams, and immunizations of children. Typically these PNPs are also the first people parents go to when their children have acute medical problems such as ear infections, tonsillitis, chicken-pox, and other common childhood ailments. Since PNPs spend most of their careers diagnosing children’s illnesses they must be knowledgeable about the factors of child development and growth in order to provide comprehensive care.
PNPs often spend their career encouraging and educating communities in regards to healthy children’s lifestyles. Therefore they must know how to communicate with compassion and understanding in regards to common children health care problems. They also must be efficient problem solvers, able to come up with solutions in common family and child healthcare situations. The common duties of a PNP include:
Assessing the Pediatric Healthcare Problem:
- Obtain health and medical histories of children patients
- Execute age-based physical examinations
- Perform preventative screening tests such as hearing, vision, and cancer tests
- Identify any risks the patient may have and outline needs of the patient
Diagnosing the Pediatric Healthcare Problem:
- Order diagnostic tests appropriate to patient’s needs
- Evaluate patient health, medical history, and diagnostic tests
Managing Pediatric Patient Care Plan:
- Discern needs of family or community based on pertinent information collected
- Implement a care plan that may include prescribing medications (the legalities of nurse practitioners granted written prescriptions rights differs from state to state)
- Provide and promote health care education
- When warranted, make referrals to health care agencies or the appropriate health care professional
- Continually reassess and make adjustments to plan-of-care in order to accomplish health care goals
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that overall job opportunities for nursing professionals, including pediatric nurse practitioners, were expected to increase by 22% over the 2008-2018 decade. This growing demand for such skills may be due to a large number of retiring nursing professionals who must be replaced and to improvements in health care technology with an increased focus on preventive care. Salaries and career paths for PNPs can vary greatly. They can work in doctor’s offices, clinics, hospitals, surgical centers, pediatric centers, and other health care settings. The average salary ranges between $57,767 and $95,334 per year.
More Information about Pediatric Nurse Practitioner Programs:
- PedInfo.Org: This is a web page dedicated to information on pediatrics. The sites goal is to catalog areas of pediatric special interest and to accelerate the reader’s understanding of the discipline of Pediatric Informatics.
- GeneralPediatrics.Com: This is website offering “the general pediatricians view of the Internet.” It offers information pertaining to the pediatric nurse practitioner career, including pediatric differential diagnoses, textbooks, evidence based medicine resources, journals, guidelines and policy statements, professional societies, case studies, patient education, continuing medical education courses, current news, and more.
- American Academy of Pediatrics: The AAP is “an organization of 60,000 pediatricians committed to the optimal physical, mental, and social health and well-being for all infants, children, adolescents, and young adults.” Their website offers professional resources, continuing medical education resources, advocacy and policy around pediatric care, and more.
- Pediatrics Publication: This is an AAP journal publication on pediatrics. It offers peer reviewed articles about pediatrics. It comes in print and online versions, as well as foreign language options.
- DBPeds.Org: This is an AAP run website that is sponsored by the section on developmental and behavioral pediatrics (SODBP). This resource is aimed at professionals interested in child development and behavior, especially in the clinical setting. It offers a discussion board, practice management resources, upcoming educational events, relevant policy statements, links to more information on developmental issues, screening and assessment tests, educational materials, and other pediatric resources.