Pediatric nurse certification opens more career doors than you might think

Pediatric nurse certification has opened doors for many nurses.

Tara S. Jankouskas, PhD, RNC, has practiced as a pediatric nurse since 1984. Her more than three decades in the nursing specialty have included many different roles, but she never lost sight of her desire to practice at the bedside.

“Even though I have obtained my advanced degrees in nursing, I’ve always continued to practice at the bedside,” she said. “I have been able to practice in various parts of the country.”

Tara S. Jankouskas, RNC

Jankouskas has worked in the Northeast, Texas, California, and Pennsylvania during her career.

“I’ve worked in different types of pediatric units,” said Jankouskas, an associate professor of nursing at Messiah College in Mechanicsburg, Pa., and a speaker for the our Pediatric Nurse Certification Review course. “I had the opportunity to work in outpatient pediatrics and even in home care. I also tried camp nursing.” She also worked as a clinical nurse educator.

Pediatric nursing differs from adult nursing in important ways.

“We always say children aren’t small adults,” Jankouskas said. “The most unique and important aspect of being a pediatric nurse is overlaying growth and development onto your nursing practice. The fundamental skills are the same. Assessments, reassessments and implementing interventions are very similar across all ages.”

Jankouskas said nurses assessing children have to consider differences as their patients grow and age that could impact health risks, safety issues, complications and more.

There’s also the developmental piece, which includes knowing what children understand and worry about, what they can and can’t do at different ages and knowing how to approach patients and families to explain things.

Medication dosages for adults and children vary. For children, they are based on growth and weight, and fluid volumes are different. Nurses must calculate things differently.

“Even if you think about the basics of CPR, that’s an intervention and that’s different based on the age of the patient,” Jankouskas said.

To illustrate how different pediatric nursing can be, Jankouskas shared a common issue that could arise: A child who is septic coming into the emergency department.

“In the emergency department, you have to act quickly,” she said. “You’re going to be giving antibiotics and fluids.”

Nurses who are not familiar with or don’t know where to look for the different fluid volumes required for pediatric patients — or how to administer resuscitation medications in children — could make serious errors.

“I think that’s what makes pediatric nursing interesting, but also challenging, because it’s a lot,” Jankouskas said. “It’s this layer that you need to know, and it’s not the same from toddlers to preschool-aged children to school age.”

Learning the specialty

Some new nurses have opportunities to practice in children’s hospitals or pediatric clinics while in nursing school. But having access to pediatric clinical experience can be challenging for some nursing schools.

“I do a lot of simulation even though we have access to a children’s hospital for our pediatric clinical experiences,” Jankouskas said. “That can provide good opportunities for practicing approaches for pediatric patients. Even having access to childcare centers where students can get …read more

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