Children’s nursing is hugely rewarding, but can also be emotionally demanding. If you’re interested in becoming a paediatric nurse, here’s what to expect from the training and how to decide whether the job is right for you.
What the job involves
Paediatric nurses work in hospitals, homes and the community, assessing the needs and caring for children of all ages. They act as a point of contact between the health service and children and their families.
As a children’s nurse, you will carry out tests and procedures such as intravenous infusions, administering drips, taking observations and administering drugs. Reports and records must be completed, so it is a varied role which calls for a range of qualities.
Common questions and concerns
Ceri Baker has been working in nursing for 19 years and is a Senior Lecturer in Children’s Nursing at the University of Hertfordshire, employed by the Health Environment Inspectorate. Here, Ceri answers some of the most common questions relating to training for the role.
What does paediatric nurse training involve?
To qualify as a children’s nurse, you will need to study for a degree in children’s nursing leading to registration with the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC).
The BSc Nursing degree course involves three years of full-time study at a University. It is a 50/50 course: 50 per cent theory and 50 per cent practice.
The theory is at university and includes a range of lectures, seminars, practicals and simulation. The practice can be in a variety of clinical areas, such as hospital wards and departments, and the community, including patient’s homes, schools, and children’s centres.
What kind of skills are useful in the role?
Effective communication skills are essential. If you find it difficult to strike up a conversation with children, their parents and other health care professionals, you will seriously struggle.
Children, especially younger children, may not be able to communicate their needs or pain levels well, so you will need to be sensitive to non-verbal clues. At the same time, you’ll should be able to communicate with parents, who may be delivering much of the care at home.
Are there are any personality traits that can help people thrive?
You need to be open and honest, dedicated and enthusiastic. A sense of humour also helps when things get tough.
What aspects of the training can prove challenging to students?
The shift patterns are always a struggle as there are weekends, nights and bank holidays that need to be covered. The amount and number of assessments are often challenging and at times essays can be due in when you are out on placement, so self-discipline and good time-management skills are essential.
Do some students have unrealistic expectations of the role, or underestimate its demands?
Nursing children and young people is not just about administering drugs, and working alongside other health care professionals, it is also about the fundamental elements of care such as washing, and feeding patients, helping them to get dressed, and spending time to listen to their situation. Lots of potential students seem to forget this!
Also in paediatric nursing we look after a variety of patients from tiny babies – and I mean tiny – to young adults. Each of our patients come with a family and they need looking after too.
What’s the dropout rate and are there any common reasons?
There is some drop out each year (five to 10 per cent), which is usually down to the fact that after experiencing the clinical environment for the first time, students realise that the profession just isn’t for them.
Although this is stressful for all concerned, it’s not such a bad thing. After all, we only want nurses to be looking after our sick children who really want to be nurses, hence the dedication mentioned earlier.
What can people do to help secure a place on a course?
You need to have 280 cat points or equivalent to get a place on our course. You also have to have passed English, Maths and Science at grade C or above (or equivalent).
You need to have some experience working with children and young people and be able to demonstrate some understanding of what a job in healthcare might entail, so doing a bit of research is essential if you have not had any direct experience of healthcare services.
What’s the best bit of advice you’ve heard for aspiring paediatric nurses?
You can’t just “love children” to be a paediatric nurse. You have to be dedicated to ensuring that each and every interaction a child (from a baby to young adult) and their family has with health care services is as positive as it can be.
In your role you will shape the child or young person’s relationship not only with their own health, but also with health care staff and services for the rest of their lives. So no pressure!