Your path to a career as a pediatric nurse practitioner
If you’re a registered nurse with a bachelor’s degree who works in a pediatric environment and wants to grow your career, the next step for you is clear: Earn your master’s degree in nursing and become board certified to start working as a pediatric nurse practitioner.
Even if this description doesn’t fit you perfectly, becoming a nurse practitioner may be worth considering. Nurse practitioners ranked fifth in the 2020 list of the top 100 jobs compiled by U.S. News & World Report, landing two places ahead of physicians.
Nurse practitioners enjoy a great deal of job flexibility. While some must work under the supervision of a physician, others are allowed to practice independently, prescribe medication, and develop patient care plans. Often, these health care professionals help fill a medical need in areas where physicians are in short supply.
Pediatric nurse practitioners are enthusiastic about the opportunity to work with children, adolescents, and young adults. Medical workers in this field are energized by the chance to support young people so they can grow into healthy adults.
Individuals who specialize in this category also enjoy a relatively secure job market with low competition. An analysis of job postings collected by Burning Glass Technologies concluded that it took more than 50 days to fill pediatric nurse practitioner roles in 2019. U.S. News & World Report stated that the unemployment rate for all nurse practitioners was just 1.2% in 2020.
Why pursue a career in pediatric nursing?
Job satisfaction in pediatric nursing is high. A 2019 Medscape survey of nurse practitioners found that an impressive 96% of respondents were glad they had become an advanced practice nurse. Nurse practitioners also said that the most rewarding aspect of their job was the ability to make a difference in people’s lives.
Pediatric nurse practitioners have the opportunity to truly provide an essential service for young people, especially in medically underserved areas. They are also well compensated for their efforts.
You’ll be a trusted source of support for young people and their caregivers
For 18 straight years, a Gallup poll of American adults found that nurses were believed to be the most honest and ethical professionals in the country, according to a press release from the organization. As a pediatric nurse practitioner, you’d enjoy a high level of respect from your young patients and their guardians. In turn, you’ll provide top-quality medical care to help children grow into stable adults while ensuring that their worried caretakers have comfort and peace of mind. When they work with you, they’ll know their child is receiving proper care.
You can help bring health care to underserved locations
Access to quality health care is uneven in America, and many communities are underserved, especially in rural areas. In fact, according to the most recent numbers from the Health Resources and Services Administration, there are about 80 million people living in nearly 7,000 locations across the country that have been deemed health professional shortage areas.
As a pediatric nurse practitioner, you could help improve medical care in these communities. Increasingly, health care organizations are turning to nurse practitioners to help address physician shortages. That doesn’t necessarily mean you have to relocate, though. Nurse practitioners are qualified to work in a wide variety of medical settings, from urgent care clinics to educational facilities and more.
You can improve your earning potential
According to data provided by Burning Glass Technologies, the median salary for a pediatric nurse practitioner in 2019 was $96,300. Compare this to the median salary for nurse supervisors — which was $72,700 — and nurse managers at $79,200. Neither of those positions requires the additional education that nurse practitioners must possess.
Becoming a pediatric nurse practitioner represents a significant increase in earning potential compared to following the general career path available to registered nurses who don’t hold a master’s degree or advanced practice certification. Through furthering your education, you can earn more than you would by following a nursing management career path.
Industry trends in pediatric nurse practitioners
There is continued debate about how much independence nurse practitioners should have, and these health care workers are not granted the same authority everywhere. In some states, they can only work under the supervision of physicians, or they must abide by other mandates that narrow the scope of their work.
However, states and federal organizations are increasingly loosening these restrictions to give nurse practitioners full practice authority. In 2016, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs did just that, a press release from the organization noted. As state legislation changes, the American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP) keeps tabs on how these regulations vary between states.
Given the increased demand for health care services across the country and the impact of the physician shortage, it’s likely that organizations will continue to push for nurse practitioners to have full practice authority.
COVID-19 will impact the amount of autonomy that nurse practitioners have
The COVID-19 pandemic has also left a mark on how states approach the issue of full practice authority. Many locations temporarily altered their guidelines as the pandemic unfolded, AANP noted.
While some of these limited waivers have already expired, others may be added in the future. Based on how the public health situation progresses, some states might begin to push for further empowerment of nurse practitioners on a more permanent basis.
Areas of opportunity for nurse practitioners
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) identified several clinical settings in which nurse practitioners work, including:
Outpatient care centers
Children’s hospitals may be a particular area of focus for pediatric nurse practitioners who are looking for opportunities, and those who have full practice authority may also be able to operate their own offices.
Where are the pediatric nurse practitioner jobs?
BLS found that some of the most populous states had the largest number of working nurse practitioners in 2019:
On the other hand, several smaller states had a high concentration of people employed as nurse practitioners, perhaps due to the presence of specific health care facilities. The metro areas anchored by these cities had the highest concentrations of people employed as nurse practitioners in 2019:
Johnson City, Tennessee
Mean wages vary significantly across the country. Metro areas centered on the following cities were found to be the highest-paying regions for nurse practitioners in 2019:
San Francisco, California
Sumter, South Carolina
While working under the supervision of a physician, pediatric nurse practitioners may collaborate with their colleagues to conduct physical examinations, order and analyze lab work, assess medical conditions, and develop treatment plans for their patients.
Pediatric nurse practitioners sometimes practice in specialized departments of general hospitals to provide ongoing care and treatment for younger patients suffering from a variety of conditions. Alternatively, they may treat a specific subset of patients in children’s hospitals and specialize further in various medical disciplines.
Outpatient care centers
There is a wide variety of clinical settings outside of physicians’ offices and hospitals where pediatric nurse practitioners may work. These environments include urgent care facilities that handle nonemergency concerns in a timely manner, as well as offices that treat children, adolescents, or young adults who have more specific concerns.
Nurse practitioners may provide health services in school settings. This could include university clinics, support for athletic programs, and more. Here, pediatric nurse practitioners may provide initial health care services and offer referrals to outside hospitals or other medical facilities.
For pediatric nurse practitioners who have less than a year’s worth of experience, the average annual total compensation, according to PayScale, was $85,002. Once you’ve been in the field for one to four years, you might expect to earn $89,902. The highest-paying cities for pediatric nurse practitioners were Dallas and New York City, where they earned about 18% more than the national average.
Advanced job options
PayScale found that pediatric nurse practitioners who had been on the job for between five and nine years made an average of $91,246. For 10 years of experience and beyond, however, you could expect your earnings to largely plateau around $97,000.
Top skills and digital tools for pediatric nurse practitioners
Like all health care professionals, nurse practitioners are expected to demonstrate medical expertise as well as emotional intelligence in the course of their duties. Since they work with children, it is particularly important that pediatric nurse practitioners possess a strong sense of empathy and sharp technical skills.
The most sought-after skills in pediatric nursing
If you’re interested in working as a pediatric nurse practitioner, developing the fastest-growing skills in the field is a good way to improve your employment prospects for the most desirable positions. Based on an analysis of data from Burning Glass Technologies, you can expect to see these skills on a growing number of job postings over the next few years:
Projected Posting Growth (2018-2023)
Clinical Care Nursing
Ensuring Patients’ Comfort
Catheterization Laboratory (CATH LAB)
Handling of Crisis or Emergency Situations
Interaction with Patients and Medical Personnel
Source: Burning Glass Technologies
For jobs that require a hybridized skill set entailing a nursing degree and tech-based duties, there are several in-demand technological competencies that could help you stand out from the competition. Data from Burning Glass Technologies indicated that these capabilities, followed by the percentage of job posts they appeared in, were among the most prominent for hybridized roles:
Microsoft Excel: 24.5%
Microsoft Office: 14.5%
Microsoft PowerPoint: 11%
Data Visualization: 8.7%
Soft skills in pediatric nursing
Don’t let the medical sophistication of this career path fool you. Pediatric nurse practitioners need to be competent in a broad range of soft skills to work effectively with their colleagues and deliver quality patient care. An analysis of job postings from Burning Glass Technologies indicated that these baseline skills, followed by the percentage of job posts in which they appeared, are the ones you’ll need to brush up on:
Teamwork and collaboration: 38.1%
Attention to detail: 15.7%
Top emerging skills
Working as a pediatric nurse practitioner means you’ll be part of a dynamic field. To keep up with employment trends, pay attention to the following skills, which are expected to appear on more job posts as the years go on, according to data from Burning Glass Technologies:
Projected Posting Growth (2018–2023)
Medical History Review
Patient Issue Resolution
Source: Burning Glass Technologies
Pediatric nursing fellowships
Fellowships can help you acquire a great deal of experience in pediatric care. Consider applying to these leading health care organizations once you’ve completed the necessary education and certifications:
Given the complicated technical requirements for working in the health care field, belonging to a pediatric nursing industry group can be the best way for you to stay up to date with current legislation, medical research, and job opportunities. Consider the resources available from these organizations:
Get ready for the next step in your nursing career
Completing your master’s in nursing and earning an advanced practice certification represents a new chapter in your nursing career. You’ll be able to pursue greater specialization, and better compensation, as a pediatric nurse practitioner.
You’ll likely enjoy substantial job security in the nurse practitioner role, and, if current trends continue, you’ll have a great deal of authority that you could use to help address medical coverage gaps created by physician shortages around the country.