Pediatric nursing is like no other practice area, and nurses who choose it as a career know that from the very first day that they start working.
When you ask a pediatric nurse to think back to when they first decided that their professional focus would be on children, the response you’ll get generally goes along one of these lines:
- I realized that I wanted to work with children in the midst of my nursing program, when I realized the impact that nursing care had on patients and their families.
- I knew that pediatric nursing was the right career choice for me because I am an extremely patient person, and I felt that it was the right fit for my temperament.
- I have always loved children from the time that I was young, and I knew that my career would involve children before I ever knew that I would become a nurse.
- I decided to become a nurse after having witnessed the difference nurses make after having been sick as a child – or having had a family member or friend who was sick as a child.
No matter whether you fall into one of these categories or your personal reason for becoming a pediatric nurse is unique, once you stepped into the role you learned things you could never have anticipated about the job, and that nursing school only scratched the surface in preparing you for.
If nursing is your calling rather than strictly a career choice, then pediatric nursing is a passion rather than a profession. Whether you work in a private pediatric office providing day-to-day care that includes well check-ups and vaccinations or in a big-city teaching hospital where you see patients suffering trauma or chronic illness, you know that for all of your efforts and all of your education, it is the children, their parents, and your co-workers who keep you going and make every day – the good ones and the not-so-good ones – amazing.
While no two days are the same, there are some commonalities that every pediatric nurse recognizes.
- You will smile and laugh a lot
- You will cry a lot too. Sometimes quietly, and sometimes from the depth of your soul.
- There will be days when you’ll enjoy hard-won celebrations, like learning that the patient you’ve been treating for months is finally cancer free.
- There are also days where the patient you sent home from a bell-ringing ceremony months ago is back, and relapsed.
- You will feel your patients’ struggles as if they are your own.
- You will share your patients’ parents’ pain and joys as if they are your own too. Sometimes you’ll be invited in to share that emotion, and other times you’ll need to keep your distance and allow them their privacy. You’ll learn to tell the difference between the two, but that won’t diminish your own feelings at all.
- You will witness moments that are so private that you wish you could disappear into the walls, and yet feel privileged to have seen them.
- You will have patients who confide things to you that they can’t bear to tell their families.
- You know amazing tricks to make children laugh or smile or to calm their nerves.
- You will spend hours just playing with children, or coloring, or singing, or dancing.
- You will hold hands with a frightened child until they fall asleep and you can’t feel your fingers anymore.
- You will perform surgeries and offer first aid and other treatments to more stuffed animals than you can count.
- You will work with parents and family members to teach them skills they never wanted to learn, and still can’t believe that they have to.
- You will work hard to hold your words in when you witness parents behaving badly.
- You will comfort children who are struggling with their sibling’s illness.
- You will be the source of strength and the arms that hug and hold parents who are at the end of their emotional reservoirs.
- You will, likewise, offer and receive those hugs and words of support from your colleagues.
- You will go home absolutely exhausted and depleted, no matter whether it was a good day or a bad one, then recharge yourself and get ready for whatever the next day brings.
There are so many words that patients use to describe their favorite pediatric nurses: attentive, caring, competent, caring. Cheerful, compassionate, dedicated, and dependable.
But for all of the accolades and compliments that are bestowed upon them, pediatric nurses know that ultimately they aren’t doing it for the praise. Providing high-quality, empathetic nursing care to children and being supportive of their families is one of the most rewarding and fulfilling career choices that a person can make, and for all of the potential pain and exhaustion and frustration that comes with the job, most would not trade it for the world.
There is nothing to compare to the feeling of knowing that you’ve helped a child or teenager navigate a frightening, stressful experience, or that you’ve helped alleviate a young person’s pain. There is also nothing to compare to the feeling of witnessing a child’s relief, or joy, or sense of accomplishment.
Pediatric nurses learn something new every day – not from doctors or continuing education units, but from the patients that they’re privileged to work with. They know that they have the true honor of working with other caring professionals from every area of the healthcare community who have dedicated themselves to children’s needs.