PALS certification – certification in pediatric advanced life support techniques – provides life-saving knowledge to those who work with children or may do so, including childcare providers, K-12 school teachers and staff, and emergency medical technicians or paramedics.
But pursuing PALS certification may also open up a possible career path for you if you find yourself especially interested in working with young patients – that of pediatric registered nurse (RN).
Pediatric nurses: responsibilities and working environment
Pediatric nurses are RNs who specialize in providing healthcare to patients from infancy to adolescence. In addition to disease treatment and prevention, their job responsibilities may include working with the families of pediatric patients, patient education, clinical consultations, and minor medical machine operation. Pediatric nurses may also administer injections and immunizations, perform patient assessments, monitor patient progress, and assist pediatricians with procedures.
Pediatric nurses can be found in hospitals (especially children’s hospitals), clinics, outpatient facilities, emergency rooms, doctor’s offices, and even in patients’ homes. About 60 percent of all RN jobs are in hospitals, and one would expect to find that same percentage among pediatric nurse positions.
Teamwork is highly valued, since pediatric nurses generally work as part of a group of healthcare professionals addressing the needs of young patients. Not surprisingly, and as is the case for all nursing career paths, at least initially pediatric nurses can expect to be working shifts at all hours, including night and weekend shifts.
Pediatric RN job requirements
Although the PALS course series may introduce you to the experience of providing medical care for children, in order to become a pediatric RN you first need to undertake the training mandatory for all registered nurses by completing an accredited nursing program.
The three most-common educational paths to becoming a registered nurse are via a bachelor's degree (BSN), an associate degree (ADN), or a diploma from an approved nursing program, often offered by a hospital. In addition, you must be licensed by the state in which you wish to work, which entails passing the NCLEX-RN exam. You’ll also be required to complete regular continuing education courses to keep your skills and knowledge up to date.
There is no formalized academic training for becoming a pediatric RN, so if you’re interested in this career path, you’ll want to go find opportunities to continue your learning in an environment where pediatric patients are treated, for example, a children’s hospital or pediatric clinic. A smart approach is to seek out hospitals that offer internships – usually lasting several months – for RNs interested in pediatric care.
Upon completion of this type of internship, you may apply to become a certified pediatric nurse (CPN), based on meeting the requirements of 1)having a RN license 2) completing 1800 hours in pediatric clinical practice (with a focus on a pediatric nursing specialty), and 3) passing an exam administered by the Pediatric Nursing Certification Board (PNCB).
Do you have the personality to enjoy pediatric nursing?
Although all nurses should be caring, sympathetic, responsible, and detail-oriented, pediatric nurses must also be extraordinarily patient, empathetic, and truly enjoy children. No PALS course can teach you these skills – only you can know whether you are innately a person who easily and effectively relates and responds to children.
Children in need of medical care are often fearful and nearly overwhelmed with anxiety about what is wrong and what will happen next – as are, often, their parents. Pediatric nurses need the emotional stability to be both empathetic and able to cope with human suffering, anxiety and other patient/parent stresses.
From PALS certification to…?
PALS certification on its own is a career enhancer, since you now have an additional skill with which to add value to your resume. But if as you work your way through your PALS course series you find that knowing how to step in and provide life-saving help during a child’s medical emergency has piqued your interest in the broader area of pediatric healthcare, you may want to check out becoming a pediatric RN.
Health Education Solutions offers the PALS course for certification and PALS recertification online.
American Association of Colleges of Nursing
American Nurses Association
American Society of Registered Nurses
National Council of State Boards of Nursing
National League for Nursing