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Nursing for Children - Careers in Nursing

A guide to the specific challenges and rewarding aspects of caring for children.
Written on 2/7/14

Caring for children is one of the most rewarding aspects of modern nursing. Since parents often find themselves struggling to cope with issues regarding their child's health and development, children's nurses take on a huge degree of responsibility and must demonstrate their ability to handle significant pressure while delivering effective care. If you are considering becoming a children's nurse, it is worth becoming familiar with the challenges associated with the role.

Caring for children

While broadly similar to adult nursing practice, the specific challenges of childhood nursing are unique. Crucially, nurses must have a comprehensive understanding of childhood development and the complications of introducing children to clinical environments.

The way children deal with illness is also a different proposition to adult healthcare and nurses must be sensitive to the challenges this presents. A nurse's average day may include the treatment of newborn babies, toddlers and teenagers - each with their own specific needs.  Amongst other tasks, children's nurses will be required to:

  • check patients' temperatures
  • measure blood pressure and breathing rates and administer drugs
  • assist doctors with examinations
  • clean and dress wounds
  • use high-tech medical equipment

Nurses must also consider the needs and attitudes of their patients' family members, which can often complicate treatment. Children's nurses are the primary point of contact for parents during childhood illnesses and a single nursing shift will likely involve monitoring a wide variety of patients and dealing with the inquiries of parents during visiting hours.

The impact of illness and injury is magnified in childhood - a period of poor health may leave a child behind in school or socially withdrawn. In these situations, nurses must be able to advise families and help overcome any problems.

Communication challenges

Perhaps the greatest challenge children's nurses face is the need to communicate information to patients clearly and effectively. Unlike adults, who can quickly absorb information or express their own concerns, children's behaviour or language skills may not be conducive to achieving this. In medical situations the speed and clarity of communication can make a huge difference to the effectiveness of a treatment plan - children's nurses need to be specially trained to pick up on changes to their patients' conditions and react swiftly.

Skills required

Like all nurses, children's nurses should be compassionate, capable and comfortable in high pressure work environments. For the special requirements of child patients, nurses should also be excellent communicators and particularly perceptive towards patients who may not be able to express themselves verbally. While sensitivity is important, nurses should also be ready for the challenges presented by parents, family members and any others emotionally invested in a child's care.

Nurses will be required to liaise with doctors, healthcare assistants, psychologists and other medical professionals across a variety of environments, from hospitals and clinics to schools or patients' homes. The diversity of the role means children's nurses may be required to travel extensively in order to meet and care for their patients.

Becoming a nurse

All nurses must hold a university-level nursing degree which takes three years to complete on a full time basis. Degrees place students in both 'real world' and classroom environments, and, upon completion, allow graduates to become registered nurses and apply for vacant positions.

Although the role may be diverse and demanding, children's nurses can expect a high degree of job satisfaction - as they take a direct and important role in changing the lives of patients and families for the better.