Pediatric nurses have the knowledge and expertise to care for children of all ages in various healthcare settings. They must be knowledgeable about the growth and milestone development of the child and how to collaborate with the child’s family when providing care for the child.
Specifically, a pediatric cardiac ICU nurse specializes in the care of children with complex—life-threatening— medical problems, which involves:
- Strong assessment skills
- Knowledge on how to interpret laboratory data
- Competency in vasoactive medications
- Participation in bedside rounds with the multidisciplinary team
- Meticulous care of invasive tubes and catheters
Pediatric cardiac ICU nurses must also have excellent communication skills while being both compassionate and empathetic.
To be a pediatric cardiac ICU nurse, you need to be licensed as a registered nurse and graduate from an institution accredited by the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN) or the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE). A Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing (BSN) is also needed, although depending on your institution, they may accept an associate’s degree. However, there are more job opportunities for those with a bachelor’s degree or higher.
Before entering the intensive care environment, you should have pediatric experience, although some institutions may hire you without the experience. It is also crucial to understand the pediatric developmental stage and:
- Cardiac anomalies such as hypoplastic left heart syndrome
- Pediatric traumas
- Common respiratory complications such as Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV)
You should also have a thorough understanding of pediatric medications and dosage calculations.
Becoming certified validates your commitment, expertise, and knowledge. Certification demonstrates credibility. The Critical Care nurse- Pediatric (CCRN-P) is a specialty certification for nurses who provide direct care to acutely or critically ill pediatric patients. Initial eligibility requirements include:
- A current, unencumbered R.N. or APRN license
- Demonstrates expertise and knowledge in the field of pediatrics
- You must complete one of the following before certification:
- Two-year option: Practice as an R.N. or APRN for 1,750 hours in direct care of acute/critically ill pediatric patients during the previous two years prior to applying for certification, and 850 of those hours must be completed in the previous year prior to applying for certification.
- Five-year option: Practice as an R.N. or APRN for at least five years with at least 2,000 hours of direct care for acute/critically ill pediatric patients, and 144 of those hours must be completed in the previous year prior to applying for certification.
The median salary for Pediatric Cardiac ICU nurses can range from $88,000 to $129,000. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has increased the nursing shortage.
Skills and traits to be a successful pediatric nurse
- Communication: When caring for the pediatric population, you need to communicate in a way that the child feels safe. You need to be able to effectively communicate with parents.
- Time management: You need to multitask efficiently, as kids play most of the time by their own rules. So be ready and always prioritize to have enough time in your shift to complete any required tasks.
- Compassion: Children are often scared in the hospital setting. Sympathize and show empathy with your patients. Remember, they may not have their loved ones around as much. Compassion is one of the best attributes a pediatric cardiac ICU nurse can have.
- Problem solver: Be able to identify health problems early, and start interventions quickly as complications in this population happen very fast.
- Creativity: For all pediatric patients, including those on mechanical ventilation, it is important to be creative and be engaging with your patients. Remember that these are children who are away from their friends, family, and school environment. For example: if you need to put an IV line on a patient, you may have to be creative and first demonstrate on a stuffed animal so that the child starts gaining your trust.
Being a nurse can be stressful in any patient environment, but working as a pediatric cardiac ICU nurse requires you to be flexible with your time, as children can take a while to open up to you. Additionally, make sure you get a baseline on your patient. Often, children may not tell you if something is wrong, and it is up to you to be alert for any sign that the child is getting worse.
Ultimately, being a pediatric cardiac ICU can be exciting, frustrating, and super scary, so make the best out of any day you may have, and remember that the children depend on you!