HomeHealthCore skills and competencies for pediatric nurses

Core skills and competencies for pediatric nurses

Of all the career paths available in nursing, pediatrics is among the most popular. Nothing feels quite as rewarding as helping young patients with their whole lives ahead of them and seeing the smiles on their faces as their health improves and they look forward to going home. The right nurse can turn a worrying hospital trip into a fun and empowering experience for a child and soothe a family’s concerns at a difficult time. Read on if that sounds like something you would like to do with your life. This article explains the core skills and competencies you need in order to do the job.

A warm personality

If you study the pediatric NP program at Baylor University, you will have a chance to develop all the following important skills, but there is one thing that no course can give you, and that is the right kind of personality for the job. As in every area of nursing, you will need to be resilient and naturally inclined toward optimism, but the people best suited for pediatric nursing are those with a natural warmth, who enjoy nothing more than making children happy. If you enjoy your time with your patients, then they will enjoy their time with you. If you have fun with toys and games and creative activities yourself, you will find it much easier to share those things with the patients and make your work a source of joy for everyone.

A strong professional knowledge base

Children’s nursing involves treating a wide range of different conditions, so you need to have a broader knowledge base than nurses in other specialties, and you need to have a flexible approach to your work, ready to adapt quickly to new procedures. Your general nursing skills need to be first-class, alongside the specialist skills that you need for working with children. As your patients have smaller bodies, faster metabolisms and less experienced immune systems, problems can develop more quickly, and you will always need to be ready to respond at speed. The other side of that, however, is that recovery tends to be fast, so quick interventions can precipitate rapid improvements.

Great communication skills

As a pediatric nurse, you will need to be able to explain treatments to very young children so that they understand what is happening to them and feel less lost. You will also need to talk to families to reassure them that everything that is happening is in their child’s best interest and that they will be well looked after. You will need to be good at adjusting to different levels of understanding so that you can provide useful information without coming across as patronizing, and you will need to be adept at comforting after difficult news. Communication is not all about talking, however — it is also important to be a good listener, and in this job, you will need to be able to work out the wishes of very young children with limited vocabularies or no speech at all.

Awareness of children’s changing needs

Although people often think pediatrics is about looking after young children, in actuality you will be dealing with children of all ages, from babies through to teenagers, with very different social and emotional needs. You will need to be ready to engage with them in different ways and respect that they do not all grow up at the same rate. 

For very young children, being in a strange place is a scary experience, so it is your job to make them feel safe. As they get older and start to develop a bit more independence, it can become an adventure, and with the right support, they can come out of it feeling more confident than they did before. Still, older children and teenagers may have a strong desire to participate in decision making around their treatment, even if their parents still need to give formal consent, and you can help to facilitate family conversations, making it easier to find agreement on the right way forward.

The ability to make medicine and monitoring less scary

Pediatric nursing can require all the same tests as general nursing, but with smaller and more nervous patients, they often require more skill to carry out. You will have to teach children that needles are nothing to be afraid of and help them to feel comfortable about other pieces of equipment, such as blood pressure cuffs and heart monitors, which may seem intimidating. 

Many children hate taking pills, and sometimes there is no way around it, but you can help them to relax so that it is easier. You can also explain why dressings are important and make them objects of interest rather than resentment. You can make eyepatches cool with pirate stories and make casts fun by introducing the idea of drawing on them. All these little day-to-day things make a big difference together.

The ability to work alone or in a team

There are two main contexts in which pediatric nurses carry out their work. One is as part of a team in a hospital or clinic, where mutual support is vital and helps to give the place a friendly atmosphere for patients. The other is in the community, which frequently means working alone, visiting children at home or in an isolated practice. 

Many pediatric nurses do a bit of both over the course of their careers, so it is good to be flexible. Teamwork does not mean that there is no room to build up one-to-one relationships with patients, and many children who go into hospital will soon acquire a favorite nurse. Working alone, meanwhile, does not mean lacking support. The wider nursing community will always be there when needed.


If you get the qualifications you need and demonstrate the right skills, it is easy to find work as a pediatric nurse. You will attract a good salary and have lots of further learning opportunities, but most importantly, you will discover a job in which you can truly feel fulfilled, your decisions and hard work really matter, and you can change children’s lives for the better.


Most Popular