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What does a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner do?

Tricia Christensen
Updated May 17, 2024
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A pediatric nurse practitioner is a registered nurse and a licensed nurse practitioner. He or she has also taken advanced studies in the field of pediatrics, so that primary work will be with children up to the age of 18. Many pediatrician’s offices and hospitals employ these specialists because in most cases they can work unassisted by a doctor and are able to provide significant range in care.

Unlike a registered nurse, a pediatric nurse practitioner is able to diagnose conditions, discuss them with family, and prescribe medications. She can also order tests, such as x-rays or blood tests, to confirm diagnosis. Usually, these practitioners work with or directly under the supervision of a doctor, which whom they can confer should a case seem extremely complicated. However, in doctor’s office settings, very often the pediatric nurse practitioner works in an independent fashion and sees patients, without needing physician consultation.

In many cases, then, the pediatric nurse practitioner will spend most days seeing quite a few patients. She can perform well child examinations, take patient histories, diagnose illness, prescribe remedies for it, refer kids to specialists, and even do some minor surgical procedures like stitches. Increasingly, many pediatricians have chosen to hire nurse practitioners to help them meet the needs of a busy practice. This makes a great deal of a sense. Nurse practitioners are paid less, though they tend to be compensated well, and they can work unsupervised

It would be a mistake to assume the only place a pediatric nurse practitioner works is in doctor’s offices. They might run free clinics, work as school nurses or head school nursing programs and they definitely also provide care in hospitals. They can also run independent private clinics, and structure a pediatric practice that does not involve doctors. Some of the pediatric nurse practitioners in hospital settings have specialized further and they may work in a specialty pediatrics practice, like pediatric cardiology or endocrinology. Depending on specialty, hospital work might involve significantly more procedures.

In hospital work, nurse practitioners may also do a great deal more counseling of families. Most families don’t head to hospitals for basic care of their children, and hospitalization of a child is fairly upsetting. Nurse practitioners working with these families will attempt to give them all information needed about proposed care so families can make good choices. Due to the complexity of conditions that can sometimes hospitalize children, the nurse practitioner may or may not always diagnose without a doctor’s assistance, but they often still do so.

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Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a WiseGeek contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.
Discussion Comments
By sunnySkys — On Jun 05, 2012

I think a lot of people really underestimate the amount of education you have to have to get a pediatric nurse practitioner job. A friend of mine is in medical school and we were actually talking about this the other day!

According to my friend, some nurse practitioners actually have their doctorate degrees. In order to be a nurse practitioner, you have to at least have a master's but some nurse practitioners continue on and get even more advanced degrees in their specialties.

By starrynight — On Jun 04, 2012

@indemnifyme - I find that nurses in general have a much nicer bedside manner than doctors. Nothing against doctors, but this just usually seems to be the case.

Anyway, I've also heard that a lot more doctor's offices and hospitals are trying to hire nurse practitioners instead of more doctors. As the article said, pediatric nurse practitioner salaries are good but less than what a doctor makes.

Interestingly enough, I've also heard of this same thing happening regarding licensed practical nurses. Some doctor's offices are hiring medical assistants instead of LPN's because they can pay the medical assistants less!

By indemnifyme — On Jun 04, 2012

When I was growing up, our "family doctor" was actually a nurse practitioner. She was great! I don't know if it's just something about the pediatric nurse practitioner job description, but she had a much better bedside manner than most doctors I've seen.

Also, she was willing to spend a lot more time with us than the doctor who worked at the same practice. She would really listen to my mom's concerns and input.

As an adult, I make an effort to see a nurse practitioner for most things if I can help it. They can do most of the same things doctors can anyway!

By ElizaBennett — On Jun 03, 2012
@dfoster85 - Anyone who is good with kids at the doctor's office is a find! I like everyone at my pediatrician's office, too, but I had to try out a couple before I found a good fit for us.

When I had my first baby, he had to be checked out by a neonatal nurse practitioner because of being a c-section baby. She was basically a pediatric nurse practitioner who had specialized further to work with sick newborns. (Fortunately, my son checked out okay and didn't have to spend any time in the NICU -- neonatal intensive care unit -- where the nurse practitioner works.)

By dfoster85 — On Jun 03, 2012

I really like the certified pediatric nurse practitioner who works in my kids' doctor's office. She has a lot more availability than the doctor does for whatever reason, so we see her if we need to reschedule an appointment (there is a two-month wait for well checks with the doctor, so if you need to reschedule a week ahead of time, the nurse practitioner is your best bet) or sometimes if we need to come in for a sick visit.

She has a great bedside manner with the kids and her advice always seems sensible. I love that she gives so much more flexibility to the office so that we are able to get in when we need to be seen and the doctor is booked solid!

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a WiseGeek contributor, Tricia...
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