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  • 21 September 2021
  • 17 min read

What Is A Children's Nurse?

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    • Mat Martin
    • Richard Gill
    • Aubrey Hollebon
    • Laura Bosworth
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Play video: "In Children's Nursing there is so much room to progress, which I think is really good."

Student Nurse, Alexandria, outlines the role of Children’s Nurse, describing a typical day in the role as well as why she chose it as specialism.

Topics covered in this article


What Is A Children’s Nurse?

What Does A Children’s Nurse Do?

What Type Of Work Does A Children’s Nurse Do?

Why Is Children's Nursing Important?

What Kind Of Symptoms Do Children's Nurses Treat?

What Are The Main Duties Of A Children's Nurse?

Which Other Healthcare Staff Are Involved In The Care Of Someone Being Treated By A Children's Nurse?

Where Does A Children's Nurse Fit In The Process Of Patient Care?

What Are The Kinds Of Different Settings And Places Of Practice That Children's Nurses Can Work In?

What Are The Typical Children's Nursing Jobs In The NHS?

Are There Children's Nursing Jobs In The Private Sector That Aren't Available In The NHS?

What Are The Career Opportunities In Children's Nursing?

A Brief History Of Children's Nursing

A Brief Outline Of A Day In The Life Of A Children's Nurse

Why I Love Children’s Nursing

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Hi guys. If you haven't seen me before, my name is Alexandria, or Alex, and I have just finished my second year of studying Children's Nursing.

So I'm going into my third and final year.

This is a video I feel like probably should've been made a long, long, long time ago, which is just simply talking about the role of a Children's Nurse, what that means.

Because for some people, they don't really know about the extent of the versatility of the role, so I'm hoping that I can make that a little bit clearer for some people who may want to know more.

Just a disclaimer, obviously I am a student, so some things I may not fully know, so if you have anything to add in the comments, please add them.

I've just been doing my own research and been going off my own experience and knowledge as a student.

What Is A Children’s Nurse?

The first thing I want to discuss is simply what is a Children's Nurse or a Paediatric Nurse, because the terms are interchangeable.

A Children's Nurse is a registered nurse who will generally have a degree in nursing, they might do an apprenticeship, but they will have a qualification and be registered with the NMC as a Children's Nurse and that involves caring for people from birth to the age of 18.

In some areas, that can be a bit older, sometimes that can even go up to the age of maybe 21 to even 25, and sometimes that is for reasons of continuity of care.

For example, if it is a long-term patient that has stayed with the paediatric team for years and years and years and they need time to kind of adjust into the adult side of their care, sometimes that can be the case, but generally speaking, places will take patients from birth up to the age of 18, and sometimes 16 actually.

Sometimes they will take 17, 18 year olds and put them under adult care, especially if it's busy and you've got a lot of little ones, so generally, children under the age of 18 or 16, literally right from when they're born.

So it's a big variety of ages, sizes, yeah, so it's a very versatile job and you're looking after all sorts of different children with all sorts of different needs from very acute problems, very chronic problems, trauma, all sorts of different things.

It just depends on the setting that you work in.

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What Does A Children’s Nurse Do?

A Children's Nurse provides holistic care and support for children and their families.

That can include mental support, getting a shocking diagnosis can be quite hard on someone's mental health for the patient and for the family, so being able to support them through that, or just if that child has a past history of mental health issues, you can support them through that.

Obviously you're supporting their physical needs regardless of what is wrong with them, whether they have chronic issues, whether they've just come in with an injury or a virus, literally anything.

You're supporting them with helping get better holistically.

So you're supporting every aspect of their care from just sitting with them and listening to how they feel to you know, feeding, giving medication, wound care, all that kind of stuff.

So it is a very holistic job.

You're not just treating the patient, you've got to treat them like a human at the same time and make sure that they are okay up here as well, and physically.

That their family is okay and that you're able to answer as many questions as they have, because obviously, it can be quite an anxious time being in hospital or being under nursing care.

Find out more about how to become a Children's Nurse here.

What Type Of Work Does A Children’s Nurse Do?

The work that you do is very, its child focused.

It's very different in that sense to caring for adults, and you have to adapt the way you care for the children based on their developmental stage.

How old they are, what's wrong with them, because if you have a child that can't walk, you're not gonna treat that or look after that child or play with that child the same way you would play with a child that's running around all the time and has the ability to walk and run.

Children might have different levels of speech, there might be a language barrier.

You have children from all different ages and stages of life, so you have to be able to adapt the way that you care for them accordingly, and that can be quite difficult, and it does take some getting used to, and it's something that I've been told that you just constantly learn to get used to on the job.

So I think in that way, child nursing has a lot more versatility as opposed to just focusing on adult nursing, for example, because you've got whole, a much wider range of patients to care for.

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Why Is Children's Nursing Important?

In my personal opinion, I think Children's Nursing is important because it sets these children up for life.

You know, if they have a good experience with nursing care or a good hospital experience, I mean being in hospital is not good, but if you can make that less traumatic for them, that can set them up for life.

You know, if you play a part in making them get better from something that's very traumatic, that can set them up for life and you know, help them to live a healthy life in adulthood.

And I think in that case, it is very important and it's also very important for the family as well, because you're not just supporting their child, you're supporting them as well.

I think that is something that is quite special and particular to Children's Nursing, because it's that holistic care not only for the patient but for their family as well.

You're not just taking care of the patient, which can be quite a lot to process, but you do get used to it, and it is really, really rewarding at the end of the day.

What Kind Of Symptoms Do Children's Nurses Treat?

Now, this is a question like, the answer is endless really.

It really depends where you're working because there's so many different settings you can work in which I'll talk about later.

Symptoms, it depends on what's wrong with the child, really.

You could be treating pain, so you're focusing on pain management, it could just be managing a chronic illness or managing symptoms of maybe chemotherapy if you've got an oncology patient, helping a child manage diabetes.

It could be managing pain in sickle cell crisis or just general pain from an injury, things like difficulty in breathing, you get that a lot in children, especially in the wintertime.

You could be treating mental health, it's really important to look for signs and symptoms of you know, a child might be struggling with their mental health.

Children with complex needs, you know, symptoms and signs of seizures, treating seizures, after effects of surgery, and as I said, like chronic illnesses and just, there's honestly so many things.

You've got children that have congenital issues, that they will need treatment for the symptoms and the types of conditions that you're treating is honestly endless in Children's Nursing.

So there is a lot of variety and a lot of things that you could possibly be interested in and things that you could possibly want to read more about or go into when you qualify, because you might want to specialise.

What Are The Main Duties Of A Children's Nurse?

I would say personally to listen, to advocate for your patient and their family, to support them, to complete documentation accurately, because you always get taught if you don't document it, it didn't happen so it's really important to do that.

Organisation, administering and drawing up medication, giving health advice as well, because parents tend to have a lot of questions about, you know, their child's treatment, their child's diagnosis, they want to know more so you can help in kind of giving them answers about that.

I think one of the really important things is definitely advocating for your patient, because you have the opportunity to escalate their problems and their concerns to other people if you don't know the answer and that is really important for them to feel heard.

Which Other Healthcare Staff Are Involved In The Care Of Someone Being Treated By A Children's Nurse?

So obviously you've got Doctors, Midwives, say if you've got children that have come from the NICU, Surgeons, Anaesthetists, Physio's, Speech and Language Therapists, Occupational Therapists.

These are all people that can help with recovery, as well as particularly Physios and Speech and Language Therapists can help after like trauma and things like that.

Physios are regularly involved in treatment of children for example who have cystic fibrosis, and helping with kind of like building up the strength with their lungs.

You've also got Ocupational Therapists who can improve a patient's ability to just do basic daily tasks again.

There are so many people who make up the multidisciplinary team within health care and it's all about teamwork, really.

Dieticians as well with feeding plans, that is really, really important, and there are a ton of people that work behind the scenes to help to care for patients that I think a lot of people don't know about.

It is really important to talk about that, and make people aware that there is so much work and so many people that go behind the care that you receive, and particularly for children.

And Play Specialists as well.

When you've got kids who are distressed, Play Specialists are amazing at helping to distract children, help them to understand procedures they might be about to go through, and to just ease their anxiety through play, which is extremely useful.

Where Does A Children's Nurse Fit In The Process Of Patient Care?

Obviously nurses are at the direct forefront of patient care.

You know, you're working 12 hours a day with your patient, helping to organise the day, organise their day, organise their care.

You're liaising with all the other members of the health care team that I mentioned before, and you're carrying out those plans that are made by other health care professionals.

If your patient has physio at two o'clock, you know you've got to work around that and you've got to work with them, say if medications are due.

You talk to dieticians about feeding plans if there's any changes, you obviously want to contact doctors if you've got any concerns that you want to escalate or if you think that certain medication needs prescribing, for example.

What Are The Kinds Of Different Settings And Places Of Practice That Children's Nurses Can Work In?

So Children's Nurses can work in a whole range of places like any nurse can to be honest.

Obviously the main one is in hospitals, so you can do bedside nursing, you can work in a clinic, you can be a health visitor going to people's houses, and that falls under community.

Community can be health visiting or you know, hospital at home services where you're going in to the patient's house to carry out care.

It can be in a clinic, in a GP surgery.

You can be a School Nurse, you can work in special needs schools, like opportunities are endless.

I think that is one thing that is so amazing about nursing in general, regardless of what specialty you go into or what field, it's so, so, so versatile.

So you can get a job in basically any field and specialise in whatever you want to.

What Are The Typical Children's Nursing Jobs In The NHS?

As I kind of said before, we've got a lot of ward-based things,

Generally for children that will include general ward, so that'll be medical, might be a mix of haematology, oncology, respiratory, and maybe random other conditions like diabetes, cystic fibrosis, bronchiectasis, things like that and that are quite common in children.

You obviously have intensive care, high dependency unit, you have NICU which is neonatal intensive care unit.

You have surgical wards, you have different, like you might have gastro wards, renal wards, oncology wards.

It depends on the hospital you're in, to be honest, because some hospitals are bigger than others with their children's department, some are a lot smaller, so yeah, the world is your oyster when it comes to that.

Are There Children's Nursing Jobs In The Private Sector That Aren't Available In The NHS?

I don't know personally too much about the private sector and what jobs are offered in there in comparison to the NHS, because I only have experience in the NHS, but generally, there is a lot more variety for jobs in the NHS because obviously it's much larger, you've got a wider range of patients.

So private is generally kind of limited to things like day surgery and clinics and things like that.

So I think the NHS is a lot more broad.

Even though it's busier and a lot more hectic, it is a lot more broad and there's a lot more that you can see and learn.

What Are The Career Opportunities In Children's Nursing?

So in Children's Nursing there is so much room to progress, which I think is really good.

Like if you are comfortable where you are, you can do that, you can move on to more managerial roles, you can move up the bands.

Obviously once you qualify, you start at band five, you can work your way up.

Then your pay will increase and your responsibility will increase.

You can do different courses, so you can build up your skills and do more complicated things, like you can do venipuncture courses, you can do specific courses for anatomy or certain skills that you want to be qualified in.

You can become a clinical nurse specialist, you can do a master's and become a nurse practitioner or an advanced nurse practitioner, an advanced clinical practitioner.

There's so many things that you can do to progress and you know, just broaden your horizons in nursing and that's why I think a lot of people are drawn to nursing, because there's so much you can do.

If you have a particular interest you can take that and go down any route you want and become the type of nurse you want to be.

Like there's always a job for your interest.

A Brief History Of Children's Nursing

I actually had to research this myself, so according to Google, the inception of Children's Nursing was in 1852.

That was quite a long time ago, but at the same time, not that long ago.

The first paediatric hospital, so children's hospital, was GOSH, so Great Ormond Street Hospital which is obviously a very well known children's hospital in London, and in 1919, the fight for registration as Children's Nurses was won, so it became an official thing.

And the main aim of Children's Nursing was to normalise and make specialised nursing a thing in order to provide better efficiency of care for sick children.

Because obviously, if you've got very general nursing with nurses who are more trained in adult care, the care that children are getting isn't going to be as specific to their needs.

And that's not a question of their ability as a nurse but I think by studying Children's Nursing particularly, you are, you learn a lot about child development, you learn a lot about how to just simply interact with children and you know, make them more comfortable in these situations.

I think that's why specialised nursing for children is so effective in improving their patient care.

A Brief Outline Of A Day In The Life Of A Children's Nurse

So I can only speak from what I've seen and what I've experienced as a student, and it all depends on the role you have.

Like I've obviously spoken about all the different roles that there are within nursing, Children's Nursing, but from my experience on the wards, I think is probably the most generic day in the life.

You receive handover at the start of your shift and then after that, you'll make your introductions to your patients and their families and you'll do the bedside check.

So you've got to check the suction's working and that there's enough suction catheters, you check that their oxygen's working and then you check that the patient buzzer is working and that the emergency buzzer is working because you never know what could happen.

You'll document all of that, you'll plan out your day, so what medications are due, when you're gonna do observations, how often you have to do them, if you've got feeding to do, some patients they might not feed orally, so if you've got to do NG feeds or PICC feeds or anything.

If you've got fluids running, you'll need to prepare them and you'll have to document fluid balance a lot of the time, you know, documenting what patients have had to eat and drink and whether they've been to the toilet, if they vomited, things like that.

You'll have to probably liaise a lot with other members of the multidisciplinary team so talking to doctors, dieticians, other nurses, physios, all those kinds of people.

Then obviously you'll have to write your patient notes and make sure your documentation is up to scratch and you know, and in between that, hopefully you have enough time to actually interact with your patient properly and talk to their parents and update them on what's going on because that's really important.

Why I Love Children’s Nursing

Children's Nursing is a lot of fun. You know, children can be so unpredictable.

They can really brighten up your day, I think personally it's a lot more of a positive environment being around children.

Even when they're not very well, you know, they come out with things that are so funny and it's so nice to kind of be around a family, and it is so rewarding knowing that you can play a part in a child's care and hopefully in their recovery.

And yeah, I hope that video helped you guys and gave you a bit more of an insight as to what Children's Nursing is, if you didn't know.

If you have anything to add to the video, or any questions then make sure you comment below.

About the author

I'm a Newly Registered Nurse specialising in Children’s Nursing, which I have a great passion for. I feel very strongly about equal treatment and care for everyone, as it sets all children and young people up for the best future possible! I create vlogs following my Nursing journey and advice videos to help others along their own journeys too.

    • Mat Martin
    • Richard Gill
    • Aubrey Hollebon
    • Laura Bosworth
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    • Kate Johnson one month ago
      Kate Johnson
    • Kate Johnson
      one month ago

      I'd love to become a children's nurse when I'm older

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