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The Role of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners

        Diverse populations, autonomy, and advanced clinical practice are some aspects of the nurse practitioner role that attract nurses, but when children are added to the patient mix, the attraction becomes irresistible for many. Janna Willhaus, a CPNP in Prairie Village, Kansas, said, “I've always been drawn to children and like the opportunities to teach families and make a difference in their lives.”
        Pediatric nurse practitioners (PNPs) use critical thinking skills and form interdisciplinary partnerships to provide optimal care to their young patients. This role demonstrates the personal, collegial, and collaborative approach that defines all NP practice, but nowhere does diagnostic skill and competence in clinician/patient interaction have more importance than in the pediatric environment. Pediatric care spans a wide spectrum, covering newborns, infants, children, adolescents, and young adults. These patients are often unable to fully articulate their concerns, pain, or disability and so rely on perceptive and highly skilled practitioners to assess their needs and ease their fears.
        PNPs promote good health habits, follow evidence-based clinical practice guidelines for screening, advocate for children and families, provide anticipatory guidance, and counsel on environment, lifestyle, and development. They also are highly concerned with disease prevention. The most common activities in daily practice include:
        • Assessing growth patterns
        • Evaluating developmental milestones and educating parents about normal growth and development
        • Eliciting comprehensive health histories
        • Ordering and interpreting common laboratory and other diagnostic tests
        • Diagnosing and treating common acute illnesses
        • Prescribing medication
        • Ordering immunizations
        • Performing physical examinations, including school physicals, preparticipation sports physicals, and general well-child exams
        • Providing anticipatory guidance
        What professional and personal skills are necessary to excel as a PNP? Willhaus says, “The ability to listen, empathy, a gentle approach with children, patience, flexibility, the ability to take good history, and the ability to problem solve” are invaluable.
        In addition to their traditional role as integral team members in clinics owned by hospitals, health departments, health plans, and NP or physician groups, many PNPs are working in convenient care clinics, emergency departments, specialty practices, and acute/inpatient settings. The scope of practice for PNPs in many states extends their reach into hospitals, hospices, and retail settings.
        The National Association of Children's Hospitals and Related Institutions has 218 members in the US and six other countries. The most common conditions treated at these facilities are respiratory, gastrointestinal, neurological, and orthopedic. Thirty-four children's hospitals nationwide have earned Magnet™ status from the American Nurses Credentialing Center.
        If you are an NP seeking a new opportunity in pediatrics, check out the jobs offered on the following pages. Willhaus advises, “Take the time to make both the patient and parent comfortable, listen to the parents' concerns (if they don't think you listened to them, they probably won't listen to you), and remember that teaching is as important as diagnosing. The job is very rewarding, and you can make a difference.”