A Look at the Differences Between Pediatric and Adult Nursing
Nursing is a noble profession and one that offers excellent job security. Nurses are always going to be in high demand, regardless of the field that they work in. Whether you want to work with children or adults, you can be certain that there is a nursing job out there for you, although they will provide you with very different experiences. Here we take a look at the differences between pediatric and adult nursing to help you decide which path to take.
Different Working Experience
Working with children and adults are two very different experiences. The differences in treating children and adults go far beyond simple physiological differences, although those are important as well. For example:
• Children are less emotionally developed than adults, as well as physically. This means that they often have very different reactions to information, as well as treatments.
• Whether you are working with children or adults, you need to be able to explain clearly to them exactly what’s going on, what they are being treated for and how you plan on treating them. But when you are dealing with more serious illnesses, it can be difficult for adult patients to grasp them, let alone children. In some ways this can be a blessing; children facing the most serious and potentially fatal diagnoses are somewhat shielded from the enormity of their situation. However, pediatric nurses and doctors still have to consider difficult ethical questions regarding what to tell children and how.
As well as the different intellectual and emotional understanding of their situations, deciding on the right treatment options for children and adults requires a different process. This is because:
• Adults have much more extensive medical histories; they have been around longer and have been exposed to many more illnesses and diseases than younger children. This means that a nurse treating an adult patient usually has a lot more information to consider.
• Adults don’t just have longer medical histories; they are also more likely to already be prescribed a variety of medications that can interfere with treatments that you want to give them.
In general, children do not present as such complex cases and you have many more options when deciding how to treat them. However, there is a whole range of separate considerations that you need to factor in when you are treating pediatric patients. For example, pediatric patients will require different dosages of many common medicines, and some medicines are entirely unsuitable for pediatric patients except in extreme cases.
Training and Studying
The training for working as a nurse of any type begins in the same way; you will need to start by earning your registered nursing degree (RN) and working through the ranks until you get the opportunity to specialize in a specific field. In order to earn higher-level nursing degrees, you will need to complete your qualification while also working in a hospital or healthcare setting. You can enroll with a local university to complete your training; in which case, they can arrange a placement for you if you are not already working in a suitable environment.
However, it is also possible to study your degree through an online university. This is a better option for some students – those who want to complete their degree on a part-time basis or who want to save some money on their tuition fees, for example. You can find online versions of most nursing degrees, from registered nursing programs upwards. For example, Baylor University offers online pediatric acute care nurse practitioner programs that are perfect for nurses looking to work in an acute care setting with children.
When you are treating adult patients, you only have to worry about keeping them informed about their treatment, but when you are treating children, you have to consider their parents as well. It is helpful to have a pre-defined strategy for helping you to deal with parents and their inevitable questions and concerns. You will need to:
• Build a relationship with the parents: Developing a relationship and building rapport with the parents of your patients is one of the most important survival skills for a pediatric nurse to learn. Dealing with family members can often be one of the most difficult aspects of working as a pediatric nurse. As understandable as their concerns might be, overbearing parents can make the life of a pediatric nurse much more difficult than it needs to be. The easiest way of overcoming this difficulty is to establish a relationship with your patients’ families as early as possible. Once you have established a level of trust and rapport, they will feel less inclined to look over your shoulder.
• Create a welcoming environment: You want to make both your patients and their parents feel as welcome and relaxed as possible. In order to achieve this, you should have plenty of toys, books, and colorful displays surrounding your pediatric patients – anything that makes their environment feel less sterile and hospital-like. This will make parents feel more at ease about leaving their children under your supervision and can reduce stress for parents and patients.
• Get to know your patients: If you take some time to talk to your patients and their families and get to know them as individuals, it can go a long way in making their stay in hospital easier to deal with. Ask your patients about who they are and what they like to do so you can build a picture of who they are as a person as well as a patient.
The different physiologies of adults and children mean that doctors and nurses sometimes need to take extra care when they are treating children. For example, because children are still developing physically and emotionally, any medications or treatments that adversely affect hormone levels need to be approached with caution.
In some cases, the impact of such treatments on pediatric patients can be mitigated by supplementing their treatment with other medications. In other cases, medical necessity might mean having to give a pediatric patient a treatment that is less than ideal.
This isn’t so much of an issue with adults who are fully developed and who can be freely treated with whatever is available, allergies notwithstanding, of course. If you choose to work as an adult nurse, you will still have to consider the way that different treatments interact with one another, but not to the same degree as with pediatric patients.
Every nurse begins with general training preparing them for working in the profession, but the opportunity to specialize appears quickly. Deciding on a specialty is a major decision and not one that you want to take lightly. Make sure you understand the differences between pediatric and adult nursing before you make your choice.
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