When nurses think of going into pediatric nursing, they often think of working with a specific age in the wide range of newborn baby to 18-year-old young adult. But what many might not realize is how working with a child also includes working closely with a family as well. In fact, when pediatric nurses think of caring for a patient, they consider the care of the family as part of the whole child, says Shirley Wiggins, PhD, RN, president of the Society of Pediatric Nurses.

As families have evolved to range from the traditional family of a mom and dad with kids, today’s family structure takes on a whole new shape. It can include same gender parents, grandparents as primary caregivers, parents living together or apart, foster parents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and even close friends who comprise the family unit.

So while pediatric nurses tend to the needs of the child, they also remain mindful of the emotions and experiences of the child’s family. “Education is a critical point with families, and it’s what they need,” says Wiggins. But not all families are ready for specific information at the same time. A pediatric nurse’s job includes being able to read a family’s readiness. “What is the capacity of that child and that family both developmentally and at that time,” says Wiggins.

When families have information, they can help support the child even more, and pediatric nurses are there to help them through that process. “You see how powerful the family is in our society,” says Wiggins. “In difficult times, you see how amazing they are. They dig deep.”

Although Wiggins says many pediatric nurses come right from nursing school, there are many who choose the field during a mid-career change. Wiggins says it’s often the call of working with children and in partnership with families that draw nurses in. “Sometimes what drives it is they encounter a family and a child speaks to them,” she says.

Wiggins says no matter where you are coming from in your career, it helps to have an open mind when you think about how you would fit into a pediatric nursing position. “Be open to the that fact that each family is unique,” she says. “Be flexible to just listen.” Families and children often come as one unit, so pediatric nurses see the whole picture.

Julia Quinn-Szcesuil

Julia Quinn-Szcesuil is a freelance writer based in Bolton, Massachusetts.
Julia Quinn-Szcesuil
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