There are lots of different specialisms that nurses of all levels can enter, and a popular choice for a lot of people is pediatric medicine – which, of course, means treating children. It is only natural that people who want to help others as a career are interested in helping kids, and naturally, with their growing bodies and some conditions that only affect children, working with child patients is slightly different from a medical perspective than treating adults. However, there are also some soft skills when it comes to working in pediatric medicine that are much more important than when working with adults, or even other more vulnerable people like seniors.
Here, we take a look at some of the soft skills you will need to have or develop if you are pursuing pediatrics as a nursing specialism – whether you are just getting started in nursing, or you are a nurse who is looking to choose pediatrics for something like a DNP program, such as by doing online pediatric acute care nurse practitioner programs like those offered by Baylor University as online nursing degrees.
Communicating With Parents and Families
When you are treating adults, in general, you only need to be sure that your patient understands what you are telling them, any medication you are diagnosing, and what to expect from any procedures they are about to go through. However, when your patients are children, you also need to communicate all of this to the parents or guardians who will be making sure that the child takes their medicine, or generally looking after them with their particular illness, injury, or condition.
Naturally, parents are often a lot more anxious when it is their child receiving treatment or who has an undiagnosed condition than when it is themselves, and so talking to parents about their child’s healthcare needs is a bit different from talking to adults about their own. You need to be able to assure them that their child is in good hands, and also be sure that they understand everything that is happening. You may also need to give parents advice about things like their child’s nutrition and lifestyle, which may not always be well received, and so you need great communication skills to avoid parents feeling criticized if you, for instance, need to tell them their child needs to lose weight.
For children with very serious conditions or outlooks, or who are in a critical condition, communicating with parents who are very upset or afraid will also be necessary, and so you need not just a good bedside manner when it comes to the patients themselves, but also the adults around them.
Good Teaching Skills
It may seem strange, but even if you don’t actually end up teaching at all (though many nurses do go and give talks at schools about health matters), being good at explaining new ideas and teaching kids is an important soft skill for pediatric nurses. This is because almost any interaction a child has with medical things, even things adults find very routine like having your blood pressure taken or getting an X-ray, are new experiences for a child – which can either be scary or fascinating depending on the kid. Being willing and able to teach a child about the things they are having done and the reasons for it, as well as about how to take care of their health, in a way that is age-appropriate and patient, is a great soft skill for nurses to have, then.
Good explanations of things can satisfy a child’s mind and make them less afraid, which can also help them to grow up with a positive idea of what interactions with nurses and doctors will be like. It can be easy for children to feel like nothing is ever explained to them, and that healthcare professionals only talk to their parents and then do things that may hurt or be frightening, without the child feeling like they have any control. This can lead to a distrust of medical professionals that can last into adulthood. It is, therefore, really important to be able to teach a child what is happening and what to expect, even if it is something an adult would see as not really worth explaining.
Patience is absolutely vital when working with children in any capacity, but for healthcare professionals, who are often dealing with children who are scared, upset, or sick, it is even more important. After all, it would be rare for an adult to show up to an appointment for a vaccination or a blood test and then scream and refuse to have it, but this is fairly normal for children who have been brought along by their parents for something they find scary and don’t understand. Tantrums and other outbursts can be a part of your day-to-day work, and can also make appointments that would normally be very brief with an adult take a lot longer, which can be a source of frustration for busy nurses with a lot of people to see.
You may have to give children news they aren’t going to like, whether it is that they won’t be able to play their favorite sport for a while, or they are overweight, or something more serious. You may have to do things they are afraid of, or which hurt, like cleaning wounds and giving them stitches. In any of these cases, some children will react in ways that make it very hard to do your job.
Being able to remain calm and sympathetic rather than letting your frustration show or being dismissive of the child’s worries (for instance, saying things like ‘all the other kids were brave, you’ll be fine’) will become an important skill to develop when it comes to treating children effectively.
As you can see, there are lots of interpersonal and soft skills that contribute to making a good pediatric nurse, as well as all the technical and medical knowledge, so make sure you are developing things like your communication and teaching skills as you progress in your career!