By Alex McCoy, Contributing Writer, Owner of Fit Travel Life
In the course of my five years working as a nurse, all but thirteen weeks have been spent in pediatrics. Pediatric nursing is not for everyone, but I cannot imagine working with any other patient population.
While there are some differences in travel versus perm positions that may apply to all specialties, I am going to focus on my favorite specialty this week. I have been fortunate enough to work in a variety of hospitals and units–from a 7-bed pediatric unit in a rural hospital to a children’s hospital system that boasts multiple campuses and level one trauma designation.
All of these experiences have helped me learn more about the ins and outs of being a pediatric nurse, and the pros and cons of each setting. Here are my takeaways about working in pediatrics both as a staff nurse and a traveler.
1. Staff nurses have more opportunity to specialize
Within pediatrics, there are a variety of specialties, similar to adult nursing. I have worked on hematology and oncology floors, liver and kidney transplant units, and floors that are a sort of “catch-all” of different specialties.
Some hospitals are more restrictive about which types of patients travelers can take. For example, one facility did not allow travelers to administer chemotherapy. Another would not allow travelers to take fresh spinal fusions. Even if you are eager to learn the unit may not have time to adequately train you into a new area or may have policies restricting you from taking the higher acuity patients. While this can feel limiting, try not to take it to heart and remember you are still there to take the best care of your patients no matter the diagnosis or complexity.
2. Pediatric travelers may find inconsistency between policies
One of the unique aspects of pediatrics is how precise some of our practices can be. Medication dosages and blood transfusion volumes are just two things that come to mind.
Because we are so precise, there may be a variety of policies governing safety checks related to medications or other procedures. Even more confusing is that a lot of these policies will vary from facility to facility.
The best practice I have found is to be respectful of the policies and procedures your particular facility uses. Unless you are concerned about the safety of the patient, it is best to comply with the rules of that particular organization. In the event that no policy exists, I use my best nursing judgment. This is a great example of why a solid background in your specialty is a necessity before you hit the road as a traveler.
3. Pediatric travelers may have to care for adult patients in some form or another
While you should not expect to be the primary nurse for adult patients unless that was specified ahead of time, pediatric travelers may be asked to float to adult units to act as extra hands or as 1- on-1 sitter.
If I know I interviewing for a pediatric job within an adult hospital, I make sure to ask if this will be a possibility in my interview. Each nurse may have a different level of comfort with this job requirement, so it is better to know the expectations ahead of time.
4. Full-time pediatric staff may have more opportunities to cross-train
Before I started traveling I worked on a general pediatric unit. As I became more experienced I was offered opportunities to cross-train to both NICU and PICU. Eventually, they also offered to cross-train to postpartum and nursery. I enjoyed these opportunities to explore other specialties, especially in case I ever decided to switch my primary job.
As a traveler, I have found most places are less likely to offer these opportunities. For one, if you are hired as a traveler, chances are the unit you are working on will be needing you the majority of the time. For another, most hospitals do not want to spare extra orientation days to an already short contract. Even if you are eager to help, these limitations may decrease your chances of working in areas outside of your specific hired unit.
5. While some of these differences are subtle, they are good things to consider when looking for a travel assignment
I can’t say specifically whether these points are more pros or cons of staff versus travel jobs as a pediatric nurse. Each individual will have different opinions on what their preferred work setting or opportunities will be.
Personally, I see all of the above as another set of considerations to weigh when deciding if travel nursing is the right career path for you. In addition, these points will help you decide if a specific job is the right fit. While pediatrics isn’t the highest paying or most talked-about travel specialty, it is still important for us peds travelers to know the caveats that come along with our unique specialty.
Alex McCoy currently works as a pediatric travel nurse. She has a passion for health and fitness, which led her to start Fit Travel Life in 2016. She travels with her husband, their cat, Autumn and their dog, Summer. She enjoys hiking, lifting weights, and trying the best local coffee and wine.
- Agency Reviews
- Ask The Expert
- Continuing Education
- EMR Conversions
- First-Time Traveler
- For A Laugh
- Healthcare Roundup
- Hot Markets
- Industry Trends
- Market Data
- Nurse Contributor
- Take A Break
- Top 10
- Traveler Tips
- Weekly Polls
- Your Photos
- Your Stories