Workplace Spotlight: Pediatrics

Congrats! It takes a special person to work with kids! You are the envy of all your CNA friends! Not everyone has the skill set necessary to thrive in the complex, chaotic and diverse pediatric environment…but you do! Your unique combination of flexibility and desire to work closely with a team makes you a clear pick for pediatrics.

Overview

"The reason adults should look as though they are having fun is to give kids a reason to want to grow up."

Hunter Patch Adams

As a pediatric CNA, you will be caring for sick, injured or impaired children in a variety of settings. Pediatric care is unique, because it is all about the type of patient, not the setting. Pediatric care can occur in hospitals, clinics, doctor’s offices, pediatric day cares or even home care settings. The type of care each child will require will vary, too – making this one of the most complex and diverse categories in this activity – but that doesn’t scare you! You are willing to learn new skills as they are needed and aren’t afraid to try new things!

Working in Pediatrics brings very specific challenges, and great rewards. Read below for some specifics!

1. Pace

Pediatric Healthcare in widely varied. The pace you will experience will depend on the setting you are performing care in. When working in a hospital, it is fast-paced. There are a million different things going on, all at the same time. You have to be easily adaptable to work in this setting, and not mind a constantly changing workflow. When working in a pediatric patient’s home, it can be slower paced, with an emphasis on routine daily care. But, regardless of the setting, this patient population cannot be rushed. Communication is going to be more important when working with kids than ever. Kids cannot be rushed. They may be fearful and it may take a while to help them overcome their fear and be cooperative. Parents may need time to adjust to changes, too. Working with kids isn’t all games and fairy tales, and it helps to be able to go with the flow and keep a cool head.

You tend to thrive under pressure, though, and it shows in everything you do. From helping developmentally disabled children learn how to brush their teeth patients to providing total care to a child who can’t do anything on his own, you remember that it is the patient, not the task that is ultimately important. Your friendly smile, patient personality and encouraging demeanor is comforting to all.

2. Type of Patient

Pediatric patients can be extremely ill or only mildly affected. They may be coping with a congenital birth defect or recovering from a catastrophic accident. They may need to remain at home or go to school with a dedicated caregiver. They may be in a specialized day care for physically challenged kids. Since CNAs work in all kinds of settings with all kinds of kids, the type of patient is going to vary significantly. Add in the further complexity of different age groups (and needs) in pediatrics – because caring for a 10 year old will need completely different approach than caring for a 3 year old – and you can see how skilled a pediatric CNA needs to be. The only common element is that they will be children – and they will need your help. You have to be very versatile and be able to adapt to the needs of each different age group, and individual level of ability. You know that, when it comes to people, one size really does NOT fit all. Luckily, you are able to change your approach as needed.

3. Number of Patients

Because there is a lot of variety in this category, a common patient assignment is hard to define. The number of patients you have will depend on what setting you are in, and what kind of help your patients need. For this example, though, we will look at each setting independently.

Home care: CNAs that work with pediatric patients in their home will only care for one patient at a time. This is generally provided during a shift (4, 8 or 12 hours) – CNAs rarely provide short visits for pediatrics like they can for adults. CNAs in this setting may also accompany the patient to school, social functions and therapy.

Pediatric day care: Pediatric patients with medical conditions are often not appropriate for regular day care settings – but parents still have to work in many cases. A pediatric day care is a specialized setting that employs CNAs to care for medically fragile children in a day-care type environment. CNAs may work with many children in this setting at the same time, depending on the level of care needed.

Pediatric Hospitals: For severely ill or injured children, pediatric hospitals provide comprehensive medical care – and they often employ CNAs to assist with these patients. The number of patients you would care for in this setting will vary, but care will include socialization and recreation as well as personal care skills and assisting with procedures. Because of this, fewer patients are assigned to each CNA.

Mother/Baby Units: Some facilities hire CNAs to assist with care in a mother/baby unit. CNAs usually are assigned to help with women who have just given birth or had surgery, although they may occasionally help with the newborns, too. This patient load would be similar to other areas of the hospital.

4. Oversight and Supervision

Again, this is going to vary depending on your location, but pediatric CNAs usually have a fair amount of supervision and oversight, even when in a home setting. Pediatric CNAs have to be comfortable with their skill level and performing skills in front of others, because often parents, nurses or other people will be nearby when care needs to be performed. Pediatric CNAs have to be comfortable with working as part of a team, in any setting.

5. Length of Patient Interaction

In most settings (home care, pediatric day care, pediatric hospitals) staff members are assigned to the same patients day after day, to minimize how many new people the child has to get used to. This means that you will be spending a lot of time with the same people, and will probably develop some type of relationship with the patient and their family. Pediatric CNAs are generally friendly and comfortable talking with strangers, and strives to make encounters more comfortable for all.

6. Schedules and Shifts

Generally speaking, interactions with pediatric patients will be long (usually at least a few hours), no matter what setting. Pediatric Hospitals usually run on 12 hour shifts, home care and pediatric day cares may operate on 4 or 8 hour shifts. Schedules are usually routine and don’t offer much variety.

7. Pay and Benefits

Pediatric care usually pays at the mid to lower end of the pay scale, because there are fewer patients to care for and the care is usually less demanding! As such, they don’t have to pay as well to get you in the door! And let’s face it…you will get to play around with your patients so it doesn’t take as much of a financial incentive to get people to work here. But some settings may also offer additional benefits to offset the moderate pay like medical insurance, paid time off, tuition reimbursement, continuing education, staff training for new skills, etc.

8. Learning New Skills

Pediatric CNAs have to be versatile and willing to learn new skills. Every child you care for will require a different skill set, depending on their specific needs. Training is usually provided by the employer which makes you much more valuable as an employee!

9. Opportunity for Advancement

Pediatrics does not generally offer many options for those that want to advance your career. Tuition reimbursement can sometimes be offered (which means they will pay for your schooling!) and scholarship opportunities may be available (often run by the volunteers). These are all great interview questions…but really…who wants to leave such sweet little angels when you already have the best job in the world?!

Summary

Pediatric CNAs are most comfortable working with kids and their families, but are also comfortable working with a large healthcare team including nurses, doctors, physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, respiratory therapy and others. Since you play well with others, and have no problem putting those socialization skills to work, this is child’s play to you!

It pays to pick the right workplace…and your personality will have a huge impact on your overall success. Often, we have unrealistic expectations and the reality doesn’t live up to what we THOUGHT the work would be like. Knowing what to expect and making sure you have the skill set to perform well will go a long way to ensuring your success, no matter WHERE you decide to work in healthcare!

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