How Do I Become a Pediatric Home Health Care Nurse?

A desire to work with children outside of a regular hospital environment may have you wondering how to become a pediatric home health care nurse. While pediatric nurses may work in a variety of settings, including clinics, hospitals and doctors’ offices, a pediatric home health care nurse works with children in their homes who have qualified for in-home care on the basis of their ongoing on chronic medical needs.

Becoming a Pediatric Nurse

The first step you’ll need to take is to become a pediatric nurse. To become a registered nurse you will need to complete an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in nursing, then take and pass the national licensing exam (NCLEX). Some nurses first become licensed vocational nurses or licensed practical nurses (LVN or LPN) on their way to becoming RNs, gaining skills as they work. If you know you have an interest in pediatrics, look for a nursing school that will allow you plenty of opportunity for clinical pediatric experience (please also see: How Do I Find Out What Clinical Experiences a Nursing School Offers?).
Once you are an RN with the requisite number of pediatric clinical hours, 1800 hours within two years, you can sit for the pediatric certification exam to become a certified pediatric nurse (CPN). You may not need to be a full-fledged CPN in order to begin working in pediatric home health care, but it’s an option you may want to pursue. Currently over 20,000 nurses hold the credential, including some who work in home health care.

The Pediatric Home Health Care Role

While paths to working in pediatric home health care might differ slightly, the end result is the rewarding work of helping children and their families in their home. Pediatric home health nurses work regular hours with infants, children and teens (ages 0-20) who need medical support in their home environment. Children qualify for services by being deemed medically fragile and in need of ongoing professional nursing care. Often it is decided during hospital discharge that a child needs continued care in the home. Pediatric home health nurses work with children in all sorts of situations, from premature infants to children with chronic illnesses whose cardiac, respiratory or neurological systems are compromised in some way. Sometimes children will be on ventilators or feeding tubes, so it will be important for pediatric nurses to be qualified to handle such equipment.

A pediatric home health nurse will take a child’s medical history, answer family questions, and establish the care schedule that works best in the home. Nurses create a plan of care (POC) for each patient, which is submitted to the child’s doctor for approval. Such plans are also submitted to insurance companies; a working knowledge of how the insurance field affects medical home care for children will likely be part of the nurse’s role.

One advantage of pediatric home nursing is that the nurse gets to serve specific children and families potentially long-term. The setting provides opportunities to get to know patients and the challenges they face in a deeper or more daily way than you might be able to do in a more traditional hospital role. If you find that element of the job appealing, then looking into how to become a pediatric home health care nurse may be a very good idea.