In This Review

Overview of Working with children

Working with children, particularly sick children, can be an incredibly rewarding career. It can also be unbelievably heart-breaking.

Working With Pediatric Patients: A Wellbeing Guide

Healthcare staff, particularly nurses, experience burnout and compassion fatigue at alarming rates. It makes sense- they spend their days caring for people who may be ill, in pain, or even nearing the end of their lives. Often they don’t have time to process the heartbreak they have just witnessed before rushing off to care for the next patient. When this all becomes too much to handle, who takes care of the nurses?

This is not to say that nursing is a devastating career. More often than not, the joys of nursing outweigh the dark times. Every day is filled with excitement, cause for celebration, and opportunities to make someone’s day better. But it goes without saying that the difficult days can begin to take a toll. This is especially true for healthcare workers who work with babies and children.

What Does a Pediatric Nurse Do?

Pediatric nurses work with people who range in age from newborns to adolescents just entering adulthood. They also work closely with the parents and loved ones of their patients, ensuring that they are coping with the often upsetting circumstances. Pediatric nurses are entrusted with the care of some of our most vulnerable citizens, whether that be tiny premature babies, children living with terminal illnesses, or teenagers battling devastating mental health issues.

Not every day will be peppered with moments of heartbreak. Nursing can be incredibly rewarding and exciting, and pediatric nursing is no exception. Healthcare settings, such as hospitals, are places where both pain and joy are born. Sadness can coexist with beauty, and often the beautiful moments make the hard times worth it.

Working with sick or injured children can be scary- and wonderful. You get to witness love and strength unlike anything else, and you get to celebrate when your patients finally get to go home. Sometimes you may find yourself in a situation where your patient cannot get better, and it would be a lie to say that this won’t be upsetting- but you have the honor of being there for patients and their loved ones when they need it most. You will gain perspective and learn not to take anything for granted, and you will make bonds that will enrich your life.

What Does It Take to Become a Pediatric Nurse?

Every state has its own unique set of nursing requirements and regulations, so the qualifications you need will vary depending on where you want to live and work. If you live (or want to live) in Texas, you would take an in-person or online accelerated BSN program in Texas[1]. Depending on your location, neonatal nursing requirements may differ from standard nursing requirements in the US, so make sure you do your research[2].

Qualifications are essential- but there are other skills that nurses need, skills that can’t always be taught. Nurses need to be compassionate, empathetic, understanding and open-minded. Nurses should be excellent at listening, communicating, explaining procedures to patients and making them feel safe and comfortable.

An ABSN or BSN can teach you to administer treatments, operate equipment and change sheets, but it can’t teach you to treat patients with the gentle care you would want a nurse to treat you or your loved ones with.

It also helps if nurses work well under pressure and can remain calm and strong during emotional situations. When witnessing moments of distress or heartbreak, it is easy to be affected emotionally. When it gets too much and nurses become burned out, this can affect both the nurses and their patients. That’s why it’s important to care for your own well-being.

How to care for your own well-being as a pediatric nurse

In their day-to-day jobs, nurses may witness situations that are upsetting, traumatic and scary. Sometimes these can build up until they start negatively affecting the mental health and well-being of nurses, which in turn can directly affect their patients and even their home lives.

Patients experienced lower levels of satisfaction with the care they received in hospitals or medical settings where nurses were dissatisfied with their work conditions, proving that the mental well-being of a nurse can affect both themselves and their patients. Improving well-being among healthcare staff benefits everybody involved. Here are some ways to combat poor mental health or burnout[3].


Nursing can be demanding, exhausting and upsetting. Medical institutions can improve and foster communication by encouraging nurses to speak to a supervisor or manager, complete surveys, and hold regular meetings.

Often nurses want to speak about the things they’ve seen that play on their minds, so offering workplace counseling may be an excellent idea for pediatric nurses who have dealt with difficult situations with patients. They may also want to talk through their feelings with someone who knows exactly what they’re going through, so talking with another pediatric nurse can be beneficial for both- keeping patient information confidential, of course.


Exercise releases endorphins, reduces stress and improves sleep– all things that can benefit nurses! Exercise is also a healthy way to release frustration. Access to regular exercise areas, such as a gym or outdoor space, can boost the morale of all staff members. If your workplace does not have this, you may need to exercise outside of work. Meditation can have a similar effect[4].

Eat properly:

It’s all too easy to be so busy during a long shift that you forget to eat lunch or grab an unhealthy snack, but eating proper meals can increase mood and reduce fatigue.

Consider resilience training:

Programs that work to build psychological resilience have been linked to lower burnout rates in nurses. You don’t have to become completely numb or desensitized- in fact, it’s healthy to feel emotions- but they can teach you effective ways to manage stress and depression[5].

Get enough sleep:

It’s much easier said than done, but getting enough rest is crucial. Taking power naps, practicing sleep hygiene, and setting boundaries can all contribute to a better night’s sleep.

Organize social activities:

Whether you socialize with your colleagues or your friends outside of work, going out and having some fun is a great way to let loose and distract yourself from stressors.

Overall, everybody will require something different to improve their well-being and mental health. Working with sick children affects everybody differently, but if you find that it is causing you distress and depression in your personal life, it may be time to take action.

Perhaps most importantly, focus on the happy times. Every day you have the opportunity to make a child giggle, give a patient some great news, or cheer up someone who has just been through a medical procedure. The bonds and friendships you forge as a nurse will be unbreakable and will enrich the lives of you and your patients. Pediatric nursing can be difficult. It can also be beautiful.

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We review published medical research in respected scientific journals to arrive at our conclusions about a product or health topic. This ensures the highest standard of scientific accuracy.

5 sources

[1] Online ABSN for Texas Residents:
[2] How to Become a Neonatal Nurse:
[3] Nurses’ Widespread Job Dissatisfaction, Burnout, And Frustration With Health Benefits Signal Problems For Patient Care:
[4] Stress management:
[5] Resilience as a strategy for struggling against challenges related to the nursing profession:
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Dr. Keith Kantor

Dr. Kantor has a Ph.D. in Nutritional Science and has been an advocate of natural food and healthy living for 30 years. He is also on t