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Pediatric Nursing 101: 8 Tips for Working with Child Patients

While being passionate about the health and wellness of children may take you far as a pediatric nurse, a simple walk down memory lane to your first doctor’s office, dentist or hospital visit may remind you that passion alone won’t take you all the way. As an experienced adult, it’s easy to see that these facilities are in fact perfectly pleasant and welcoming, filled with passionate people who are there to help — but through the eyes of a child, these can be seemingly sterile, strict and scary places filled with professionals who are potentially the same.

Luckily, from diverting your patient’s attention from their needle by showing them a set of colourful band-aids to choose from to drawing attention in to the fact that you’re a fun and nurturing nurse with pediatric scrubs that children will love, having the right tricks up your sleeve can make working with children as fun as it sounds! So for parents and their children alike, you’ll want to consider the following tricks and techniques.


In addition to seeing a nice-looking nurse in fun scrubs, you want children and their parents to see a genuine and nurturing smile. Not only is this warm and welcoming, but it will spark the natural reaction in your patients to smile back — which helps them to feel good!

Make the Space Welcoming

Going to the doctor or dentist as a child is bad enough, but walking into a stark clinical setting filled with serious professionals only serves to make this worse. As a pediatric nurse, children undoubtedly frequent your facilities, so take the necessary steps to make them as welcoming and kid-friendly as possible!

  • Have activities to keep children preoccupied and happy. If the child is playing when you meet them initially, consider taking a moment to play with them and get to know each other in a way that they understand best.
  • Utilize fun supplies like colourful band-aids, sweet stickers on things like IV dressings and cute badge reels.
  • Have background noise like music playing softly throughout the office or a TV on quietly in the waiting room. Silence accompanied by the sound of equipment and doctors speaking in serious tones will only reinforce the sterile, strict and scary feeling of the space for a child.

Explain Everything

Explain everything as if you’re talking to a (you guessed it) child. While a lot of the time you will mostly be addressing the parents, even they will want things explained in simple terms to ensure that they 100 percent understand what’s happening with their child. Along with this, too many big complex words and “serious talk” will only scare a child (and likely their parents) more. So while you’re not explaining everything simply for the child necessarily, it will make a difference to them.

Make Yourself Approachable

While they might not know why, we know that certain colours, textures and characteristics appeal to children more than others. Certain things will make them more comfortable, more intrigued or spark more joy than others — and this includes you when they see you! So make sure that the way you look impacts them in the right way. For instance:

  • Light colours, in particular light blue, light pink, certain yellows and white, are what children like to see. And while you don’t have to go buy a set of each and live with them forever for the sake of your patients, you may want to consider working these colours into patterns, accessories or even undershirts when you can.
  • Textured materials, when combined with smooth or “solid” materials, are preferred amongst children patients when it comes to their nurse’s scrubs — in particular when textured scrub bottoms are combined with a smooth scrub top.
  • Patterned scrubs are almost always a hit with the kids, and can be easily mixed and matched with solid sets. When in doubt, patterns like polka dots or classic characters like those in Disney scrubs are perfect for pediatric nurses.

Make Yourself Approachable

Get on Their Level

Lowering yourself down to the child’s eye level is almost essential when it comes to communicating with children effectively. Not only will this create a better connection, but it will allow you to get a better look at your patient’s face and into their eyes to get a glimpse at how they are feeling or reacting to certain things. This can be especially helpful if you’re working with a child who’s extra shy or unwilling to communicate verbally.


Remember what it was like to go to the scary doctor or dentist as a child? By being able to empathize, you’re also allowing yourself to do the best job at supporting and nurturing your patient as a pediatric nurse. While you never want to get too connected to patients, you do want to be able to empathize or sympathize enough to:

  • Get children feeling comfortable, get them talking and sharing and have them leave happy.
  • Get parents feeling comfortable and asking questions, get them helping and have them leave with full understanding and confidence in the care being provided.

Encourage Parents to Partake

Children gain unrivalled comfort from their parents, so make sure to always encourage their presence, as well as their help whenever it can be used. Even when it comes to simple tasks like holding their hand and giving them something to squeeze during a shot, it can have a significant impact! Not only will this positively affect the patient, but the parent as well. Any opportunity that you have to work with them like this, no matter how subtle, is an indicator to them that you both have the best intentions for their child in mind and that you realize and respect their expert knowledge of the patient.

Encourage Parents to Partake

Have Surprises Ready

The best part about any place as a child, whether it’s already an amazing place or it’s the worst place in the world — from a restaurant trip to a dentist visit — is the treasure chest that you get to pick from afterwards! And if it’s not a surprise from a treasure chest, it’s the surprise lollipop from the chest pocket of the doctor! No matter where it’s actually coming from or what it is, though, a surprise treat or gift from your nurse or doctor is always an exciting surprise that creates a good association and leaves a good taste in their mouth — possibly literally!

Keeping Up on Your Homework

Your patients do their homework, and so should you! Whether it be the toys and activities in your office, the character scrubs that you’re wearing or the topics that you use as icebreakers, make sure to keep these tricks and techniques current with relevant trends.