Nursing School Interview Hot Topic: Adult vs Children’s Nursing


Both working as an Adult Nurse or a Children’s Nurse will provide a varied rewarding career. However, given that you have to choose a direction at the outset of your studies, you should be well informed on both. The differences between the care of children and adults is broader than you might assume.

Different Treatment Considerations

Adults are far more likely to have lengthy medical histories that have required them to be prescribed a range of drugs. There will likely be more information available on them – but this can make a case more complex rather than simpler. Likewise, the drugs that they are already on will have to be maintained during a hospital stay, which can also create a complex situation. Seemingly a child will therefore be simpler to treat from the standpoint of medical history and drug history or prescriptions – however, many drugs are unsuitable for children, or their dose must be radically altered, even with common medicines. There are also often smaller margins for error in drug doses for children. Children are more likely to be nonverbal in their communication, which may make understanding what is wrong with them – or if something is going wrong in their treatment which isn’t immediately obvious from observations – harder to tell. Children are also at greater risk for certain problems like dehydration, and also have a tendency to ‘crash’ faster than adults when they are struggling in hospital (they compensate for a longer time).

The Importance of Parents

When treating an adult, they are your primary concern. You will likely only have to explain their treatment, or any aspects of their hospital stay that they are curious about, to them. However, when treating children, you have to consider their parents too. Many parents will be understandably very concerned about the treatment that their child receives, and therefore it can at times feel like you have multiple patients, rather than just one. You will likely have to develop a method for dealing with parents, or use multiple methods. Firstly, you have to build a rapport with parents. Through establishing trust, and showing that you are professional, parents can be comfortable knowing that their child is in good hands. This in turn makes it less likely that parents will be overbearing, as this tendency to be overbearing normally stems from a worry that their child isn’t being cared for well enough. Additionally, you should create an environment that helps both the child and their parents to feel as comfortable and relaxed as possible – toys, books, and colourful furniture items. This will help parents again to feel comfortable leaving their child in your care. If you get to know the children under your care, you will also be able to better deal with their parents, through understanding them and their needs better.

Different Physiologies

This is of course obvious, but you would do well to consider the breadth of difference between a child’s physiology and that of an adult, whether you are applying for Adult or Children’s Nursing. Think about how different their vital signs may be, for example – a toddler’s heart could beat at up to 150bpm at rest, whereas in an adult this would clearly be a very troubling sign. Likewise, consider the impact of different drugs. Drugs that may affect hormone levels must be treated with caution in paediatrics, or supplemented with other medications – as children are still developing physically and emotionally.

Potential questions which may be asked in the interview

  • What is the difference between Adult and Children’s Nursing?
  • Why do you want to be an Adult Nurse / a Children’s Nurse?
  • What do you think are the biggest difficulties of being a Children’s Nurse?
  • Do you think it’s easier being an Adult’s nurse than a Children’s Nurse?
  • What key considerations would you highlight that a Children’s Nurse would have to be aware of, but an Adult Nurse would not?
  • Are Adult Nurses and Children’s Nurses regulated in the same way? Do they have the same career progression?

How to answer questions on this topic

Be sure that you are able to back up your thoughts on the differences between these two types of Nursing with examples that you have seen from work experience, or at the least that you have found evidence of through detailed reading or speaking to nurses working in the fields. Try to expand your reasons for preferring one field or the other so that you can offer an answer that shows you have already learnt about their realities – like dealing with difficult parents.

Further Reading....

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