Pediatric Nursing: Interview with Sue Martinez, RN

My Specialty

Pediatric Nursing: Interview with Sue Martinez, RN

The demanding and rewarding work of caring for sick children

By Keith Carlson, RN, BSN
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Sue Martinez, RN
Staff Nurse, Pediatric Ward
Children’s Hospital Los Angeles

Where are you employed and what is your position?

I work at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles and am a staff nurse on a general pediatric ward. I’ve worked on the same unit for almost 20 years.

Tell us a little about your nursing career.

I always wanted to be a nurse, even when I was a little girl. I enjoyed helping others and thought that I would be good at it. I enjoy the unit that I work on as it keeps me knowledgeable in all areas of pediatrics. I have had multiple opportunities to go to other areas of pediatrics, but couldn’t part with our unit.

What brought you to pediatrics as a specialty?

Pediatrics is challenging on every level. First and foremost, I adore children. I’m kind of like a kid myself. When I did my clinical rotation in pediatrics, I realized just how special it was. Not only are we caring for the patient, but we’re caring for their families as well. I love how we practice Family Centered Care at CHLA. Once I stepped on my unit, I knew that my career was set.

What about your work feeds your spirit or nurtures you?
Every day that I go to work at CHLA, I realize how amazing children really are. I look into the eyes of the children I care for and realize that I have been blessed with an incredible job and career. To be able to care for a child during a time that is so stressful and to be able to touch the lives of others in some small way is meaningful beyond words.

When a parent looks me in the eye, gives me a hug, and thanks me for making a difference in the life of their child, the feeling is remarkable.

What is most challenging about your work?
The most challenging thing is distancing yourself and maintaining professional boundaries when you just want to jump in with your heart and soul. We see such a wide variety of cases, children with great misfortune. It’s difficult to hold back when your heart tells you differently.

Are there special certifications that you recommend for those interested in this specialty?
It’s beneficial to obtain your CPN (Certified Pediatric Nurse). I’m a PALS (Pediatric Advanced Life Support) instructor. We currently are getting all nurses in the house PALS certified, so I have been busy teaching these classes. Staff in the ER and other units also do the ENPC (Emergency Nurse Pediatric Certification), which is appropriate for their clinical areas. We offer classes every month, but the actual certification exams are administered by the Pediatric Nursing Certification Board. (Note: See sidebar for details on certifications.)

Do you belong to any pediatric nursing organizations?

Yes, I am a member of the Society of Pediatric Nurses.

Are there any ways in which changing technology is impacting your work?
New technologies are changing the way patient care is delivered, so it’s incumbent upon nurses to continue to learn how to quickly and efficiently use these new technologies while still providing personal care at the patient bedside.

Secondly, we are now available to quickly communicate by personal phone rather than pagers. While the phone is a great tool because it allows us to communicate and make decisions more quickly, the challenge is that you sometimes lose the personal interaction with doctors and nurses so we need to find ways to stay more personally connected.

What changes have you seen in terms of children’s chronic health issues over the last 20 years?

One of the disease processes that we care for specifically is cystic fibrosis (CF). When I first started at Children’s, we were taking care of adults in their 20s and 30s with CF. Now that many newborns are routinely screened, kids are getting diagnosed at a very early age, and they’re getting much better gastric and pulmonary care. They used to not be diagnosed until 10 or 12 years of age. It will be interesting over time to see if they actually live more healthy lives than before. Additionally, children with CF have pancreatic insufficiency and many are developing diabetes secondary to that.  It’s overwhelming for them to find out that they have diabetes as well as their diagnosis of CF.

Throughout the hospital we’re seeing an increase in the number of obese and diabetic children. We have a lot of very sick children that come to us repeatedly. Although our chronically ill kids now have longer life expectancies, we often wonder if their quality of life has improved.  
Is there a patient anecdote or story that illustrates your work well (without violating HIPAA, of course!)

There was a young man on our unit for several months. He was very sick and far from home. His grandmother slept overnight with him and never went home. They were an amazing team. She ended up raising her grandson and was truly like his mom.

Our hospital was hosting a “Professional Family Portrait” day for all patients. This young man called me into his room and asked me if I would be available around 1 p.m. as he had booked us an appointment for a family portrait. I was speechless. He told me that I was “his family” and couldn’t ask for anything better than having me in his family portrait.

Any words of advice for those interested in peds as a career path?
You are about to enter an amazing career. Be prepared to laugh and to cry. You will experience things that will make your own life richer as you will feel blessed every day from your encounters with patients and their families. Remember that you’re only human, and you will become emotionally involved.         

Experience will assist you in distancing yourself and leaving your job at the door as you exit work. We have families waiting for us at home and it’s often hard on them when we bring our sorrows home with us. This is one of our greatest challenges. 

PHOTO above: Nurse Sue Martinez enjoys a laugh with patient Javier Arreola, age 10.


Did You Know? Pediatric Nursing

Your workplace

Nurses who choose to specialize in pediatrics can be employed in a wide variety of settings, including physician offices, PICU, and pediatric specialty hospitals and facilities. Some nurses choose to focus on subspecialties such as pediatric oncology or pediatric surgery. Those nurses who work in pediatric oncology need to face the specific challenges of death and dying in the context of their work with children.
    This particular specialty is seen by some as significantly difficult for new nurses to enter directly after graduation from nursing school; however, internships and special integration programs can increase a new graduate’s chances of breaking into the field.

working with children

Due to the special physiological and psychological issues faced by children of all ages, pediatric nurses must be conversant with the various stages of child development, as well as demonstrate expertise in working with both children and their families as they confront issues pertaining to both acute and chronic illness. Pediatric nurses often cite the close relationships with both patients and their families as being a central to what makes this specialty so satisfying.


After practicing for a period of time, many nurses working in pediatrics choose to pursue a special exam to earn the title of Certified Pediatric Nurse (CPN). Other specialty certifications are available, including Pediatric Advanced Life Support (PALS).
Pediatric Nursing Certification Board:
Journal of Pediatric Nursing:
Society of Pediatric Nurses:
National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners:
American Pediatric Surgical Nurses Association:
Academy of Neonatal Nursing:
Association of Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition Nurses:


To earn the title of Certified Pediatric Nurse (CPN), visit the website of the Pediatric Nursing Certification Board (
Pediatric Advanced Life Support (PALS) certification can be obtained through a variety of organizations, including the American Heart Association (, the American Medical Resource Institute (, among many others.
Emergency Nurse Pediatric Course (ENPC) can be obtained through the Emergency Nurse Association (
Registered Nurse Certification for Neonatal Intensive Care (RNC-NIC) can be obtained through the National Certification Corporation (   


Keith Carlson, RN, BSN, is a registered nurse, writer and blogger. He writes for a variety of nursing and health websites, and has been included in several nonfiction nursing books by Kaplan Publishing. He is editorial contributor to His own blog can be found at





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