Pediatric Nursing: Interview With Meagan Eyster, RN, MSN, CPNP, CNS, PHN

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Pediatric Nursing: Interview With Meagan Eyster, RN, MSN, CPNP, CNS, PHN

Exploring the many career paths within a nursing career

By Keith Carlson, RN, BSN, CPC, NC-BC
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Meagan Eyster, RN, MSN, CPNP, CNS, PHN
Pediatric Nurse, RN Residency Program Manager, Entrepreneur
Dignity Northridge Hospital

What is your professional nursing history?  
I’ve been a nurse for about eight years and the time has flown by. I began in pediatric hematology/oncology. When I was a child, I read a series of books about kids with cancer; I was fascinated with these stories. It must have impacted me deeply because pediatric oncology is where I ended up.

As a pediatric hematology/oncology nurse, I also worked with patients undergoing bone marrow transplant. I literally lived, breathed and dreamed it. Pediatric oncology was not exactly what I expected and it was honestly very emotionally draining. I was there through some of the best and hardest moments of my life. I keep in touch with some of the parents of the kids with whom I worked and they are close to my heart. However, I couldn’t continue at the pace I was running.

At that time, I was unmarried, so I decided to return to school to become a nurse practitioner and earn my CNS certification. I moved to L.A. and found employment on the Mattel Children’s Hospital UCLA pediatric resource team. The resource team is like a float pool, but specialized to certain units within the UCLA Health System.

As a pediatric resource nurse, I was able to see patients anywhere within the UCLA system, including Westwood and Santa Monica. I performed procedural sedations and many other procedures. If there was a kid in the hospital at UCLA, I might see them during the course of their stay.

I had very good training at Mattel and the experience really opened my eyes. It was challenging not have a unit to call home. Being sort of a free agent within the UCLA system, I learned to speak up and ask for what I wanted. I would walk onto units where no one knew me and  I had to fend for myself to get what I needed in order to serve my patients.

How did pediatric nursing become your specialty of choice?

I really never explored any other options. During my pediatric rotation in nursing school, the light bulb went off and I knew that pediatric nursing was where I was called to serve. Even as a nursing student, I would walk onto the pedi unit or the NICU and think, “I can do this.” I knew it in my gut.

What are some of the challenges of working in pediatrics?

Parents can be some of the biggest challenges — especially parents of children in pediatric hematology/oncology. When a child is sick is the most desperate time for a parent; we sometimes forget that as nurses. A sick and suffering child is a parent’s worst nightmare and we need to be sensitive to that. Parents know their kids better than we do. Sometimes, we would have patients with novel diagnoses that weren’t even in the textbooks yet, so we had to be willing to show our ignorance and allow the parents to educate us. When I let my guard down and ask a parent to tell me what they know about their child’s illness, it establishes trust. One mother told me that what she hated most was healthcare professionals pretending to know what a disease was. She said she would rather they displayed their ignorance than try to fake it.  

How did you decide to work in the nurse residency program?

When I started in my role as a pediatric CNS at Dignity, I discovered that we had a new grad residency program, but I never had any nurse residents on my floor. I actively engaged in the program as much as I could. When the director retired six months later, I stepped in. I had a difficult moment in deciding whether to leave direct pediatric care to run the Versant new grad program. It was not an easy decision, but I took a huge leap of faith and decided to go for it. I love being a mentor: someone who can guide these new nurses through the very tricky aspects of their new careers.

Tell us about the RN residency program.

We place our new nurses in every area of the hospital, including L&D, pediatrics, NICU, periop, telemetry, ER/pediatric ER, cath lab, ICU and acute rehab. It’s a Versant new grad program. It’s a wonderful way to support new nurses.
Do you share your passion for pediatrics with your new nurses?

Oh yes, and it’s very interesting. I instill my love of pediatrics in these nurses and there are many lessons I can provide. One of the questions I ask my new grads is what clinical rotation they found most challenging during nursing school. They usually say pediatrics because of the suffering and pain they witnessed in those innocent children.

I use this as a teaching moment: We discuss how children are actually much more resilient than adults. Kids are less set in their ways and have fewer preset notions of how life should be. Even if a child is undergoing a bone marrow transplant, they might be perfectly content to watch Frozen for the thousandth time. I try to remind my new nurses of this resiliency and of how wonderful it can be to work with children.

Why do you enjoy mentoring new nurses?

When I began my career at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital at Stanford, I fell in love with my preceptors — I was so supported as a new pediatric nurse. One of my senior papers was on the subject of integrating new nurses into the profession. I’m still passionate about helping nurses succeed in their nursing careers.

They say that every new nurse experiences reality shock after they’re hired for their first position. At first, they’re excited to have a job, but around week five or six, they begin to question why they’re a nurse and if it’s really for them after all.

I tell them that I’m here as their personal rainbow and they can keep moving towards me even when the black clouds roll in. I remind them that the storm will come, but I’ll be there when the clouds break and the sun comes out again.

Once the storm passes, they realize their calling and that they’re where they need to be. When I see that light go off, it’s very, very rewarding. These nurses are a constant reminder of what nurses should be and can be.

New grad programs are proven successful. We’ve retained 78 percent of our new grads since the program began 10 years ago. We train our own and keep our own. Before Versant, our turnover rate was very high — around 40 percent. Now, it’s less than 20 percent.

Do you still use your CPNP credentials?

I do. I have a side business that I own along with several partners. It’s called Concierge Baby Care ( We provide support to parents and their newborns after they return home.

Back when I was serving as a pediatric nurse practitioner, I worked at a very busy pediatric primary care clinic. The practice was insurance-based and appointments that should have been 30 or 60 minutes were often only five minutes. Many new moms had very basic questions about how to care for their newborns, but there was no time to provide these moms the type of care they needed and deserved.  

So, as a clinical nurse specialist, I decided to help create a business that caters to parents who want the type of care that can’t be delivered in a clinic setting. We teach various aspects of newborn care and provide special assistance to families whose babies have just returned home from the NICU.

We also offer physical therapy for the babies as well as in-home counselors and therapists who can help the mom with “baby blues” or provide marriage counseling for the stress that many couples experience when a new little one comes home.

Do you have children of your own?

I’m currently pregnant with my first child. I’m due on September 4.

What is it like to be pregnant knowing all that can go wrong?

It definitely affects me. I do worry, especially since I’ve seen what can go wrong. I have my moments, but I also have that inner reality check that everything is fine.

When I talked with my obstetrician for the first time, I told her that I was a pediatric nurse practitioner in hematology/ oncology and the PICU, so she’d know where I was coming from. When we visited with the perinatologist, I was totally fixated on the number of heart chambers, if the heart was on the correct side of the body and if the blood was flowing correctly.

My husband has no medical background, so he grounds me and reminds me that most babies are normal — I just happen to know all of the rare abnormalities that can occur. This pregnancy has caused him to learn a lot, mostly to keep my insanity in check.

What are your current professional goals?

Since I’ve tended to bounce around a little bit during my nursing career, my goal is to stay at Dignity for a number of years. I want to grow roots and impact nursing practice and pediatric nursing in one institution.

I would love to earn my DNP, but I’m not yet sure what pediatric focus to choose in a doctoral program. I’ll likely select a course of doctoral study related to the transition for newborns during the first year of life. New babies receive much more support in other countries and I’d like to bring that level of care here.    

Keith Carlson, RN, BSN, CPC, NC-BC, has worked as a nurse since 1996 and has maintained the popular nursing blog Digital Doorway since 2005. He offers expert professional coaching for nurses and nursing students at

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