Neonatal Nurse Practitioner: Job Information and Requirements

Neonatal nurse practitioners require significant formal education. Learn about the education, job duties and licensure to see if this is the right career for you.

Essential Information

Neonatal nurse practitioners (NNPs) care for premature or ailing newborns in hospital neonatal intensive care units (NICUs), as well as specialty practices and developmental pediatric clinics. NNPs typically hold a master's degree, a registered nursing (RN) license and nurse practitioner certification.

Required Education Master's degree
Other Requirements RN license and nurse practitioner certification
Projected Job Growth (2012-2022) 34% (all nurse practitioners)
Average Salary (2014) $97,990 (all nurse practitioners)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Neonatal Nurse Practitioner: Job Information

Neonatal nurse practitioners (NNPs) serve as primary caregivers for premature babies and other newborns who require special care due to low birth weight, respiratory distress, congenital heart defects or various other abnormalities and disorders. Neonatal nurse practitioners assess, supervise and manage the progress of their patients.

NNPs work in pediatric clinics and hospitals, often in emergency and delivery rooms or intensive care units. They must use and monitor such equipment as incubators and ventilators. NNPs consult and collaborate with neonatologists and provide education to their patients' families. Some neonatal nurse practitioners become educators in the field, offering classes on birth control, pregnancy and proper infant care.

Career and Salary Information

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) doesn't provide specific information for NNPs, but it does note that employment opportunities for nurse practitioners in general were expected to rise by a faster-than-average 34% between 2012 and 2022, which was much faster than average (www.bls.gov). The BLS reported that the mean yearly salary of nurse practitioners was $97,990 in May 2014.

Neonatal Nurse Practitioner: Job Requirements

Neonatal nurse practitioners must earn their registered nursing (RN) license from their state board of nursing. To become an RN and continue on to become a nurse practitioner, students must complete a nursing bachelor's degree program, which awards them with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN). Students are trained in nursing skills, human anatomy and pharmacology, among other areas. A clinical practicum, in which students gain experience working with patients in a healthcare facility, is also included.

Upon completion of their training, they may then take the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN) to become licensed. Some states have additional licensure requirements, so applicants may consider contacting their respective state boards for more specific information.

Master of Science in Nursing (MSN)

Aspiring neonatal nurses also need to complete an MSN focusing on neonatal nursing. To be eligible, programs may require applicants to have at least one year of experience in nursing. Once enrolled, students take courses in developmental physiology, advanced neonatal assessment and neonatal pharmacotherapeutics, as well as complete clinical practicums with newborns and infants under the supervision of medical professionals.

Alternatively, registered nurses who already hold an advanced nursing degree can earn a post-master's NNP certificate. In addition to the appropriate graduate education, nurse practitioners typically need to obtain specialized certification in order to work as advanced practice registered nurses.

Required Skills

Neonatal nurse practitioners must be diligent and fast acting since their response can be critical to the life of a newborn. Communication skills are beneficial to NNPs as they educate families about neonatal, intensive and postpartum care. They must also be emotionally resolute as their jobs can come with the negative effects of losing patients who were under their care.

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