Advanced practice nurses, such as neonatal nurse practitioners, must hold master's degrees. These degree programs are commonly offered online. There is an extensive off-line clinical experience component, which the nurse can complete at a nearby healthcare facility.
Applicants to a neonatal nurse practitioner program must have a bachelor's degree and be a licensed registered nurse. Some programs call for experience in neonatal care. Courses may include pharmacology, infant development, and advanced health assessment.
Master's Degrees for Neonatal Nurse Practitioners
An online neonatal nurse practitioner master's degree program trains students to meet the critical, immediate care needs of high-risk newborn infants. Course content covers both the theory and practice of nursing, as well as issues related to health policy, ethics, cultural diversity, and leadership. Graduates who complete an accredited program may take the Neonatal Nurse Practitioner certification exam offered by the National Certification Corporation. Applicants need a bachelor's degree in nursing and a 3.0 grade point average or better. Some programs also specify two years of nursing experience caring for critically ill infants.
Information and Requirements
Online neonatal master's degree programs are typically a hybrid of online and traditional instruction. Students must earn a portion of their credit by working in a clinical setting. However, academic courses may be completed online. All readings, lectures, and other course materials are accessible through a school's website. Student-instruction interactions are handled via email, phone, and online forum. A master's degree is typically earned in 2-3 years.
Students need a personal computer and Internet access to participate in an online program. A number of schools use Blackboard to manage their educational content.
List of Common Neonatal Nursing Courses
Neonatal nursing master's degree programs are generally based on a set of core nursing courses. Those related to neonatal care then constitute a specialty or concentration in the program.
This course tracks the physiological changes humans undergo from conception through adolescence. Course content covers normal and abnormal morphology.
Students learn the medications appropriate for newborns and infants, assess need, and manage a course of treatment. Acute and chronic conditions are among the topics covered.
Students in this course practice and learn the reasoning process used to arrive at a diagnosis in newborns. Course works covers the most common maladies and their symptoms.
Neonatal Research and Theory
This course presents current thinking about the best approaches to managing prenatal and postnatal care. Anticipating, preventing, and minimizing health problems receive particular emphasis in the course.
An online master's degree in neonatal nursing qualifies graduates to provide nursing care to newborns in the neonatal intensive care units (NICU) of hospitals, nurse-managed clinics, and home health service providers. Those with prior experience as a registered nurse may even be chosen to manage a neonatal unit. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that employment of nurse practitioners as a general category will increase 28% over the years 2018-2028.
According to Payscale.com, an increase in the number of newborns requiring neonatal care and a corresponding increase in the number of hospitals with an NICU are driving demand in the specialty. As of October 2016, entry-level neonatal nurse practitioners earned a median salary of $92,206, while mid-career practitioners earned $100,642.
Nurses who want to transition out of full time patient care duties and into academic research can pursue a doctoral degree in nursing. Schools do not offer doctorates in neonatal nursing, but Ph.D. candidates could make some aspect of neonatal care the subject of their dissertation. Doctoral programs in nursing are available online.
Online master's degree programs in neonatal nursing typically supplement online academic work with in-person clinical training due to the nature of the job. For those wishing to expand their job options outside of hospital work, graduates can enroll in online doctoral degrees in nursing, which focus on research rather than practical work.