Neonatal Nurse Practitioner

 about neonatal nurse practitioner programs.

What is a neonatal nurse practitioner?

According to the National Association of Neonatal Nurses (NANN), "neonatal nurse practitioners are advanced practice nurses who work with the physicians and nursing staff to provide comprehensive critical care to the infants in the NICU." The NICU is an acronym for "neonatal intensive care unit." Newborns that are admitted into NICUs can suffer from a variety of serious health conditions such as premature birth, illnesses, cardiac and respiratory problems, low birth weight, infections, birth defects, and hereditary diseases. The term "neonatal" refers to the first twenty-eight days of life of an infant. However, neonatal nurse practitioners (NNPs) will often assist in the care of infants beyond this twenty-eight day time period, usually until the infant patient is released from the NICU.

While a newborn is receiving medical attention in an NICU, neonatal nurse practitioners also work in collaboration with affected parents and families in order to assist them in learning how to understand, cope, and properly care for their infant's specific condition.

How can I become a neonatal nurse practitioner?

The first step to becoming a neonatal nurse practitioner is to graduate from high school. While in high school, students are encouraged to complete as many science, health, and mathematics courses as possible. Advanced-placement courses are especially helpful. The next step is to earn either an associate of science degree in nursing (ADN) or a bachelor's of science degree in nursing (BSN) from an accredited school.

By pursuing an undergraduate degree in nursing, students will often qualify to sit for the national examination necessary to become registered nurses (RNs) or vocational/practical nurses (PNs). This examination is called the National Council Licensure Examination, or the NCLEX. All neonatal nurse practitioners are required to pass the NCLEX.

After gaining a few years of experience working as an RN, the next step is to pursue a master's or doctorate program specifically designed to provide specialized neonatal nurse practitioner education and training. After pursuing a graduate degree, graduates pursue national neonatal nurse practitioner certification prior to employment. In addition, all states (as well as the District of Columbia) require nurse practitioners, regardless of specialization, to obtain state licensure. Neonatal nurse practitioners should contact the Board of Nursing in the state in which they intend to practice and learn about any additional professional requirements.

What is the career outlook for neonatal nurse practitioners?

According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, professionals working in the field of nursing may expect an excellent career outlook in the coming decade. In 2008 there were approximately 2,618,700 nurses (including nurse practitioners) employed throughout the country. This already staggering number is expected to rise to at least 3,200,200 by 2018, which indicates a 22% growth in employment within a ten-year period.

The demand for specialty population oriented nurse practitioners is increasing for several reasons. For example, every year experienced neonatal nurse practitioners are leaving the field, which creates immediate openings for qualified newcomers. Also, as the availability of advanced technology continues to expand for the purposes of medical diagnosis, observation, prevention, and treatment, patient care will become more cost-effective for larger numbers of newborn infants. Consequently, additional neonatal nurse practitioners will be needed to accommodate this widening patient base. Finally, as greater emphasis is being placed on the positive results of providing urgent medical care and attention to newborns with health complications, more neonatal nurse practitioners are necessary to deliver specialized services. Learn more about the neonatal nurse practitioner job description.

How to Become a Neonatal Nurse Practitioner

What admission requirements are needed to gain entry into neonatal nurse practitioner schools?

Each neonatal nurse practitioner program has established a different set of eligibility requirements for granting acceptance. Entrance into many of these programs may be competitive therefore students with exceptional educational backgrounds will likely be favored. For instance, frequently only students that already hold a Bachelor of Science in Nursing or higher will be considered for master degree programs. Likewise, students often need at least a Master of Science in Nursing to be considered for doctoral degree programs.

Schools may also require applying students to submit GRE scores along with official transcripts indicating previous coursework

What academic subjects are covered through neonatal nurse practitioner education?

Although all neonatal nurse practitioner programs differ slightly in terms of required curriculum, students can expect general instruction in nursing theory, research methods, health care delivery, issues in cultural diversity, and leadership roles and responsibilities of advance practice nurses. Likewise, programs will integrate aspects of pathology, pharmacology, diagnosis, growth development, patient assessment, technical procedures, patient care, disease management, treatment options, and health promotion related to neonates.

Some specific examples of courses found in neonatal nurse practitioner programs include: Neonatal Pharmacology and Therapeutics, Neonatal Assessment, Management of the High Risk Newborn, Health Promotion and Illness Prevention Across the Lifespan, Physiology and Pathophysiology of the Neonate, and Incorporating Genetics into Advanced Nursing Practice.

Most neonatal nurse practitioner degree programs conclude by requiring students to engage in supplemental clinical experiences in relevant medical settings such as tertiary care units, newborn nurseries, delivery rooms, NICUs, area hospitals, outpatient clinics or medical schools.

Since most students are also working professionals, academic programs often offer both full-time and part-time schedule options. Teaching methods within each program vary between schools. However, most students will be taught through instructed readings, mandatory lectures, online activities, group projects, class discussions, research-based evidence, case studies, comprehensive examinations, and applied practical training.

How does a neonatal nurse practitioner gain certification?

The National Certification Corporation for the Obstetric, Gynecologic and Neonatal Nursing Specialties (NCC) is the premier certifying body for neonatal nurse practitioners. Currently, there are three major eligibility requirements that need to be completed before the NCC will allow neonatal nurse practitioners to take the competency examination that results in certification.

First, all candidates must hold an active license to practice as a registered nurse either in the United States or Canada. Next, all candidates must show evidence that they have completed a formal education program that resulted in a master's, post-master's, or doctor of nursing practice degree in the specialty of neonatal nurse practitioner. Finally, candidates must have graduated from their specific degree program between 2005 and the present. Once all qualifications have been meet and the examination is successfully passed, the NCC will officially grant certification for approved neonatal nurse practitioners.

What's involved in maintaining NCC certification through continuing education?

In order to maintain NCC certification, neonatal nurse practitioners must complete at least forty-five contact hours of continuing education that is directly related to their specialty every three years. Those that do not wish to engage in continuing education activities do have the alternative option of re-examination by the NCC. Some common ways to earn continuing education credits include participating in preceptorships, academic coursework, presentations, and literary publications.

Students that want to enter into an educational program that will help them qualify to get certified as a neonatal nurse practitioner are encouraged to select one that is accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) or the National League for Nursing Accrediting Commission (NLNAC).

Learn more about the neonatal nurse practitioner job description.

Neonatal Nurse Practitioner Job Description

What is the general job description for neonatal nurse practitioners?

According to the National Certification Corporation for the Obstetric, Gynecologic and Neonatal Nursing Specialties (NCC), the neonatal nurse job description involves four major responsibilities: general assessment, general management, identification of disease processes, and professional conduct. Perinatal, neonatal, and family integration assessment is one of the key functions of a neonatal nurse practitioner. Here, NNPs perform physical examinations, behavioral analysis, clinical laboratory tests, diagnostic procedures, data interpretation, operate medical equipment, and follow up evaluations to better understand health conditions affecting neonates and their families.

Another important aspect of a neonatal nurse practitioner's job description is the health management of the neonatal patient. Often NNPs are required to monitor and manage the thermoregulation, nutrition, stabilization and resuscitation, pharmacology, and fluids that

Where do neonatal nurse practitioners work?

Although neonatal nurse practitioners are employed in public health departments, outpatient clinics, offices of physicians, private homes, and specialty practices, most NNPs work in hospitals and medical centers that have NICUs (neonatal intensive care units). NICUs are different than any other hospital nursery, as they specifically cater to newborns that need constant medical attention because of premature birth or acute health problems.

What are the three levels of neonatal intensive care units?

There are three levels of NICUs, and neonatal nurse practitioners are relied upon in each. Level I NICUs contain newborns that have less serious health conditions. Neonates in these NICUs are not premature and generally stabilize after a very short period of time and then are transported into specialty care units (SCUs).

Level I NICUs are becoming less common throughout the United States. However, newborns that are placed in Level II NICUs are often premature by four-weeks or less and suffer from more severe health conditions that require more time and attention from NNPs.

The most premature and seriously afflicted newborns are treated in Level III NICUs. Babies that need the assistance of mechanical ventilators, high-tech imaging devices, and surgical procedures are the one's found in these Level III NICUs. Unlike newborns placed in Level I and Level II NICUs, these infants will likely require persistent care well after the first twenty-eight days of life.

What medical professionals do neonatal nurse practitioners typically work with?

All neonatal nurse practitioners, regardless of the type of NICU they may work in, perform under the supervision of a neonatologist. Other staff members may include pediatric specialists, pharmacists, lactation consultants, physical therapists, counselors, respiratory therapists, and other nurses.

What type of medical equipment and intervention is common in the NICU?

Neonatal nurse practitioners working in NICUs use various different kinds of medical equipment on a daily basis to accommodate newborns requiring consistent specialty treatment. Some examples of the equipment used by neonatal nurse practitioners in this setting include: incubators, feeding tubes, phototherapy lights, ventilators, nasal cannulas, umbilical catheters, peripheral IVs, pulse oximeters, and cardiac monitors.

What kind of non-medical intervention might a neonatal nurse practitioner perform?

On a more personal level, neonatal nurse practitioners will sometime use touch therapy or "kangaroo care" to physically, mentally, and emotionally soothe infants in NICUs. Here, NNPs hold the newborn up to the chest for up to an hour at a time. This kind of intimate physical contact is thought to improve sleeping habits, regulate breathing, promote recovery, and provide overall comfort to the ailing infant.

Neonatal Nurse Practitioner Salary

What is the average neonatal nurse practitioner salary?

Neonatal nurse practitioners across the U.S. earned an average median salary of $87,683 per year, according to June 2015 information from payscale.com. In Atlanta, a major healthcare hub, the median salary was $82,714. However, pay can vary by experience as well as location. As an example, the median pay for those with 10 to 20 years of experience was $104,000 while those with more than 20 years of experience earned median pay around $109,000, according to payscale.com.

Other factors can impact total income too. For example, many neonatal nurse practitioners receive bonuses in addition to their annual income. Overall, their pay can generally vary from $60,267 to $121,450, payscale.com shows. The American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP) also reports that out of eight nurse practitioner types, neonatal nurse practitioners had the highest pay.

How does education and location influence salaries for neonatal nurse practitioners?

Education level can factor into pay for nurse practitioners. For example, NPs who had a master's degree earned an average base salary of $92,867 (without overtime and bonuses) while those with a doctoral degree had an average base pay of $96,807, shows the 2012 National Salary Survey of Nurse Practitioners and Physician Assistants broken down by degree.

Also, geographic location in the U.S. can affect neonatal nurse practitioner pay. For example, nurse practitioners in the Plains area, including Iowa, Kansas and Missouri, earned some of the highest pay in the country, followed by those working in states in the Far West and Southwest, shows the AANP.

How can subspecialty training influence salaries for neonatal nurse practitioners?

Furthermore, professionals that seek training in subspecialty areas tend to receive higher salaries as well. Some subspecialties for neonatal nurse practitioners include palliative care nursing, electronic fetal monitoring and neonatal pediatric transport. Nurses who work in a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) can also earn more, payscale.com shows. Studies also show that neonatal nurse practitioners that receive overtime and bonuses earn better salaries then those that do not.

How can location influence salaries for neonatal nurse practitioners?

Finally, because economic conditions, general population and health care demands can vary between states, a neonatal nurse salary can differ widely according to geographic location. The following are the top five highest paying states for nurse practitioners and their average annual salaries, according to May 2014 U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data:

  • Hawaii: $115,870
  • Alaska: $115,670
  • California: $115,460
  • Oregon: $111,160
  • Massachusetts: $107,230

On the other hand, the states with the lowest average nurse practitioner annual salaries were Kansas at $84,270 and Oklahoma at $82,880. As such, neonatal nurse practitioners who can relocate for a position may be more likely to improve their earning potential.

Neonatal Nurse Practitioner Program

Where can I find neonatal nurse practitioner programs?

Students can find programs that instruct in the education and training of neonatal nurse practitioners in a variety of settings. Those that only wish to complete a few introductory courses in order to get a glimpse into the occupation can often locate classes that are open to the general public through community hospitals, technical schools, professional associations, and online opportunities.

Although these educational providers may deliver some insight into neonatal nursing, more serious students will need to enter formal

What academic degrees do neonatal nurse practitioner programs offer?

All neonatal nurse practitioners (NNPs) need to earn a master's degree or higher in a specialized degree program. Therefore, virtually all NNP degree programs exist at the graduate level. Here, the most widely available degrees are a Master of Science in Nursing: Neonatal Nurse Practitioner, Post-Master's Certificate in Neonatal Nurse Practitioner, and Doctor of Nursing Practice: Neonatal Nurse Practitioner.

As this profession continues to expand and grow in complexity, students will continue to find a more diverse selection of degree programs to choose from. Some additional master's degrees include: Master of Science in Nursing: Nurse Practitioner Acute Neonatal Care, Master of Arts in Nursing: Neonatal Nurse Practitioner, and Master of Science in Nursing: Care of Children and Families/Pediatric Nurse Practitioner/Neonatal Nurse Practitioner.

What are my options for accelerated neonatal nurse practitioner degree programs?

In addition, some schools will even offer accelerated degree programs to accommodate students that already hold degrees in nursing and want to fast-track neonatal nurse practitioner specialization. For example, students may complete accelerated degrees such as Bachelor of Science in Nursing to Doctor of Nursing Practice in Neonatal Nurse Practitioner (available online also), Post-Master's to Doctor of Nursing Practice in Neonatal Nurse Practitioner, Master of Science in Nursing to Doctor of Philosophy in Care of Children and Families/Pediatric Nurse Practitioner/Neonatal Nurse Practitioner.

What are my options for a post graduate certificate in neonatal nursing?

Students that already hold a Master of Science in Nursing and that want to pursue specialization in neonatology without earning an additional degree can complete a University Statutory Certificate or Post-Master's Advanced Certificate in Neonatal Nurse Practitioner.

Although all graduate degree programs that are specifically designed for neonatal nurse practitioners will undoubtedly prepare ambitious students for a long-lasting career, most Master of Science in Nursing programs will be replaced by Doctor of Nursing Practice programs by 2015 at the recommendation of the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN). This shift in educational standards will help ensure that all entry-level neonatal nurse practitioners will provide the highest quality service and care for all neonates and families thereof.

Request Information from Neonatal Nurse Practitioner Colleges

The neonatal nurse practitioner schools, colleges, and universities below offer some of the best training available to medical degree seeking individuals. Request information from multiple neonatal nurse practitioner schools in order to compare programs and find the best degree for you.


  1. 2011 AANP National NP Compensation Survey, American Association of Nurse Practitioners. http://www.aanp.org/images/documents/research/2011AANPNationalNPCompensationSurveyPreliminary.pdf
  2. Nurse Practitioners, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment Statistics, May 2014. http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes291171.htm
  3. Salary Averages According to Degree, ADVANCE for NPs & PAs, 2012. http://nurse-practitioners-and-physician-assistants.advanceweb.com/SharedResources/Downloads/2013/052713/NPPA060113_SS_Degree_BSI.pdf

Neonatal Nurse Practitioner Schools