Neonatal Nurse Practitioner Career Overview
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What Does a Neonatal Nurse Practitioner Do?
NNPs typically work in hospital inpatient units like the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), but some work in delivery rooms and clinics. These nursing professionals provide critical care to sick and premature infants and assist their families, which can be emotionally demanding but also rewarding. NNPs work closely with specialty physicians and often supervise registered nurses (RNs).
The following are NNP key skills and responsibilities:
- Delivering care to at-risk infants
- Supervising neonatal RNs and other nursing staff
- Educating and communicating with families
- Planning discharge for high-risk infants
- Advanced knowledge of nursing
- Good judgment
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Where Do Neonatal Nurse Practitioners Work?
According to data collected by the National Association of Neonatal Nurse Practitioners (NANNP), most NNP jobs are in hospitals or hospital systems. Almost 60% of NNP work primarily in a level III NICU and approximately 33% work in level IV units, which treat the most serious cases.
NNPs might find work in these common settings:
Level III NICU
Level III NICU NNPs order tests and adjust treatments as needed, coordinate care with specialists such as respiratory therapists, and communicate with parents.
Level IV NICU
At this level, NNP jobs may include tasks such as putting infants on life support, determining immediate analysis of tests and escalation of care, and collaborating with other neonatal specialists on treatment plans.
NNPs work with families with severely ill newborns on their ongoing treatment, educating them on how to care for their child's condition and when to seek further treatment. They may also act as primary care providers for infants with serious health problems.
Neonatal Nurse Practitioners vs. Neonatal Registered Nurses
While professionals in both roles provide necessary care to infants, the additional training and education that NNPs undergo enables them to provide a higher complexity of care than neonatal RNs and to take on leadership roles. Neonatal RNs hold at least two years of education and complete an RN certification exam. Neonatal NPs must earn a graduate degree and pass an advanced certification exam.
Neonatal Nurse Practitioner
Holds a master of science in nursing (MSN) or doctorate
Passed advanced certification exam
Can diagnose, order treatment, and prescribe medications independently
Earns higher salary (median annual NNP salary: $122,500 in 2019)
Neonatal Registered Nurse
Holds an associate degree or bachelor of science in nursing (BSN)
Passed certification exam
Works under the supervision of an NNP or physician
Earns lower neonatal nurse salary than NNP (median annual neonatal RN salary: $77,600)
How to Become a Neonatal Nurse Practitioner
Earn a BSN.
Pass the NCLEX-RN to receive RN licensure.
Gain nursing experience.
Earn an MSN or a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP).
Pass the NNP certification exam to become board certified.
How Much Do Neonatal Nurse Practitioners Make?
NNPs can gain access to high salaries and ample job opportunities. According to the American Association of Nurse Practitioners survey results, NNPs earned a 2019 median base salary of $122,500 and a median annual total compensation of $130,500.
Salaries for NNPs vary significantly by geographic location and workplace setting. The 2019 annual base salary for a nurse practitioner in California was $130,000, compared to a base salary of $105,000 in both Arkansas and Kentucky. Nurse practitioners working in hospital inpatient settings earned an annual median base salary of $131,000, while those working in community health centers earned $102,000 per year.
In line with nurse practitioners as a whole, NNPs are in high demand. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a 52% job growth rate for nurse practitioners between 2020 and 2030, much higher than the national average for all occupations.
Frequently Asked Questions
How long does it take to become an NNP?
It takes at least six years to become an NNP, including six years of education (BSN and MSN), plus the two years of RN experience typically required for admission to an MSN program.
Can NNPs prescribe medicine?
Like all nurse practitioners, NNPs can prescribe medications in most states, including controlled substances. In some states, nurse practitioners must work in collaboration with or under the supervision of a physician to prescribe controlled substances.
How much does an NNP make in a year?
AANP survey results report a 2019 median annual base of $122,500 and a median annual total compensation of $130,500. Salaries vary significantly by geographic region and workplace setting. NNP salaries are highest in larger communities with higher costs of living.
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Where do NNPs work?
Most NNP jobs are in hospital inpatient settings, typically in NICUs. Some NNPs work in community or clinic settings, usually assisting families in caring for a child after release from the NICU.
Resources for Neonatal Nurse Practitioners
Council of International Neonatal NursesCOINN seeks to improve neonatal outcomes globally through promoting standards, advocacy, and sharing resources. While individuals are welcome to join, it works primarily as an international affiliation of organizations that seeks to strengthen neonatal nursing worldwide.
National Association of Neonatal NursesNANN issues publications, provides continuing education and other professional development, and offers fellowships. Membership is open to nursing students and RNs. NANN members who are NPs can join a special section for NNPs.
Association of Women's Health, Obstetric and Neonatal NursesAWHONN's mission focuses on nurse empowerment, research, and advocacy. It offers professional continuing education, such as fetal heart monitoring courses, and advocates for women's and infant health. Membership is open to nurses and nonnurses, but only RNs can vote or hold office.
National Black Nurse Practitioner AssociationFocused on advancing the careers of advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs), NBNPA fosters community and practices philanthropy. To facilitate their mission, NBNPA promotes networking and provides scholarships. Membership is open to APRNs; monthly meetings occur in the Houston, Texas area.
Elizabeth Clarke, FNP, MSN, RN, MSSW
Elizabeth Clarke (Poon) is a board-certified family nurse practitioner who provides primary and urgent care to pediatric populations. She earned a BSN and an MSN from the University of Miami.
Clarke is a paid member of our RV EDU Integrity Network. Learn more about our partners.
Page last reviewed March 9, 2021
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