Neonatal Nurse Practitioner: Career and Salary Facts

Research what it takes to become a neonatal nurse practitioner. Learn about job duties, education, licensure requirements and salary to find out if this is the career for you. Schools offering Nursing degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Neonatal Nurse Practitioner?

A neonatal nurse practitioner is a highly trained nurse who specializes in working with ill infants and their families. They work in a neonatal unit, where they may help diagnose and develop care plans for premature babies or babies with a serious illness. Nurse practitioners perform many of the duties commonly associated with doctors or physician assistants. They can diagnose patients, and they can also prescribe medication or order tests that are needed to complete a diagnosis. They need a master's degree in nursing, and those who specialize as neonatal nurse practitioners will complete clinical training in a neonatal unit as part of their education. Neonatal nurse practitioners need to be very familiar with common ailments that affect infants and approved treatment methods for addressing those ailments.

Degree Required Master's degree at minimum
Education Field of Study Nursing
Key Responsibilities Provide medical care for infants in a neonatal hospital setting; examine infants and diagnose medical condition; order diagnostic tests and analyze results; prescribe medication, order therapy and treatment
Licensure or Certification Licensure as a registered nurse is required; board certification in neonatal nurse practitioner is available
Job Growth (2014-2024) 35% for all nurse practitioners*
Median Salary (2017) $114,802**

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), **Salary.com

What Would I Do as a Neonatal Nurse Practitioner?

As a neonatal nurse practitioner, you would use your graduate-level, specialized nursing education to provide a high level of care for newborns and infants in collaboration with physicians and other medical staff members. There are three levels of neonatal care; as a nurse practitioner (NP), you could work in the neonatal intensive care unit with the most at-risk newborns and infants. Working with a physician, you would determine a care plan for each child and implement treatment by managing your neonatal medical team. In addition to neonatal expertise, you would need to have a compassionate manner in order to deal with the families of convalescing infants and with the infants themselves.

What Education Do I Need?

Because you'll need to attend a master's degree program to become a neonatal nurse practitioner, you should begin your nursing education with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) program. In a BSN program, you'll study the fundamentals of biology and nursing, as well as participate in supervised clinical experiences. After you've completed a BSN program, you'll be eligible to take the National Council Licensing Examination (NCLEX) to become a registered nurse (RN).

With a bachelor's degree and your RN license, you can apply to a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) program, though many programs prefer that you have some years of experience in the specific field you'd like to pursue before applying. MSN programs offer more specialization than BSN programs, so you should choose a neonatal NP program where you'd also combine classroom learning with clinical experience in neonatal care.

What Licensing or Certification Do I Need?

After completing the National Council of State Boards of Nursing's NCLEX-RN exam, you'll be able to legally practice as a nurse in the U.S. You need to apply to your state's board of nursing for eligibility to take the exam, and you should check to see if your state has any other requirements for RNs.

After you've completed your MSN program, you may wish to seek certification as a neonatal NP. The National Certification Corporation offers the Neonatal Nurse Practitioner certification, which you can test for with an RN license and MSN.

What Salary Could I Earn?

Salary.com reported in 2017 that neonatal nurse practitioners made a median annual wage of $114,802. NPs are increasingly seen as more cost-effective providers of primary healthcare services, and the occupation is expanding to include a wider scope of progressive care.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Registered nurses, physician assistants and physicians perform many tasks that are similar to the work of neonatal nurse practitioners. Registered nurses need a bachelor's degree, and they use the care plans designed by nurse practitioners to provide direct care to patients and monitor their progress. Physician assistants need a master's degree. They examine patients, order tests, diagnose patients and prescribe treatment. Doctors have many of the same tasks as physician assistants, though at a considerably more advanced level. They also have more advanced education, which typically includes a medical degree and a specialized residency. The key difference between a doctor and a nurse practitioner is that doctors have more extensive medical training and physician assistants and nurse practitioners may all work under the supervision of a doctor.

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