Neonatal Nurse Practitioners are advanced practice registered nurses who provide healthcare services to neonates and infants. These infants can be preterm or full-term neonates in need of emergency care due to any health complications. Neonatal Nurse Practitioners admit their patients into the neonatal intensive care units (NICU) – medical centers that have continuous health services for infants in critical condition.
Neonatal Nurse Practitioners are highly paid and enjoy a bright career outlook. Find out more about this career path and how to become a Neonatal Nurse Practitioner in the US with the following comprehensive guide.
What is a Neonatal Nurse?
A Neonatal Nurse Practitioner works with newborn infants that experience minor or major infections. They deliver care to preterm or unwell infants and might also assist in delivering patients in certain situations. Neonatal Nurse Practitioners (NNPs) provide healthcare facilities to patients who may be suffering from conditions such as prematurity, drug addiction and withdrawal, genetic disorders or surgical birth defects including cardiac defects or gastrointestinal disorders.
What Do Neonatal Nurses Do?
Neonatal nurses perform a variety of medical tasks, such as providing care to newborn infants in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), assessing and diagnosing illnesses in neonates, carrying out procedures required to care for at-risk newborns, designing treatment plans for infants with complicated problems, prescribing medication, educating and supporting parents and performing medical tests on their patients. As a part of their job responsibilities, Neonatal Nurses are also required to document and report on the infant’s progress and educate parents on how to take care of their infants. They may also help with breastfeeding techniques and special care measures that first-time parents ought to take at home specifically for complicated cases.
Where Do Neonatal Nurses Work?
Neonatal nurses can find work in a variety of healthcare settings, such as clinics, research institutes, private and public hospitals, outpatient care centers, community-based settings, medical evacuation and transport services, home health services and so on. Other common areas where neonatal nurses may be able to find work include maternity wards at hospitals, birthing centers and clinics. They may also have to carry out part of their duties in delivery rooms and nurseries. Neonatal nurseries would typically have special equipment that nurses might need to monitor, such as ventilators, oxygen hoods, blood pressure monitors and incubators.
Steps to Become a Neonatal Nurse
- In order to become a neonatal nurse, there are certain education and training requirements that need to be fulfilled. In addition to that, individuals who intend to practice in this field ought to be highly observant and detail oriented, with excellent hearing, vision, dexterity and agility.
- If you are an aspiring nurse who wants to work as a Neonatal Nurse Practitioner, the following information might be helpful.
Educational Requirements to Become a Neonatal Nurse Practitioner
Aspiring Neonatal Nurse Practitioners first need to enroll in a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree. After completing this 4-year long qualification, candidates can sit for the NCLEX-RN (Nursing Council Licensure Examination). After clearing this exam, they can apply to their state’s licensing agency to complete the licensure process and start practicing as a Registered Nurse (RN). Following this, the final educational requirement to become a Neonatal Nurse Practitioner is a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) with a concentration in neonatology. Students can also enroll in a 2-year long Advanced Practice Neonatal Nursing (APNN) program. Both these programs meet the prerequisite requirements for licensure as a clinical nurse specialist or a nurse practitioner.
Subject areas that students can expect to cover over the course of their nursing education include neonatal physiology, advanced neonatal assessment, pharmacotherapeutics, embryology and neonatal pharmacology. Please note that graduate-level university programs are typically designed to meet all the requirements for a national certification. Nursing degrees, specifically those at the graduate level include both theoretical and clinical components.
Training and Certification Requirements to Become a Neonatal Nurse Practitioner
After completing the graduate and post-graduate educational requirements, aspiring NNPs will be eligible for certification through the National Certification Corporation. This organization recognizes NNPs and offers an RNC Certification for Neonatal Intensive Care Nursing (RNC-NIC). Candidates who are interested in this certification must have a valid RN license, at least 2 years of specialty experience as an RN and should have cleared the qualifying exam for the credential. In addition to that, this certification will also require the completion of at least 2,000 hours in direct patient care, administration, research and education.
Neonatal Nurse Practitioners can also go for the CCRN (Neonatal) specialty certification, offered by the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses. In order to be eligible for this credential, candidates should have at least 1750-2000 hours of experience in direct care of acutely ill neonatal patients.
Salary and Job Growth for NICU Nurses (Neonatal Nurses)
According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the job outlook for the joint occupational category of Nurse Anesthetists, Nurse Midwives and Nurse Practitioners was a high 45% for the years between 2019 and 2029. This growth is expected to bring about a positive employment change of 117,700 in the same time period. This high demand, specifically for Advanced Practice Nurse Practitioners (APRNs) will be driven by the increasing need for healthcare services. Factors such as an increased emphasis on preventive care measures will also add to the demand for advanced nursing professionals.
Job opportunities for advanced practice registered nurses are expected to be excellent, as per the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. This demand will be the highest in underserved areas such as rural areas and inner cities.
States with the Highest Employment for Nurse Practitioners (Including NICU Nurses)
According to May 2020 data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the states with the highest employment for Nurse Practitioners were California, with an employment figure of 15,100, followed by New York, with an employment figure of 14,850, Texas, with an employment figure of 14,680, Florida, with an employment figure of 13,010 and Ohio, with an employment figure of 9,430.
Top Paying Industries for Nurse Practitioners (Including NICU Nurses)
As per the latest data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the top paying industry for Nurse Practitioners in the US was Community Food and Housing, and Emergency and Other Relief Services, with an annual mean wage of $143,480. This was followed by Religious Organizations ($131,710), Social Advocacy Groups ($127,970) and Outpatient Care Centers ($123,850).
Registered Nurses (RNs) versus Neonatal Nurse Practitioners (NNPs)
Registered Nurses (RNs) and Neonatal Nurse Practitioners (NNPs) are both qualified medical professionals who provide healthcare services for acute and chronic illnesses. However, the responsibilities, work environment, education and experience requirements for the two nursing credentials are quite different.
- Educational Requirements:The most profound difference between Registered Nurses and Neonatal Nurse Practitioners is the amount of education required before qualifying for the credential. Registered Nurses need at least an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN), while Neonatal Nurse Practitioners need at least a master’s degree.
- Work Environment: Another major difference between these two titles is the work environment. RNs typically work in hospitals and surgical settings while NPs usually find work in community clinics or private practices.
- Job Outlook: The job outlook for Registered Nurses is 7% for the years between 2019 and 2029, whereas the job outlook for the joint category of Nurse Anesthetists, Nurse Midwives and Nurse Practitioners was a massive 45%, as per the latest figures from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.
- Salary:With a more advanced role and higher education credentials, a bigger salary figure is a given. Registered Nurses in the US made an annual median income of $75,330 in May 2020, while Nurse Practitioners made an annual median income of $111,680 in May 2020.
- Responsibilities: The day to day duties of a Registered Nurse vary greatly from those of a Neonatal Nurse Practitioner. A major difference to note here is that Registered Nurses cannot prescribe medication, while Neonatal Nurse Practitioners can.
- Licensing & Certification Requirements:Registered Nurses are required to clear the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN), while Nurse Practitioners must clear certifying exams from either the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) or the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners. It must be noted that NPs also need to clear the NCLEX-RN exam before they enroll for graduate studies.
- Continuing Education Requirements:These requirements vary for Registered Nurses from state to state, with some areas not requiring continuing education credits at all. On the other hand, Nurse Practitioners are required to renew their certification with AANP every five years. For more information on how many hours of experience are required for renewal, please visit the official website of the AANP.
How Much Do Neonatal Nurse Practitioners Make?
According to data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, Nurse Practitioners made an annual median income of $111,680 in May 2020. The top paying states for Nurse Practitioners were California, with an annual mean wage of $145,970, New Jersey, with an annual mean wage of $130,890, Washington, with an annual mean wage of $126,480, New York, with an annual mean wage of $126,440 and Massachusetts, with an annual mean wage of $126,050.