Neonatal Nurse Practitioner

What Is a Neonatal Nurse Practitioner?

Neonatal nurse practitioners (NNPs) are advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) who are responsible for providing primary, acute, chronic, and critical care to ill neonates, infants, and toddlers under the age of two in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). These nurses have undergone graduate-degree training in nursing at either the master's or doctoral level, and are board-certified in neonatology. Commonly encountered medical issues that NNPs must be able to deal with in a clinically effective manner include congenital heart abnormalities, prematurity, infections, respiratory problems, low birth weights, and more. In this specialty, advanced skills in physical and psychosocial assessments of newborns are an absolute must. Although NNPs technically work under the instruction of a neonatologist M.D. or fellow, they do hold what's known as ‘prescriptive authority' which allows them to prescribe medications to their patients.

What Are Some Neonatal Nurse Practitioner Duties?

Although the specific duties that NNPs are tasked with will vary depending on the level of neonatal care they're working in, some duties that are common include:

  • Assess, diagnose, and enact care plans
  • Carry out diagnostic tests and other procedures like blood draws and intubation
  • Ensure proper feeding
  • Provide education and support to patients' families
  • Monitor and assess vitals
  • Prescribe and dispense medications in collaboration with doctors
  • Start and maintain IV lines
  • Communicate and cooperate effectively with other members of the neonatal healthcare team
  • Monitor specialized equipment like ventilators and incubators

Where Do Neonatal Nurse Practitioners Work?

NNPs can typically be found working in the following settings:

  • Public and private hospitals (NICUs)
  • Home health services
  • Community health clinics
  • Research & academic institutions
  • Community-based settings
  • Medical evacuation and transport services

How to Become a Neonatal Nurse Practitioner

Entering a career that's as highly regarded as that of a neonatal nurse practitioner is certainly attainable, although it requires a lot of education. For those who are secure in their conviction of wanting to become an NNP, a graduate degree is required, along with some clinical experience in neonatology. RNs can choose to become nurse practitioners (NPs) or clinical nurse specialists (CNS) - both of which are perfectly acceptable for advanced practice licensure and national certification in the NNP field.

Step 1: Educational Requirements

To become a critical care nurse, the following educational requirements must be met:

  • Hold a Bachelor's of Science in Nursing (BSN) from an accredited college or university
  • Pass the NCLEX-RN prelicensure exam
  • Hold an active and unrestricted RN license
  • Hold a Master's of Science in Nursing (MSN) or Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) with concentrations in neonatology

*Advanced programs should contain core curricula in neonatal physiology, embryology, and advanced neonatal assessment, among others. Prior to enrolling in a graduate-level program, make sure the program meets the requirements for certification via the National Certification Corporation.

Do Neonatal Nurse Practitioners Need an RN Degree?

Not only do NNPs need to hold active and unrestricted RN licenses, but they're also required to possess graduate degrees in nursing science (MSN, DNP, etc.) and have board certifications in neonatology.

Step 2: Required Neonatal Nurse Practitioner Certifications/Credentials

Following the completion of a graduate or post-graduate education program, prospective neonatal nurse practitioners can acquire national certification - the certification that's required by most states for NNP licensure - through the National Certification Corporation.

Before an RN pursues a particular certification, it's wise to first consult with the state's board of nursing to see which neonatal nurse practitioner specializations it acknowledges.

The following certifications for NNPs are offered by National Certification Corporation:

Core Certifications (RNCs):

To be eligible for any of the above core neonatal nursing certifications, individuals we need to have met the following requirements prior to applying:

  • Hold a current and unrestricted RN license
  • Have a minimum of two years of experience within the specialty
  • Have maintained employment within the specialty in the two years prior to applying

Nurse Practitioner Certification:

To be eligible for the neonatal nurse practitioner certification, individuals need to have met the following requirements prior to applying:

  • Hold a current and unrestricted RN license
  • Have successfully completed an accredited nurse practitioner program which resulted in an MSN, DNP, etc. with an emphasis in neonatology

Subspecialty Certifications:

  • Neonatal Pediatric Transport
  • Electronic Fetal Monitoring
    • To be eligible for either of these certifications, individuals will need to be licensed as a registered nurse, nurse practitioner, respiratory therapist, paramedic, physician, or physician assistant. It's also recommended that candidates have two years of healthcare experience.

Neonatal Nurse Practitioner Jobs, Salary & Employment

The millennial generation - a population totaling 76 million people - has now reached the age where they will begin to get married and have children. For this reason, we can expect more childbirths in the coming years, and with that an increased demand for neonatal nurse practitioners.

Job Description & Information

  • Essential Skills Needed - Strong assessment and diagnostic skills, technical competency, strong critical thinking skills, ability to work in interdisciplinary teams, compassion, communication and teaching abilities, and interpersonal competency
  • Job Outlook - Employment for nurse practitioners, nurse anesthetists, and nurse midwives is expected to grow 31 percent from 2016 to 2026, as per the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This growth rate, which is much faster than the average for all other occupational sectors, is expected because of increased demands that will be placed on healthcare services due to the aging baby boomer population.

What Is the Average Salary of a Neonatal Nurse Practitioner?

According to, the average annual salary for neonatal nurse practitioners is approximately $98,312. Factors that will contribute to the earning potential of an NNP include things like the geographical location of employment, type of employer, certifications/credentials held, level of education, and experience. In addition to this, NNPs receive employee benefits packages which are likely to include extensive medical insurance, retirement plans, and annual paid time off - usually two to four weeks.

How Much Do Neonatal Nurse Practitioners Make per Year?

  • $78,000 – $122,000 annually

How Much Do Neonatal Nurse Practitioners Make per Hour?

  • $53.23 average hourly wage

Neonatal Nurse Practitioner Resources