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How to Become a Neonatal Nurse Practitioner

Neonatal nurse practitioners are highly skilled nurses who work with newborn babies. If you want to become a neonatal nurse practitioner, this article will tell you everything you need to know from the work setting to requirements, licensing, certification, and other resources.

To become a neonatal nurse practitioner, you need to be agile, observant, and adaptable. Prospective NNPs should understand the physical and physiological needs of a newborn baby. Excel in this competitive field and learn how to become a neonatal nurse practitioner below by enrolling in some of the best neonatal nurse practitioner schooling available in the US.

What Is a Neonatal Nurse Practitioner?

A neonatal nurse practitioner, or an NNP, is an advanced registered nurse. They provide well-rounded care to newborn infants. They work with doctors, patients, hospital technicians, and families to keep babies healthy and happy.

Sometimes, newborns have certain defects such as low body weight, congenital heart abnormalities, respiratory problems, genetic disorders, prematurity, or infections that NNPs need to address.

These nurses take care of babies in need of constant attention, often in the neonatal intensive care units (NICU). Neonatal nurse practitioners care for and evaluate newborns to diagnose issues and perform medical procedures. To become a neonatal nurse practitioner, you must pass a certification exam for registered nurses (RNs), and another in advanced practice nursing.

What Does a Neonatal Nurse Practitioner Do?

Neonatal nurse practitioners care for sick or struggling newborn babies. They need to be well-educated and ready to perform any necessary procedures.

In the United States, there are four levels of care for infants. Most hospitals offer healthcare administration only up to Level III. Neonatal nurse practitioners can:

Perform Diagnostic Tests

NNPs run various tests and procedures such as intubation, maintaining IV lines, and drawing blood from infants.

Dispense Medication

The nurses work with other physicians to identify and administer the proper drugs to neonatal patients.

Provide Information

NNPs are responsible for educating new parents and families about procedures, postpartum care, and neonatal intensive care.

Monitor Equipment

Neonatal Nurse Practitioners are responsible for monitoring specialized equipment such as incubators and ventilators.

Essential Neonatal Nurse Practitioner Skills

NNPs are entrusted with the healthcare of infants and parents. This is a delicate career, and you have to have both soft and hard skills to be successful.

The job involves long hours of work, highly emotional situations, and lots of stress. Nurses must possess these skills for the effective administration of medicine and care:

Strong Communication Skills

NNPs must stay calm and collected when they speak to distressed parents and family members. They must maintain trust and active communication to avoid panic and stimulate better decisions.

Attention To Detail

A neonatal nurse practitioner needs to be meticulous and observant. Infants are often unstable, and premature babies tend to grow at a fast rate. They must take note of any minor changes that could pose health risks.


Neonatal nurse practitioners must be able to perform intricate procedures on the infant. Newborns are small and easily injured, so nurses must take extra precautions. A steady hand might be the difference between life and death.

Critical Thinking

NNPs should be able to make decisions calmly and quickly. They must ensure that the newborns do not face any health complications.

Ability to Multitask

When there are multiple sick infants, NNPs must pay attention to each one. They have to think on their feet and keep track of any issues, no matter how small.


It is essential to remain positive when parents have to navigate difficult processes. Parents who face tragedy are susceptible to depression and anxiety. The NNP’s attitude can help guide these clients in the right direction.


No nurse can save everyone every day, but that shouldn’t deter NNPs. Many doctors need to make peace with some of their difficult decisions and outcomes.

Physical Endurance

NNPs often work long shifts on their feet, which can be mentally and physically draining. They should have the stamina to stay strong throughout their shift and focus on treating patients.

Neonatal Nurse Practitioner Salaries and Job Outlook

The medical field always needs more neonatal nurse practitioners. The number of people becoming nurses continues to grow. There will be a 26 percent increase in the number of nurses by 2028. The salary of a Neonatal Nurse Practitioner ranges from $82,000 to $153,000 per year.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the highest paying states for NNPs are California, Washington, New Jersey, Minnesota, and Hawaii. Several places have a higher demand for neonatal nurse practitioners: Maine, Kansas, Alabama, Tennessee, and Mississippi. Before signing up for any job, be sure to check on the cost of living, benefits, and tuition reimbursement options.

How Long Does It Take to Become a Neonatal Nurse Practitioner?

To become a neonatal nurse practitioner, you will need a high level of training, education, and experience. There are different education requirements depending on location or hospital, but the minimum is a degree in nursing. It may take up to four years, depending on the route you choose. You can either opt for a master's degree in nursing or a DNP.

How to Become a Neonatal Nurse Practitioner: A Step-by-Step Guide

If you want to become an NNP, you should create a plan to get a good education and relevant experience. These steps will help you become a neonatal nurse Practitioner:

Step 1: Earn a BSN degree

First, you have to have a bachelor's degree in nursing. You need this if you want to enroll in a graduate program. You can get the degree online or from a physical program.

Step 2: Get an RN License

After you complete an NCLEX exam, you can apply for licensing. You need this before you can start working as a nurse and learning what specialties you prefer.

Step 3: Gain Experience

At least two years of experience in administering care is essential. You cannot be admitted to MSN or DNP programs without a certain level of experience.

Step 4: Earn an MSN or DNP

You can earn an MSN or DNP degree from an accredited program with a specialty in neonatal nursing. You can check our list below for the best NNP programs in the country.

Step 5: Get your NNP Certification from the National Certification Corporation

Once you complete your education, you can get in touch with the boards. They will help you get certified in your specific locality. The requirements for certifications vary from state to state.

Neonatal Nurse Practitioner Education Requirements

After you complete your nursing degree, sit for the NCLEX-RN examination so you can get your license. To become an NNP, you can choose to pursue a master's program in nursing or a two-year advanced practice neonatal nursing program.

Advanced practice neonatal nursing programs can teach you physiology, advanced neonatal assessments, pharmacotherapeutics, neonatal pharmacology, and embryology. For graduate-level degrees, you will find clinical preceptorships and didactic studies.

Best Programs and Courses to Become Neonatal Nurse Practitioner

Here are the best courses and programs to help you become a neonatal nurse practitioner. This list considers factors such as tuition, reputation, acceptance rate, and student success rate. There are many options so you can find the best one for you.

Neonatal Nurse Practitioner MSN - Texas

  • Provider: University of Texas Arlington
  • Cost: $15,814
  • Prerequisite: N/A
  • Time: 2 years

This is an exceptional course for NICU nurses who want to become NNPs. It consists of 42 semester hours and will take two years to complete the course online. By the end of the program, the student must complete 600 clinical hours.

 Neonatal Nurse Practitioner - Pennsylvania

  • Provider: University of Pennsylvania
  • Cost: $51,094
  • Prerequisite: N/A
  • Time: 2 years

This is a great program for nurses who wish to study part-time. There are excellent facilities on the premises, and the students get a lot of experience to help them become the best practitioners.

 Neonatal Nurse Practitioner - Regis

  • Provider: Regis University
  • Cost: $20,020
  • Prerequisite: N/A
  • Time: 2 years

This institution is excellent if you want to become an NNP on a budget. It provides nurses with a low per-credit tuition rate. The master’s-level program uses web-based courses, so you can learn from anywhere.

Neonatal Nurse Practitioner - Duke

  • Provider: Duke University
  • Cost: $22,056
  • Prerequisite: N/A
  • Time: 2 years

This is a great program if you want to provide full-time healthcare for low and high-risk neonates. The courses will teach you pharmacology, pathophysiology, and physical assessment. You will have access to quality material from the library and expert faculty.

Neonatal Nurse Practitioner Certificates

Certification is essential when it comes to landing new prospects. This is an excellent way of strengthening your resume and learning more about the practice. Below are the most useful certifications you can get as a neonatal nurse practitioner.

CCRN (neonatal)

The American Association of Critical Care Nurses can grant you this certification. It is for acute or critical care nursing for RNs and ARNs. This is a fundamental certification for bedside nurses, APRNs, educators, and managers.

CCRN-K (neonatal)

This is for advanced practice registered nurses who often influence neonatal care, but don’t directly provide the care. It is a valuable course for nurse administrators, managers, and supervisors.

ACCNS-N (neonatal)

This certification is meant for entry-level nurses who want to start providing care to neonatal patients. It is highly recommended for clinical nurse specialists.

Certification in Neonatal Pediatric Transport

This certification exam tests specialty knowledge for licensed healthcare professionals. It is essential for healthcare providers who provide transport and stabilization services to neonatal patients.

RNC Certification for Neonatal Intensive Care Nursing

The main purpose of this certification is to test the knowledge and application of registered nurses with a minimum of two years of experience. The experience must be in the intensive neonatal field.

RNC Certification in Low Risk Neonatal Intensive Care Nursing

This is a great certification for RNs who have a minimum of two years of experience. This does not have to be as intensive, and can mostly cover Level II, special care, or chronic-care.

NCC Certification in Maternal Newborn Nursing

This is another certification for RNs with two years of experience caring for neonatal patients from childbirth to six weeks or outpatient setups.

NCC Credential in Inpatient Obstetric Nursing

This certification is for RNs who care for pregnant women during the antepartum, intrapartum, and postpartum periods.

Should You Become a Neonatal Nurse Practitioner in 2021?

Neonatal nurse practitioners are a lifeline for critically ill neonatal patients. Although they often make difficult decisions, this is a rewarding and fulfilling job. Becoming a nurse can both fill your personal goals and professional goals.

NNPs are well-paid and have myriad opportunities to learn and grow. It's a great career option for anyone who likes providing care to infants and their families.

If you want to become a Nurse Practitioner, you should start now. There is a constant need for new nurse practitioners with knowledge in caring for infants.


How many hours does a neonatal nurse practitioner work?
This depends on the facility's policies. However, the average practitioner can work up to 40 hours a week. Some NNPs have to work long shifts.
Do I have to be a nurse to become a Neonatal Nurse Practitioner?
Yes, you have to have an undergraduate degree in nursing before you can continue your education.
Do I need RN work experience?
Yes, you need at least two years of full-time experience in a Level III nursery.
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