Pediatric Nursing

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Pediatric nurse practitioners are advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) who hold a master's degree and specialize in providing primary health care to infants, children and adolescents. Similar specializations include family nurse practitioner, neonatal nurse practitioner and pediatric nurse practitioner in acute care.

Pediatric Nurse Practitioner Programs

The educational path to a career as a pediatric nurse practitioner includes a master's degree or a certificate program for nurses who already hold a nursing master's or doctoral degree. Depending on whether the student attends full time or part time, programs can take from one to five years to complete with most taking two or three years. Supervised clinical experience is also a requirement for program completion, and most often involves working in a clinical setting for 500 and 700 hours, depending on the school.

Admission to pediatric nurse practitioner master's degree programs normally requires a bachelor's degree from an accredited nursing program. A certificate program requires a master's degree in nursing from an accredited nursing program. Both programs generally also require at least one year of pediatric work experience with more experience preferred, an unencumbered registered nurse (RN) license, letters of recommendation, a personal statement of interest in pediatric nursing and prerequisite coursework in statistics. Many programs also have minimum GPA requirements and most require proficiency in English and computer technology. Some programs limit work commitments because of the rigorous nature of the academic program.

Programs are offered both on campus and in hybrid format with classes available online and on site. The clinical practice component is generally only available on site, although some programs offer clinical practice opportunities at health care facilities in an online student's community.

Coursework at pediatric nursing schools can include the following:

  • Research Processes and Biostatistics
  • Theoretical Foundations in Advanced Practice Nursing
  • Advanced Practice Nursing
  • Pediatric Pathophysiology
  • Pediatric Pharmacology
  • Pediatric Health Assessment and Management
  • Pediatric Primary Care Nursing
  • Emergency Pediatric Nursing
  • Neonatal and Pediatric Nutrition
  • Adolescent Development

Following completion of an accredited pediatric nurse practitioner educational program, students are qualified to sit for the Pediatric Nurse Practitioner Certification Exam.

Certification, Licensure and Credentialing

All states require pediatric nurse practitioners to be licensed. Individual state boards of nursing set the requirements for licensing in the state. In many states, pediatric nurse practitioners have significant autonomy in treating their patients, including prescribing medication. In other states they must work under the supervision of a physician. State-specific licensing information is available on the National Council of State Boards of Nursing website.

In some cases, certification may be voluntary, although most states require pediatric nurse practitioners to have national board certification to practice. Certification is available through the Pediatric National Certification Board (PNCB), the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC), the American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP) and the National Certification Corporation for the Obstetric, Gynecologic, and Neonatal Nursing Specialties. Examples of certifications include:

  • Certified Pediatric Nurse Practitioner (CPNP)
  • Acute Care Pediatric Nurse Practitioner (CPNP-AC)
  • Certified Family Nurse Practitioner (CFNP)
  • Pediatric Nurse Practitioner-Board Certified (PNP-BC)
  • Family Practice Nurse Practitioner- Certified (FNP-C)
  • Pediatric Primary Care Mental Health Specialist Certification
  • Neonatal Pediatric Transport (C-NPT)

Certifications need to be renewed and nurses are required to take continuing education courses for licensure renewal in most states. Credentialing, which includes mandatory licensure and national certification, is required for pediatric nurse practitioners who bill insurance companies, Medicare, Medicaid and the Department of Veterans Affairs for their services.

Pediatric Nurse Practitioner Careers

Pediatric nurse practitioners may work independently or as part of a health care team to diagnose and treat both common and chronic illnesses in children. Pediatric nurse practitioners also counsel children and their families about illnesses and their prevention. Duties can include documenting a child's health history, performing physical examinations, ordering medical tests and procedures, setting up treatment plans, writing prescriptions and making referrals when appropriate. Pediatric nurses can also teach the community about, and advocate for, improvements in pediatric health care.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that most nurse practitioners are employed in physician's offices, although a substantial number also work in hospital clinics, emergency rooms and intensive care units. Some pursue research or education careers as well as lobbying for quality improvements in health care in the U.S.

Nurse practitioners are in high demand, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, with employment opportunities projected to increase by 26 percent from 2010 to 2020. Salaries for nurse practitioners are also excellent with May 2012 national mean annual wages of $91,450. The lowest 10 percent earned up to $64,100 and the highest 10 percent earned up to $120,500.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, many hospitals are now offering "signing bonuses, family-friendly work schedules, or subsidized training," to attract nurses because many choose to work in physician's offices where the work is less physically demanding and work schedules are often more appealing. Now might be the time to think about upgrading skills, knowledge and pediatric nursing education to become a pediatric nurse practitioner.


ADVANCE for NPs and PAs: What NP Graduates Need to Know about Certification: Susan D. Hellier and Denise R. Ramponi: March 22, 2013
Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Employment Statistics: Nurse Practitioner
Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Edition: Registered Nurses
Columbia University School of Nursing: Pediatric Nurse Practitioner Certificate Program
Hospital Council of Western Pennsylvania: Nurse-Registered (RN)
KidsHealth: What's an NP?
National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners: Pediatric Nurse Practitioner Certification
Pediatric Nursing Certification Board: Your Future in Pediatric Nursing
The National Certification Corporation: Certification Exams
University of California, San Francisco: MS Specialty Area: Pediatric Nurse Practitioner
University of Virginia School of Nursing: Pediatric Nurse Practitioner

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