Neonatal Nurse Practitioner: Education, Programs, Salary and Job Description

What is a Neonatal Nurse Practitioner

Neonatal Nurse Practitioners take care of premature infants and newborns, who need special attention due to congenital heart diseases, respiratory troubles, low birth weight, or other disorders and abnormalities. Diligence, attention to detail, emotional stability and good communication skills are a must to make a career in this field. If you are looking forward to becoming a neonatal nurse, read the article to get the basic information.

Education Requirements for a Neonatal Nurse

For entry in Neonatal Nurse Practitioner program, you need to fulfill the following requirements:

  • You must be a registered nurse with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree.
  • You may need Master of Science in Nursing degree to prepare you for nursing licensure as a nurse practitioner.
  • Certification in Neonatal Resuscitation and/or Neonatal Intensive Care Nursing.
  • At least, 1 year of experience in nursing is also required.

How to Become a Neonatal Nurse

    1. Nursing Education- The very first step to begin your career as a neonatal nurse is to acquire a diploma, associate’s degree, or Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) from a school accredited by the National League for Nursing Accrediting Commission. This is the minimum qualification required for this profession as per the recommendation of American Association of Colleges of Nursing.
    2. Become an RN (Registered Nurse) – After the completion of your diploma or degree, you must obtain a license in the state where you are planning to work. The requirements for licensure may vary, but in all states, you must clear the NCLEX-RN exam.
    3. Gain Work Experience as a Neonatal Nurse – Some employers may want you to be experienced for 1-2 years in pediatrics or level 1 neonatal unit before working on level 2 and 3. According to the National Association of Neonatal Nurses, most of the neonatal nurses work in hospitals, although you can also work in a clinic, pediatric center, or a healthcare center.
  1. CertificationEmployers pay special attention to the candidates having certification, as it shows their skills. The National Certification Corporation (NCC) provides various neonatal credentials. For instance, for RNC-LRN (Low-Risk Neonatal Nursing) certification, you are supposed to be an RN with 2,000 hours of neonatal nursing experience.For Neonatal Intensive Care Nursing (RNC-NIC) certification, you should have 2,000 hours of intensive care nursing practice. C-NPT (Neonatal Pediatric Transport) is a special certification that would be helpful to you if you want to work in emergency transport of severely ill infants. NCC annotates that 2 years of transportation will help clear the exam.
  2. Advanced Practice DegreeAfter 1 or 2 years of working as a neonatal registered nurse, you might aim to become a neonatal nurse practitioner (NNP). This can be done by earning Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) with a post-graduate certificate in neonatal nursing. Many programs take about 2 years to complete and demand intensive care experience for admission.

After acquiring the advanced degree, clear the exam conducted by the National Certification Program.

Levels of Care for Neonatal Nurse Practitioners

There are three levels of care at which neonatal nurses work with the newborns:

  1. Newborn Nursery CareAt this level, NNPs deal with the full-term and healthy infants.
  2. Intermediate Care NurseryNurses working on this level takes care of the infants who are premature and require special attention.
  3. Neonatal Intensive Care NurseryNNPs take care of seriously ill infants, who need constant monitoring.

Job Description of a Neonatal Nurse Practitioner

NNPs perform a number of duties, such as:

  • Ensuring basic care and proper feeding to infants.
  • Performing procedures like blood draws and intubation, and diagnostic tests like ultrasound.
  • Administering medications as prescribed by the physician.
  • Supporting and educating the family of the patient regarding postpartum, intensive and neonatal care.
  • Monitoring ventilators, incubators, and other specialized equipment.
  • Tracking the weight of the infant and other important parameters.

Where Can They Work?

Neonatal Nurse Practitioners can work in specialty clinics, delivery rooms, emergency rooms, neonatal intensive care units, pediatric clinics, etc. Though these professionals have set working hours, yet in case of an emergency the hours may vary.

Salary: How Much Does a Neonatal Nurse Practitioner Make?

As per National Salary Report issued by BLS as of May 2016, the average annual and hourly salary of a Neonatal Nurse Practioner is $117,120 and $56.31, respectively. However, as per Payscale the median salary of a Neonatal NP is $94,616 per annum. The average pay can also vary by industries, job facility and years of experience, but it toggles between the figure of  $90,000-$120,000.

Neonatal Nurse Practitioner Salary (Experience Wise)

Experience pays a major deciding factor in the salary of a Nurse Practioner – Neonatal. The entry-level NPs have a take-home of $90,000 per year, whereas at a mid-senior level a Neonatal Nurse Practioner makes more than $1,00,000 annually. The table below will help you understand the difference more clearly.

Years of Experience

Annual Salary

0-5 yrs


5-10 yrs


10- 20 yrs


more than 20 years


Salary Date Taken from Payscale (as of 18 Dec 2017)

Job Outlook

Several job opportunities for NNPs are anticipated in the United States in the coming years. 26% growth in job vacancies is expected between 2010 and 2020 (Source: The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statics). The main reasons for this positive outlook for neonatal nurses are technological progress and increase in the cases of premature births. Less availability of nurses in the rural areas will also open many job vacancies for neonatal nurses.

As per (as of Feb 8, 2016), the salary of neonatal nurses was $77,000. According to the, the median salary for these professionals was reported to be $88,758 (as of Jan 12, 2016).

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