How to Become a Neonatal Nurse Practitioner – [5 Step Definitive Guide]

Looking for a resource on how to become a neonatal nurse practitioner (NNP)?

In this article, you will find the five steps required for you to achieve your dream.

The intent of this article is to be a comprehensive guide for you to get to becoming an NNP. Let’s start by defining what an NNP is, and then we will outline the five steps to become an NNP.

Who is a Neonatal Nursing Practitioner (NNP)?

An NNP is a nurse trained to provide special care to newborn infants, who are born with some health problems. Intensive care is required for newborn infants especially in their first month. The problems experienced by the newborns vary from life-threatening to minor issues.

The World Health Organization states that the first month of a newborn infant’s life is the most critical.

The NNP coordinates with the parents, and hospital staff to deliver quality care to the newborns.

The demand for Neonatal Nursing Practitioners is expected to go up by 26 percent from 2018 to 2028.

Thus it’s one of the lucrative jobs to consider in the future. It can also be emotionally fulfilling.

So what does it take to be a neonatal nurse practitioner? If you are aspiring to become a neonatal nurse practitioner then you have to be cut for it. There are specific educational requirements and character traits to fulfill.

So what are the required steps?

Five Steps – How to Become a Neonatal Nurse Practitioner

To be a neonatal nurse practitioner, there are fundamental legal requirements and educational training. For instance, the individual should be listed as a registered nurse. Besides, she must have gone through an accredited program and thus be an Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN).

Likewise, other federal or state laws may apply too based on where you are located.

There are five steps to become an NNP.

  1. Get a Bachelor’s Degree or an Associate Degree in Nursing
  2. Acquire Working Experience
  3. Pursue a Master’s Degree in Nursing
  4. Obtain National and State License
  5. Maintain Certification

And the steps in detail are below:

1. Get a Bachelor’s Degree or an Associate’s Degree in Nursing

One of the first steps in becoming an NNP is to obtain a relevant degree. It could be a Bachelor’s or an Associate’s Degree in Nursing. Pursuing a Bachelor’s degree or an Associate’s degree in nursing may take two to four years.

In order to get in, you should have completed High School.  If you are aiming to become a neonatal nurse practitioner, you will have has to excel in particular courses. These include:

  • Biology
  • Statistics
  • Chemistry
  • Psychology

At this level, it is vital for you to excel in mathematics and science subjects. Besides building up good communication and writing skills is necessary. Besides, it is important to volunteer and work in a hospital. The benefit off doing so is to acquire valuable experience in nurturing infants and dealing with their families.

Once you complete your High School, you can select your college for higher education.

Under the normal setting, you will acquire your Registered Nurse (RN) license at the end of the two to four-year period. Being a registered nurse with a license permits you to exercise your profession within a given state.

Each state has its set conditions for obtaining the license. However, the major prerequisite is proof of having completed the approved program. Besides, the individual has to pass the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN). While undertaking the BSN, typical courses studied include;

  • Anatomy and physiology
  • Microbiology
  • Community health nursing
  • Lifespan development

2. Acquire Experience Working in a Neonatal Acute Clinical Environment

Training is instrumental in gaining skills as a neonatal nurse. The basic skills can be acquired during college life while performing lab practices. After college life, the next step is working in a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) environment for a while. Such a setting provides you with first-hand clinical experience.

The NICU is dived into four levels beginning from level one to the fourth level.

However, you require the experience gathered while working at levels two to four.

Here is a brief description of what is contained in each level;

  1. Level one: refers to the basic neonatal nursery care meant for infants with healthy lives. Involves the postnatal care provided to newborn infants born after 35 to 37 weeks gestation period. Usually, such children depict psychological stability.
  2. Level two: can also be called a special care nursery. It offers the level one nursery care and even beyond. Handle newborn infants born after 32 or fewer gestation weeks. However, these kids suffer psychological instability but are promising to recover quickly. As such they don’t require constant specialty care.
  3. Level three: on top of level one and two services, provides care to prematurely born infants with critical illnesses. That includes life and full respiratory support too.
  4. Level four: these are regional NCIUs that handle infants with severe critical conditions. Provides all the services supported at previous levels. Also, it offers surgical repair for infants with congenital conditions.

3. Obtain a Master of Science degree in Nursing (MSN)

Earning a Master of Science nursing degree is the next requirement. That takes 2 years when you enroll in the school that supports the APNN. Other courses learned are numerous including the following:

  • Evidence-based practice
  • Neonatal assessment
  • Population health in the global survey
  • Physical assessment and diagnostic reading

The University of California, San Francisco is one of the top institutions that offer MSN. Besides, the students are mandated to spend from 550 to 1000 hours in NNP nurse practice. For degree holders, advancing to the MSN program will only take two years to complete. Otherwise, DNP programs require 3 to 4 years.

4. Obtain National Certification and State Licensing

The National Certification Corporation, NCC, provides three-year neonatal nurse practitioner certification. However, to be certified by NCC, you have to meet the following requirements;

  • Have an NP degree from a certified program
  • Be a registered nurse
  • Pass an exam in less than 8 years after graduating from a qualifying program

Besides each state have its requirements. For example, some will need you to provide evidence of qualifying education.

5. Maintain certification at three years interval

Just attaining the NNP certification isn’t enough. There is a need to renew or maintain the certification through a continuing competency specialty assessment. Consequently, that defines the number of continuing education, CE hours required. The CE hours may vary from 15 to 50 hours.

Some skills required by an NNP

Besides the five steps described above, you as a neonatal nurse practitioner have to possess certain skills and possess some character traits. That includes the following:

a) Critical thinking skills

She should be someone who thinks fast during difficult times and emergencies. For example, the capability to scrutinize a patient’s situation and then come up with the best course of action is necessary. Often such a person will be dealing with patients who require urgent help. Besides, these patients often can’t express themselves. So the ability to analyze a situation, determine if she needs to consult another hospital staff is necessary.

b) Superb communication skills

The next trait required out of an APRN is a fine communication skill. Remember such a person will be working around babies, hospital staff, a patient’s family doctor and parents too. To fit in such an environment she should be able to communicate clearly.

That involves both good listening and speaking abilities. The NNP or APRN will be a link between a patient’s family members and other healthcare authorities. At the same time, she will play the role of the patient’s advocate.

At times the APRN may need to break down a difficult medical procedure to ordinary parents. On the other side, she may have to speak out to an emotionally stressed parent. That calls for cultivating good communication skills

c) Compassion

In their day to day life, neonatal nurse practitioners come across babies who are hard-pressed with pain. Some patients also possess long term illnesses. So to effectively care for such a group, it calls for professional who sympathizes too. The response of such a nurse should be that of a person who empathizes with the patient. Such sympathy then moves the NNP to care and make the hospital a comfortable place.

d) Adaptable or flexible in work schedule

An NNP like all other jobs have defined working hours each day. However, often emergencies may call for the need to work extra hours. That may need extending evening working hours or working on weekends. Every job requires a break or holiday.

Even though that is true for APRNs too, the holiday may be short-lived. To become a good neonatal nurse practitioner, you must flexible in your work schedule. You then won’t feel disappointed when your profession eats up your weekend hours. The APRN must be someone prepared to report to work at odd hours.

e) Resourcefulness

In the course of their duty, APRNs may come across challenging tasks. That calls for the need to consult with other professionals or research. A good neonatal nurse practitioner must, therefore, be resourceful. He must know where to dig out the information from and offer help to her patient.

f) Interpersonal skills

To care for their patients, neonatal nurse practitioners do not work alone. Instead, they have to relate to other health professionals, families and patients. That, therefore, calls for a person who has outstanding interactive skills. When met with difficult cases, he should be someone who can integrate with a team to find solutions. By so doing such professionals seeks the best healthcare solution for their patients.

g) Strong leadership skills

As an APRN, overtime you may rise to a higher position in your place of work. So that means taking the lead in providing effective healthcare solutions in an institution. It therefore requires an APRN to be able to bring together other nurses.

h) Detail-oriented

Neonatal nurse practitioner requires an individual to be responsible and have high attention to details when giving out medication and treatment, an NNP has to be exact. Any slight error may give out far-reaching tragic results in a patient’s life. A detail-oriented nurse will quickly notice slight changes in a patient’s condition. Thus the profession demands strict adherence to details. That matters especially when working under stressful conditions.

i) Great endurance

As the Nurse Journal reports, neonatal care at times is physically and mentally straining. You, therefore, have to possess great emotional strength to succeed in the profession.

Final word

Are you aspiring to be a neonatal nurse practitioner? Then the above steps outline the necessary educational background. Furthermore, it also lists out the character traits you have to develop on top of the educational training.

From the information provided, you can, therefore, gauge out if the profession is for you or not. Although emotionally straining and demanding, it’s a lucrative job.

Moreover effective neonatal care helps to improve lives and prevents premature deaths. If you are convinced the profession is for you, go for it. This concludes the article on how to become a neonatal nurse practitioner.

Do let me know in the comments section if anything was not clear.

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