Become a Neonatal Nurse Practitioner in 5 Steps
Would you like to work with sick infants? Working with families and physicians as a neonatal nurse practitioner, you'll provide specialized care to sick newborns and comfort to the baby's families. To work in this field you'll need to train as a nurse and work in neonatal units to gain experience. Schools offering Nursing degrees can also be found in these popular choices.
What Is a Neonatal Nurse?
As a neonatal nurse practitioner (NNP) your caseload will mainly be newborn and premature babies. Sometimes you'll work with infants up to two years old. Your work is often done alongside physicians and parents of patients. Along with checking vitals, you'll also use incubators, oxygen, ventilators and intravenous substances. NNPs work in three levels.
Level I is the newborn nursery. At this level, you'll mostly work with healthy babies, washing, feeding and checking vitals. Along with delivery responsibilities and checking on the babies, you'll ease the mother's burden by taking the baby away so she can recover from delivery.
Level II is when you'll first come into contact with sick babies. You'll work with premature and sick babies, providing intermediate care. Along with watching vitals, you may order tests and make initial reads of the results. You'll work more closely with the babies, drawing blood, incubating, testing blood sugars and possibly setting up catheters or IVs.
Level III is the most intensive care unit for neonatal nurses. These babies are often in critical care stages and require a lot of time spent with nurses and physicians.
Step 1: Complete a Nursing Program
To become a nurse, you must complete a nursing program that leads to a registered nurse (RN) certification. These bachelor's degree programs concentrate on medical terminology, human anatomy, hospital operations and nursing fundamentals. These programs may include clinical work, which allows you to gain hands-on training in the field.
Step 2: Earn a Master's degree
To qualify for certification as a NNP, you need a master's degree in neonatal nursing. These programs specialize in neonatal care courses; such as fetus anatomy, pediatric pharmacology, embryology, pharmacotherapeutics and neonatal care basics. Some of the neonatal nurse practitioner programs are available over the Internet or in blended (online and on-campus) formats. In either situation, you'll complete a neonatal clinical that provides experience working in neonatology.
Step 3: Get Licensed
To become an RN or a licensed practical nurse (LPN) you must sit for the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX). This exam is created and offered through the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (www.ncsbn.org). To qualify to take the exam, you must meet requirements set by your state's Board of Nursing.
Step 4: Get Certified
The National Certification Corporation (NCC) offers the national neonatal nurse practitioner certification (www.nccwebsite.org). The certification exam can be completed on the computer or in a testing facility. In order to sit for the exam, you must be a registered nurse. You also must have completed a post-baccalaureate program in neonatal nursing. The NCC's website provides sample questions and exam applications.
Step 5: Begin Working in the Field
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics stated that employment for registered nurses was estimated to grow by 22% from 2008-2018 (www.bls.gov). More specifically, job growth was expected to be about 17% in hospitals, which is a smaller growth, but does not mean there won't be jobs available in hospitals. You may not have trouble finding work in hospitals because they tend to have a high turnover of workers. Additionally, nurse practitioners are expected to have excellent job opportunities in rural and inner city areas, so you may consider relocating or commuting to a different location to find employment.
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