How to Become a Neonatal Nurse Practitioner

How to Become a Neonatal Nurse Practitioner

Duties, Responsibilities, Schooling, Requirements, Certifications, Job Outlook, and Salary

How to Become a Neonatal Nurse Practitioner

Upon entering the field, registered nurses (RNs) gain experience by working with a wide variety of patient groups. After gaining that experience, some nurses choose to advance their careers by becoming specialized in a particular healthcare field or patient category.

(Click here to learn how to become a Registered Nurse (RN))

As a registered nurse, you have the option to specialize in a healthcare concentration of your choice.  There are countless specialties to choose from.

However, for every nursing specialization, you can expect there to be a unique set of job responsibilities, work environments, and patient groups. Furthermore, each specialization comes with its own educational and licensing requirements.

(Click here to see our full list of the highest paid nursing jobs)

This article will focus on the nursing specialists who help expectant mothers safely and successfully deliver their newborn babies, neonatal nurse practitioners.

If you enjoy working with mothers and their newborn children, this guide will explore the role of a neonatal nurse, their job responsibilities, salary*, and educational requirements.

Neonatal Nurse Definition

What is a Neonatal Nurse?

A neonatal nurse practitioner is an advanced practice registered nurse (APRN) with an advanced degree in nursing. Neonatal nurse practitioners provide care to newborn infants and families when the newborn’s health condition requires more care than a standard postnatal ward can provide.

Neonatal Nurse: Job Description

What Does a Neonatal Nurse Do?

Neonatal Nurse: Job Description

Neonatal nurses are trained to provide care for newborns and their families. They work with newborn infants who are born with any number of health problems such as congenital disabilities, premature birth, or heart malformations. They work alongside physicians and other members of a healthcare team to provide medical treatment and counseling for their patients and their families.

Neonatal nurses also care for sick or premature newborn babies by administering oxygen, medication, and other basic procedures in a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU).

There are four levels of NICU. Each level represents the level of care needed for an infant. The first level is designed for relatively healthy newborns, while the fourth level is reserved for infants with critical conditions.

Neonatal Nurse: Day-to-Day Responsibilities

Neonatal Nurse: Day-to-Day Responsibilities

Some of the day-to-day responsibilities of neonatal nurses include:

  • Coordinating, writing orders, and implementing neonatal care
  • Starting and maintaining IV lines
  • Assessing vital signs and drawing blood
  • Educating the infant’s parents on treatments and procedures
  • Ordering and administering medications and oxygen
  • Assisting and participating with deliveries of high-risk newborns

Neonatal Nurse Practitioner Jobs

Where Do Neonatal Nurse Practitioners Work?

Neonatal nurse practitioners work within a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). As previously mentioned, there are four levels to the NICU, each providing varying levels of care depending on the infant’s condition.

Some neonatal nurses may also work in clinics and community-based settings to provide continuing care for infants who have been discharged from the NICU.

Neonatal Nurse Practitioners Schooling & Certification

How Long Does It Take to Become a Neonatal Nurse?

What Degree Do You Need to be a Neonatal Nurse?

Becoming a neonatal nurse practitioner requires a significant level of education and training. It also requires substantial experience working in pediatrics and neonatal care.

The entry-level requirements for an neonatal nurse practitioner may vary depending on location, but at a minimum, you must earn a Bachelor of Science in Nursing Degree.

It is a lot of work, but the dedication will pay off in the end, as neonatal nurses rank amongst the best paying nursing jobs in the US.

Here are the steps required to become a neonatal nurse practitioner:

1. Earn your Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) Degree

The first step to becoming a neonatal nurse pracitioner is earning your BSN or Bachelor of Science in Nursing Degree. If you’re just starting, a BSN program will take you about three to four years to complete.

However, if you’ve already earned your associates degree in nursing, you can enroll in an RN-to-BSN program. These bridge programs are very convenient and can be completed in as little as 20 months.

Accelerated nursing programs are also available to licensed vocational nurses with an associate’s degree in vocational nursing (AVSN or LPN). These LVN to BSN pathways allow you to skip the first three semesters of the BSN program.

2. Pass the NCLEX-RN Certification Exam

Upon earning your nursing bachelor’s degree, the next step to becoming a neonatal nurse practitioner is earning your nursing license. To do that, you must pass the NCLEX-RN or the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses. With the NCLEX, you’ll be certified to enter the workforce as a registered nurse (RN).

3. Gain Real-World Experience Working as an RN

To be hired as a neonatal nurse practitioner, most NICUs require their applicants to have some level of experience working with infants or children. RNs can work in pediatrics or hospital nurseries before applying for neonatal nursing position. Some nursing schools offer internship opportunities for students to gain experience working in neonatal care prior to graduating. The amount of experience required varies depending on the location.

4. Become Certified in Neonatal Care

Although becoming certified is an optional step, neonatal nurses practitioners will complete certification to validate their skills and strengthen their resumes.

Neonatal Certification Options:

The American Nurses Credentialing Council (ANCC) offers a pediatric nursing certification.

The National Certification Corporation (NCC) offers several neonatal certifications. Some of the credentials administered by the NCC include:

  • The Credential in Inpatient Obstetric Nursing (RNC-OB), to evaluate competence in “providing care to hospitalized pregnant women during the antepartum, intrapartum, postpartum and newborn periods.”
  • Certification in Maternal Newborn Nursing (RNC-MNN), to test nurses on their ability to “provide care to the childbearing family from birth to six weeks within hospital or outpatient settings.”
  • Certification in Low Risk Neonatal Intensive Care Nursing (RNC-LRN), to certify “experience in providing care to acutely and chronically ill neonatal patients and their families within level II, chronic care, special care or step-down units.”
  • RNC Certification for Neonatal Intensive Care Nursing (RNC-NIC), to test your ability for “providing care to acutely and critical ill neonatal patients and their families within an intensive care environment.”

Finally, the American Association of Critical Care Nurses also administers a number of neonatal certification examinations, including:

  • The CCRN (Neonatal), a specialty competency exam “for nurses who provide direct care to acutely/critically ill neonatal patients regardless of their physical location.”
  • The CCRN-K (Neonatal) Certification, which is for nurses “who influence the care delivered to acutely/ critically ill neonatal patients but do not primarily or exclusively provide direct care.”
  • The ACCNS-N (Neonatal) Advanced Practice Board Certification, for “clinical nurse specialists (CNSs) educated at the graduate level to provide advanced nursing care across the continuum of healthcare services—wellness through acute care—to meet the specialized needs of the neonatal patient population.”

Neonatal Nurse Practitioner Salary

How Much Do Neonatal Nurse Practitioners Make?

According to, the average salary* of a Neonatal Nurse Practitioner is about $125,000 per year, or about $50 per hour.

Neonatal nursing salaries in the top 10th percentile can reach as high as $145,000 or more.

What is the Job Outlook for Neonatal Nurses?

Unfortunately, the Bureau of Labor Statistics does not provide any specific data related to the job outlook of neonatal nurses. However, they do report that the overall employment of APRNs is expected to grow 28% by 2026.

The increase in frequency of premature births, as well as the steady population growth, will provide a strong job outlook for neonatal nurse practitioners.

Neonatal Nurse Career

Are you ready to start your career as a neonatal nurse?

Neonatal nurses are saving the lives of children every single day, and the work they do is truly remarkable.

If you feel passionately about caring for infants and their families during such a critical moment in their lives, then a career in neonatal nursing could be tremendously gratifying.

If you’re prepared to begin your journey of becoming a neonatal nurse, you can start by earning your BSN degree at Provo College.

Click here to learn more about our BSN program.