How To Become a Neonatal Nurse Practitioner

young female nurse smiling while holding a pen and clipboard

Nurses are one of the highest demanding jobs in America. The need for nurses is expected to rise another 20% into 2022. The desire for nurses is higher during emergencies, as many of us have learned with the coronavirus pandemic. Even when the worst is going on, mothers still get pregnant and babies still need to be born.

You can float as a nurse and work with babies or you can specialize in the area. If you want to learn how to become a neonatal nurse practitioner, keep reading. 

Obtain a Bachelors of Science Nursing Degree (BSN)

The first way up the ladder in becoming a Neonatal Nurse Practitioner (NNP) is to earn your BSN degree at an accredited university. Nurses who have an associate's degree in nursing can obtain their bachelor's in 12-15 months.

Nursing school is grueling and demanding. Be sure to follow these nursing school tips to help you get the best grades to be on track for graduation and complete your degree in 4 years. 

Take the Boards to Obtain an RN License

You can't close the books just yet. After graduating, you will need to study once more to take the NCLEX-RN Exam to get your registered nurse (RN) license. You will need to pay a fee to sit for the test and pick a date. 

The board of nursing will post the results of your exam online for you to see some time after the exam is over. You can work right away once you pass.  

You can take the exam up to 3 times if you do not pass initially. After the third try, you are required to take a remediation course before you are allowed to re-test.

Get Certifications and Keep Them Updated 

At minimum, every nurse should have a CPR certification. CPR cards must be renewed every 2 years as your CEUs do. When you want to specialize in nursing, other certifications you should get are PALS and S.T.A.B.L.E. 

There are other courses you can take to improve your nursing skills and knowledge as a new nurse. Taking an ultrasound course or an EKG monitoring course is also helpful for nurses who want to be more confident in learning to use the equipment and how to read strips. 

Gain Experience Working in Baby-Focused Specialties

If you are lucky, you can work as a NICU nurse right off the bat after graduating. This is very tough to do in many states because most hospitals prefer to accept experienced nurses. Still, apply and see what happens. 

If you are unable to work as a NICU nurse at first, you can still learn how to work with babies by working in less critical areas such as labor and delivery or mother and baby.

In the event, you can't work around kids upon getting your license, work in any general department for 6 months to a year first to gain experience, and apply to NICU again. You should work in the NICU department for a minimum of 2 years before enrolling again in school to become an NNP. 

You can also improve personal knowledge by getting these certifications: 

  • Maternal newborn nursing
  • Low-risk neonatal intensive care nursing
  • Inpatient obstetric nursing 
  • Neonatal intensive care nursing 

As a note, you cannot obtain these certifications without having at least 2 years of critical experience (or 2000 hours).

Obtain a Masters of Science in Nursing (MSN) or Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP)

Once you have a minimum of 2 years of experience in the NICU department, you can apply to school once more to get your MSN or DNP to become an NNP. Any other special requirements vary from school to school. You can find out the full details on eligibility requirements through the application or asking an advisor. 

MSN and DNP degrees provide equal opportunity to nurses who become an NNP because you already have the experience, and you are no longer a new nurse. The main difference primarily is pay. 

The master's degree will take about 2 years. The doctor's degree will take about 3-4 years. If you already have a master's degree, you can take an MSN to DNP course and finish your degree in half the time. 

Receive the National Certification Corporation Certificate (NNP)

If you thought you had to sit down and study again to get your NNP license, you guessed right. There's another exam to take after you pass the NCLEX. Once again, you will need to apply to sit to take a test. 

You are required to take the neonatal practitioner exam within 8 years of graduating from your NNP program. The computer exam is hosted by the NCC and completed at an approved testing center. 

Receive Your National Certification to Update State License

Once you pass the exam, you can celebrate once more because you made it again -- this time to the end. You can now say you are an NNP. The same rules apply, and you will need to renew your license every two years to remain active. 

You can either wait for your license to come in the mail or start working right away if you have a job offer and pass. 

Look for Work as an NNP

If you do not already have a job in place or an offer, you can look for work and apply for the position. You may notice that the job process to get an NNP job is quicker than when you decided to apply for your RN license. 

This is often because you already have solid work experience. You just added on top of it. You stand out in the crowd. Your level of experience is needed to now direct nurses who will work under you, with a doctor, or by yourself. 

How to Become a Neonatal Nurse Practitioner

You are looking at a minimum of 8 years to become an NNP if you add the time you need to get your BSN, gain experience, and go to school once more to get your NNP. This isn't a process for the faint-hearted.

If you want to know how to become a neonatal nurse practitioner, you need to spend several years in school and pick up work experience. If you have a true interest in babies and can work under pressure, it is the perfect job for you. 

If you found this article helpful, check out more informative posts on our website. 


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