How to Become a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner
Pediatric Nurse Practitioners (PNPs) are Advanced Practice Registered Nurses whose sole focus lies in treating children from infancy through the time they become adults. They provide care and education to parents as well as to their patients. In many states, they are able to operate independently and often act as the primary care provider for patients -- diagnosing conditions and treating them without a doctor’s supervision.
People who choose a career as a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner generally enjoy their independence and love children. Read on to find out more about this incredible career, including what they do, how to become one, and how much you can earn.
What is a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner?
Pediatric Nurse Practitioners are a type of Nurse Practitioner who provides vital, patient-facing healthcare services for children from the time that they’re born to the time that they’re considered adults. They see patients on a one-on-one basis, offering care ranging from well check-ups and immunizations to diagnosing illnesses and treating chronic and acute conditions.
Pediatric Nurse Practitioners can work in partnership with physicians, but they often work independently, acting as the primary care practitioner for young patients in many states. They practice in a variety of settings including,
- Ambulatory care centers
- Convenient care clinics
- Emergency Room
- Government facilities
- Long term care facilities
- Private pediatric offices
- Specialty clinics
- Surgery centers
- Urgent care
Pediatric Nurse Practitioners’ roles and responsibilities are varied, but what remains a constant in their profession is the need to be able to communicate, empathize, adapt to, and relate to their patients. They are often the first healthcare professional that children encounter, and they play an important role in the trust that their patients place in the healthcare system for the rest of their lives.
What Do Pediatric Nurse Practitioners Do?
Regardless of whether they specialize in primary care or acute care, Pediatric Nurse Practitioners specialize in the treatment of children of all ages. Their training and education is entirely focused on improving their patients’ health, whether that is through preventive health or treating acute and chronic illnesses.
In 25 states they can deliver this type of care with complete autonomy, and even in states where they do not have that level of independence, they work as collaborative partners with pediatricians and other members of the healthcare team in delivering care to patients between newborn and 21 years old.
Pediatric Nurse Practitioners’ care is considered holistic. It includes education, assessment, planning and evaluation. They are able to diagnose and treat patients, to order diagnostic tests and medications, and to perform many procedures. Their duties include:
- Well-child examinations
- Providing immunizations
- Assessment and screening of child development
- Conducting physical exams for schools, camps and sports teams
- Care of chronic illnesses
- Care of common illnesses
- Care of acute illnesses
- Collaborating with specialists
- Prescribing medication
- Ordering diagnostic tests
- Performing procedures, including suturing, starting IVs, administering medications, and wound care
- Providing education, resources and counseling to patients and their families or caretakers
All healthcare professionals enter the field because they want to help people, but those who choose a career as a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner will be working with a patient population that requires a high level of compassion, empathy, patience and adaptability. Excellent communication skills are a must, as is an ability to work independently.
As a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner, you can choose to work in pediatric medical practices and clinics, seeing patients on an appointment basis, or you can work in acute care settings within the hospital. You will also find your skills and professionalism highly valued within surgical centers. Where primary care is generally restricted to daytime hours and weekdays, you may be required to work some weekends and on-call hours, where work within a hospital setting will be round-the-clock.
Pediatric Nurse Practitioner Salary
Pediatric Nurse Practitioners earn generous salaries. According to Payscale.com, the average salary for a pediatric nurse practitioner in the United States is $94,841 per year, which is about $5,000 more per year than the amount earned by Nurse Practitioners who have not pursued the specialty certification.
ZipRecruiter.com reports an annual average salary for PNPs of $107,614.
Pediatric Nurse Practitioner Salary by Years of Experience
The more years of experience a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner has, the higher their salary is likely to be. Pediatric Nurse Practitioners can earn the following salaries based on their experience:
- Less than 1 year of experience earn an annual wage of $88,173
- 1 to 4 years of experience earn an annual wage of $93,153
- 5 to 9 years of experience earn an annual wage of $95,255
- 10 to 19 years of experience earn an annual wage of $101,747
- Over 20 years of experience earn an annual wage of $112,952
Highest Paying States for Pediatric Nurse Practitioners
Though Pediatric Nurse Practitioners are in high demand and command generous salaries, the amount that they earn can vary widely by location around the country, as well as whether they work in a facility based in a major metropolitan area. According to the BLS, the top-paying states for nurse practitioners are:
- California - $158,130 per year
- New Jersey - $143,250
- Massachusetts - $138,700
- Oregon - $136,250
- Nevada - $136,230
Unfortunately, the BLS does not differentiate between the different types of nurse practitioners but PNPs can expect similar salaries as above.
Though there is no doubt that the greatest monetary compensation for Pediatric Nurse Practitioners is provided to those who work in major metropolitan areas, it is important to remember the intangible rewards offered to those working independently and without supervision, and especially to those serving in rural communities, for whom the Pediatric Nurse Practitioner may be the only healthcare professional available.
Regardless of the workplace setting, full-time and part-time nurses enjoy similar benefits. While actual benefits may vary depending on the institution most include the following:
- Advanced certification reimbursement
- Attendance at nursing conferences
- Bereavement leave
- Certification Reimbursement
- Dental Insurance
- Dependent health insurance coverage
- Education Reimbursement
- Family Leave of Absence
- Health insurance
- Life Insurance
- Maternity Leave
- Paid time off
- Relocation assistance
- Retirement Options
- Vision Insurance
How to Become a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner
Becoming a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner is an admirable career goal, and once accomplished, it provides significant rewards. The basic steps to becoming a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner are:
- Earn either a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) or begin by earning an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) and then take additional coursework to earn your BSN – a minimum of 4 years
- Get licensed as a Registered Nurse
- Gain experience in nursing, preferably in Pediatrics – 1 to 3 years
- Apply to, get accepted by, and attend an accredited Nurse Practitioner program that offers specialized programming dedicated to pediatric nursing. This may be either a program designed to bestow a Master of Science in Nursing program or a Doctor of Nursing Practice degree – 2 to 3 years
- Take and pass the certification exam offered by the Pediatric Nursing Certification Board appropriate to your practice area.
Step 1.) Earn a Degree in Nursing
In order to gain entry to a Master of Science in Nursing or Doctor of Nursing Practice program, you must first earn your Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree. Though many registered nurses attend a traditional 4-year program, others take a more circuitous route to earn their BSN, starting with their ADN degree and then taking supplemental classes to provide the education, experience and exposure.
After completing a BSN program you will have attained a solid background in essential topics including anatomy and pharmacology, health assessments and pathophysiology. You will also have completed the requested number of patient-facing clinical hours, and in doing so will likely have cemented your passion for pediatric nursing. It is important to remember that entry to Pediatric Nurse Practitioner programs is highly competitive: the higher your grades, the better your chances of gaining entry.
Step 2.) Get Licensed as a Registered Nurse
Entry into an accredited Nurse Practitioner program requires active licensure as a Registered Nurse. This is accomplished by taking and passing an examination known as the NCLEX-RN, or National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses. This test is administered by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN). Your state may have additional requirements.
Step 3.) Gain Experience in Nursing, Preferably in Pediatrics
Advanced Practice Nursing programs are extremely competitive, and the committees deciding on who will gain entry are looking for the most dedicated applicants who will prove to be a credit to the profession. One of the best ways to demonstrate your commitment to nursing practice is by gaining real-world experience that will expose you to a wide range of patient populations, and which will also allow you to work with mentors and supervisors who can provide testimonials to your work ethic and talent.
Most programs require a minimum of one year of this type of experience and favor those who further demonstrate their commitment by pursuing certification in their chosen field of study. In the case of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners, this would best be demonstrated through the attainment of a Pediatric Nursing certification.
Step 4.) Attend an Accredited Pediatric Nurse Practitioner School
Many accredited Nurse Practitioner programs offer specialized training geared toward those who want to become Pediatric Nurse Practitioners. According to the most recent information available from the American Association of Nurse Practitioners, there are approximately 400 academic institutions offering NP programming, and approximately 100 of them offer programs in either Pediatric Acute Care, Pediatric Primary Care, or both.
Each of these programs has its own requirements and criteria selection for incoming students, but in most cases, applicants should be prepared to provide documentation of the following for consideration:
- Minimum of two years experience working as a Registered Nurse
- Minimum of one year working in a pediatric care setting
- Valid RN licensure
- BSN degree or Bachelors’ degree in a related field of study, including completion of prerequisite courses in human anatomy, microbiology, chemistry, physiology and statistics
- Minimum GPA demonstrated in college transcripts: may require 3.0 in related science studies
- Excellent communication skills
Step 5.) Get Certified
Once you’ve graduated from an accredited Pediatric Nurse Practitioner Program, the final step for achieving recognition of your educational status and professional acumen is pursuing one or both of the specialty certifications administered by the Pediatric Nursing Certification Board.
This certification is appropriate for Pediatric Nurse Practitioners whose practice focuses on providing well care and ongoing health care to infants, children, adolescents and young adults through the age of 21.
The focus will include,
- Providing health assessments
- Providing immunizations
- Diagnosing and treating acute and chronic illnesses
- Ordering diagnostic tests
- Prescribing medications.
Primary care can be provided anywhere but is most commonly offered in clinics, private offices, schools, and other non-acute settings.
This certification is appropriate for Pediatric Nurse Practitioners whose practice focuses on providing acute care to infants, children, adolescents and young adults through the age of 21. This can include the treatment of injuries or illnesses and is usually appropriate for those working in acute care settings such as hospitals, emergency rooms, surgical units and specialty clinics.
Top Pediatric Nurse Practitioner Programs
We’ve rounded up some of the top Pediatric Nurse Practitioner programs. Below are five of the top programs available for getting your PNP. Check out our article on the 10 Top Pediatric Nurse Practitioner Programs 2022 for the full list and more information.
- Duke University
- University of Pennsylvania
- Johns Hopkins University
- Rush University
- University of Washington
Career Outlook for Pediatric Nurse Practitioners
The national nursing shortage has become common knowledge, but the need for Nurse Practitioners (of any type) is even greater. Nurse Practitioners are currently able to operate with complete autonomy, and without the oversight of a physician, in 25 states, and that number is expected to increase in the future. This is in large part due to the shortage of primary care providers throughout the United States, particularly in rural and underserved communities. In fact, the nation currently has fewer than 50,000 primary care pediatricians, a number that is universally acknowledged to be insufficient.
When you combine this information with the fact that Pediatric Nurse Practitioners represent only a small portion (8%) of all of the nation’s nurse practitioners, their value becomes even more apparent. Pediatric Nurse Practitioners are able to fill this significant gap, providing high-quality health care to a group that represents nearly one-quarter of the U.S. population. Their abilities have earned them high levels of respect from healthcare professionals at all levels.
To get an idea of current openings for Pediatric Nurse Practitioners around the country, visit the Nurse.org job board.
Continuing Education Requirements for Pediatric Nurse Practitioners
Once you have earned certification as a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner, recertification is required every year with completion of required modules and pharmacology requirements on a seven-year basis. Recertification is administered by the Pediatric Nursing Certification Board, which maintains a dashboard that tracks each PNP’s CEU hour accumulation.
Recertification requires completion of 15 contact hours (or equivalents), and the 7-year requirement includes 15 hours of pediatric pharmacology and 4 required PNCB modules (2 Primary Care, 2 of your choice).
Though there is a movement towards making state and national standards match, current nurse practitioner licensing requirements can change from state to state. For example, Pediatric Nurse Practitioners in the state of New Jersey are required to complete 30 hours of continuing nursing education every two-year cycle, while Connecticut has no continuing education requirements at this time.
Where Can I Learn More about Becoming a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner?
Those who have already chosen to become Pediatric Nurse Practitioners are rightfully proud of their profession and work hard to provide resources to answer questions for those considering the career. Among the most helpful places to find more information on becoming a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner are:
- The National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners (NAPNAP)
- The American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP)
- The Society of Pediatric Nursing
- 10 Top Pediatric Nurse Practitioner Programs
Other Nurse Practitioner Specialties
- General Nurse Practitioner
- Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner
- Family Nurse Practitioner
- Aesthetic Nurse Practitioner
- Acute Care Nurse Practitioner
- Neonatal Nurse Practitioner
- Women's Health Nurse Practitioner
- Orthopedic Nurse Practitioner
- Emergency Nurse Practitioner
- Adult-Gerontology Nurse Practitioner
- Oncology Nurse Practitioner
Pediatric NP FAQs
How long do you have to go to school to become a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner?
- Pediatric Nurse Practitioners are Advanced Practice Nurses, and it generally takes about six years total to complete their education. They first earn either their Associate Degree in Nursing, which takes two-to-three years or a four-year Bachelor of Science degree in Nursing, then pursue a Master of Science in Nursing which can take an additional two to four years.
What does a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner do?
- Pediatric Nurse Practitioners treat and diagnose patients ranging in age from infancy through 21 years old. They take a holistic approach to patient care, evaluating their patient’s physical wellbeing as well as their emotional and psychological wellbeing and environment.
What is the difference between a Pediatric Nurse and a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner?
- A Pediatric Nurse Practitioner is an Advanced Practice Registered Nurse who has earned a Master’s degree. An increasing number of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners earn their Doctor of Nursing degree. They are able to work independently, often without the supervision of a physician. A Pediatric Nurse on the other hand is a Registered Nurse that specializes in pediatrics without an advanced degree.
Children represent the future, and Pediatric Nurse Practitioners have a direct impact on the quality of their lives and health. A career as a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner provides generous compensation, respect from other professionals, and high levels of job satisfaction and personal rewards. Those who choose this profession will find that the investment of time involved will be well worth it, giving them the opportunity to make a real difference in the lives of their patients and their patients’ families.