Explanation of Neonatal Nurse Practitioner Programs
Neonatal nurse practitioners (NNP) work in nursing departments that care for newborn infants up to 28 days after birth. You can acquire a neonatal nurse practitioner certification through a Masters of Science in nursing degree or a Doctor of Nursing Practitioner degree that has a specialization program in neonatal nursing care. All institutions have different entry-level requirements for neonatal nurse practitioner programs. Usually neonatal nurses are registered nurses (RNs), and therefore must already have at least an Associate of Science in nursing (ASN), or a Bachelor of Science in nursing (BSN) degree. Institutions often require a person to have experience working as a certified RN in the adult-health or medical/surgical nursing before applying to these programs. The National Association of Neonatal Nurses recommends two years’ experience working in a NICU before taking graduate level classes. The degree designation for nurse practitioners who have earned their Nursing Board Certification from the National Certification Corporation is called an NNP-BC.
As an NNP you will care for pre-term and full-term infants who are critically ill, growing and have chronic conditions. Through a neonatal nurse practitioner program you’ll become an expert in neonatal care, managing the care of newborns and infants, while working with parents and families during times of stress. You will work both independently and in collaboration with a health care team in acute and non-acute settings to assess, diagnose, manage and evaluate the health care needs of infants and neonates. Neonatal nurses must have certification as a neonatal resuscitation provider.
In addition to a nurses’ general knowledge, neonatal intensive care nurses endure intensive didactic and clinical orientation so they can provide highly specialized care for critical infant patients. Neonatal nurse areas of expertise include the administration of high-risk medications, management of high-acuity patients requiring ventilator support, surgical care, resuscitation, and advanced interventions such as extracorporeal membrane oxygenation or hypothermia therapy for neonatal encephalopathy procedures. Training is also provided in chronic-care management or lower acuity cares associated with premature infants such as feeding intolerance, phototherapy, or administering antibiotics. NICU RNs undergo annual skills tests and are subject to additional training to maintain contemporary practice.
Curriculum Plan for Neonatal Nurse Practitioner Programs
Curriculum depends upon the type of school’s program that you’re involved in. Online neonatal nurse practitioner programs are usually for advanced level nurses who have already completed their BSN or MSN in nursing. If a program does allow ASN’s to participate, then they usually require ASN’s to do two semester of RN pre-specialty before their NNP courses. If a student has completed their BSN-RN degree then they typically need to finish three semesters for an NNP program. If a student comes from a previous master’s program then the length and courses will be determined by individual portfolio cases. NNP program coursework from any program must satisfy the requirements from the National Association of Neonatal Nurses (NANN), and the National Organization of Nurse Practitioner Faculties (NONPF).
Through coursework, NNPs are trained to give care, provide treatment, order X-rays of broken bones and prescribe medications to children, in addition to being trained to be culturally sensitive and to work with individual families in times of crisis. Upon graduating you will be eligible to sit for national Neonatal Nurse Practitioner certification examination offered by the National Certification Corporation for the Obstetric, Gynecologic and Neonatal Nursing Specialties (NCC).
Typical courses offered in a neonatal nurse practitioner program may include:
- Introduction to Advanced Practice Neonatal Nursing Skills
- Servant Leadership and Advanced Nursing Practice
- Healthcare System and Management
- Advanced Neonatal Health Assessment and Diagnostics
- Development and Neonatal Physiology
- Theoretical Foundations of Neonatal Care
- Neonatal Pathophysiology and Management
- Role within U.S. Healthcare Delivery System
- Neonatal Pharmacotherapeutics
- Neonatal Practicum
- Scientific Underpinnings for Advanced Nursing Practice
- Neonatal Preceptorship
- Conceptualization and Integration of Evidence for APN
A few core concepts that you’ll learn in these courses will include:
- Concepts of stewardship, servant leadership and clinical ethics to culturally diverse clients (individuals, families, organizations and global society)
- Greater depth of understanding of developmental physiology of the fetus and neonate—principles of growth and development, physiologic maturation of organ systems, birth physiology, and transition to extrauterine life through early infancy, adaptation to physiologic stress and alterations from normal
- In-depth understanding of pharmacotherapeutics of newborns and infants—principles of pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics when applied to newborn/infant physiology, special considerations of drug therapy in the newborn/infant, advanced nursing management of selected newborn/infant therapeutics, issues associated with drug therapy in the neonatal intensive care unit, and evaluation of experimental therapies
- Knowledge and skills necessary to perform comprehensive assessments and interpretation of diagnostic data on newborns, infants, and their families—systematic data collection, diagnostic reasoning, clinical problem solving for a variety of newborns and infants, perinatal assessment, fetal assessment, gestational age assessment, neurobehavioral and developmental assessments, physical exam of newborns and infants, and the use of diagnostics such as laboratory studies, radiographs, and instrumentation/monitoring devices
- Clinical experience in assessing the health care needs of healthy and at-risk newborns/infants and their families—assessment and evaluation of care to families with at-risk factors during all phases of the child bearing process (antenatal, intrapartum, post-partum, and neonatal periods) through history taking, physical examinations and diagnostic interpretation on a variety of newborns and infants
- Theoretical and practical knowledge of pathophysiology as it applies to the care of newborns and infants with acute and/or chronic illness or at risk for health problems from a high risk pregnancy—consequences of the intensive care environment and abnormal physiology on the normal development of the fetus, newborn and infant
- Theoretical and practical knowledge needed for advanced practice neonatal nurses (APNN) to manage the health care needs of culturally diverse newborns/infants in neonatal intensive care units (NICU)—focusing on stabilization, management and evaluation of high-risk newborns/infants and their families
Work Environment for Neonatal Nurse Practitioner Graduates
There are three different levels that a neonatal nurse practitioner can work in within a neonatal nursery. These levels are:
- Level I – Newborn Nursery: This level consists of caring for newborns. Healthy babies typically share a room with their mother; therefore the level 1 is intended for newborns that need special care.
- Level II – Intermediate Care Nursery: This level provides intermediate or special care for premature or ill newborns. Infants at this level may need special therapy from the nursing staff, or just may need to spend more time in the hospital before being discharged.
- Level III – Neonatal Intensive Care Nursery: This level is typically the neonatal intensive-care unit (NICU), which treats newborns who can’t be treated in the other levels and who are in need of high technology to survive. This is usually the area that most neonatal nurse practitioners work in, as they comprise over 90% of the NICU staff.
The functions that a neonatal nurse may need to perform on the field include:
- Obtain health histories
- Perform comprehensive physical and gestational age assessments
- Collaborate with the Neonatologist regarding plan of care
- Provide staff education
- Stabilize and transport ill infants to Level III nurseries via both ground and air transport
- Assist with obtaining operative/procedure consents
- Write orders
- Incorporate developmental care in patient care giving
- Promote family centered care and healthy infant-parent attachment
- Participate in patient rounds
- Attend morbidity and mortality rounds and medical conferences within the institution
- Perform procedures necessary to aid in identifying a diagnosis
- Care for a caseload of patients
External Links about Neonatal Nurse Practitioner Programs:
- Association of Women’s Health, Obstetric and Neonatal Nurses: This is a nonprofit membership organization that promotes the health of women and newborns. AWHONN’s mission is to improve and promote the health of women and newborns and to strengthen the nursing profession through the delivery of superior advocacy, research, education and other professional and clinical resources to nurses and other health care professional.
- The Academy of Neonatal Nursing: This organization honors and supports the professionalism, dedication, and commitment of neonatal nurses. Their mission is to provide quality neonatal education and programs at a reasonable cost. They do this through professional, peer-reviewed publications, educational conferences, and offering books and other materials to newborn health care professionals.
- The Pediatric Care: This website offers information and stories about infant care on topics such as pre-conception, conception, growth and development, diseases, and CPR and drugs. They also have the growth and development stages of a newborn and young children, as well as articles on topics such as pediatric patients, preventive pediatrics, vaccination, developmental delay, and baby friendly hospital initiatives. Research studies are also a component of this website with information on operational definitions, research methodology, and quality of life in children with autism.