Become a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner: Education and Career Roadmap
Learn how to become a pediatric nurse practitioner. Research the job description and the education and licensing requirements and find out how to start a career as a pediatric nurse practitioner.
How to Be a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner
Pediatric nurse practitioners are registered nurses (RNs) who have completed graduate training and can provide primary care to children, under the supervision of a physician. They treat children from infancy through adolescence, administering preventative and curative treatments. A master's degree, RN license and pediatric nurse practitioner certification are the minimum requirements, though states define the specific roles and credentialing processes for nurse practitioners. The following table shows the common requirements to become a pediatric nurse practitioner.
|Degree Field||Nurse practitioner with pediatric care specialization*|
|Licensure and Certification||Must pass the national NCLEX-RN exam and become licensed by the state; must pass a national pediatric nurse practitioner certification exam; states may have additional licensing and certification requirements*|
|Experience||2-5 years of experience in pediatric nursing**|
|Key Skills||Critical thinking, patience, empathy, interpersonal communication, attention to detail, decision making*|
|Computer Skills||Medical software, like Medscribbler Enterprise and eClinical Works***|
|Technical Skills||Medical tools, like suction equipment, EKG machines, and eye charts; laboratory tests; X-rays***|
Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **Job postings found in September 2012, ***O*Net Online
Step 1: Earn a Bachelor's Degree in Nursing
An aspiring pediatric nurse practitioner must first earn a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN). Coursework includes basic nursing principles, biology, nutrition, chemistry, anatomy and psychology. Rotations through various clinical settings and departments, including pediatrics, are required. If someone has earned a diploma or an associate's degree in nursing, or even a bachelor's degree in another field, additional coursework is typically needed to earn the equivalent of a BSN before one can apply to a nurse practitioner program.
Step 2: Obtain a Registered Nurse License
All RNs are required to obtain nursing licenses by passing the National Council Licensure Examination-Registered Nurse (NCLEX-RN). Plus, nurse practitioner master's degree programs require applicants to have currently valid RN licenses. States may have additional licensing requirements. Individual states' boards of nursing can supply relevant licensing information.
Step 3: Work as a Registered Nurse in Pediatrics
Pediatric nurse practitioner programs often require applicants to have at least 1 year of professional nursing experience in pediatrics. Attaining work experience and making professional contacts is also important because letters of recommendation from professional employers factor into the admissions process. Getting practical experience in pediatrics can also help nurses decide if they'd like to specialize in an area of pediatric nursing, like acute care or oncology.
Step 4: Earn a Master's Degree in Pediatric Nurse Practitioner
One must complete a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) program that offers a specialization in pediatric care. More specific concentrations may be available, in pediatric acute care, pediatric chronic care, pediatric oncology or pediatric critical care. Coursework covers theory, research and practice; some topics of study include advanced pediatric and adolescent assessment, pharmacology, pathophysiology, human development, disease prevention, wellness promotion and nursing informatics. Pediatric clinical work teaches nurses how to manage common health issues and long-lasting illnesses as well as how to work with different populations, like young families and adolescents. It usually takes 1-2 years to complete program requirements.
Some schools provide combined BSN-MSN programs, which usually take 3-4 years to complete. There are also programs for students who already have advanced practice nursing master's degrees and want to change their specialization to pediatrics; these may take 1 year to finish.
- Learn a second language. Knowing a language other than English can help nurse practitioners provide primary care to patients and communicate with families more effectively. Employers commonly advertise for pediatric nurse practitioners who are bilingual and familiar with multicultural nursing practices. Nurse practitioner master's degree programs may provide clinical opportunities for students to work with children who speak other languages.
Step 5: Earn Certification and Licensure
All pediatric nurse practitioners must become certified in the specialty in order to practice. The Pediatric Nursing Certification Board (PNCB) offers the Certified Pediatric Nurse Practitioner-Primary Care (CPNP-PC) designation, and the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) offers the Pediatric Nurse Practitioner-Board Certified (PNP-BC) credential. Candidates for both certifications must have graduate degrees in pediatric nurse practitioner, be licensed RNs and pass the corresponding certification exams. The PNCB also offers specialty certifications in areas like Acute Care CPNP and Pediatric Care Primary Mental Health Specialist. States may have additional, specific regulations regarding certification, registration or licensure of nurse practitioners.
Step 6: Work as a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner
After earning nurse practitioner certification and, if required by their states, nurse practitioner licensure, individuals can seek positions within pediatric departments of hospitals, community health organizations or children's clinics. Most employers require a minimum of 2 years of experience working in pediatrics and may require multiple certifications.
Step 7: Maintain Professional Credentials
Both the RN license and specialty certification need to be maintained in order to continue practicing as a pediatric nurse practitioner. License renewal varies by state, but taking continuing education courses is a typical requirement; for example, one may need to complete 30 hours every 2 years.
The CPNP-PC credential is renewed in a 7-year cycle, and at least 15 hours of continuing education must be completed each year. The PNP-BC must be renewed every 5 years. Professional development activities, in areas like continuing education, professional presentations or service work, and at least 1,000 professional employment or volunteer hours, are required.
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