Search Programs

Nurse Practitioners Options and Specialties

As a nurse practitioner, you fall into a specialized nursing category, known as advanced practice registered nurses (APRN). Professionals in this category hold advanced degrees, usually a master’s or even a doctorate in the nursing field.

In contrast to earning your ASN, which takes up to 24 months, earning a doctorate in nursing can take up to nine years, with three years being the minimum.

A nurse practitioner is a specialized nurse who has earned their advanced (master’s or doctorate) nursing degree from a nursing school or university. If you plan to become an NP, you will be a licensed healthcare provider. In this profession, you must hold a license from your state to practice nursing in your chosen specialization, including nurses who wish to work in neonatal nursing or in a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU).

You will work in a stressful, fast-paced environment, often in hospital settings where patient support will be your top priority. You may spend time working in an urgent care center to provide care to emergency patients. You will have to express compassion and empathy to your patients in any RN role, as they are hurting, feeling ill, and likely to be scared along with their families.

Nursing Degrees & Career Paths


Pediatric Nurse Specialists

Nurse specialists who work in pediatrics, as their title suggests, are specialists in delivering health care services to their pediatric patients. The main age range of children receiving care at this level goes from two-year-old babies up to their 18th birthday, throughout their years of development, based in a hospital or clinical setting. In their work in this position, these nurses may receive supervision or monitoring from a pediatric physician, much like other staff; however, this is not required everywhere, it depends on the current policy of your facility and state or community regulations, which can change often.

If you work in a doctor’s private practice, you may be providing primary healthcare to your pediatric patients. Working in this specialty, you may work in an emergency room, surgical theater, general hospital, pediatric oncology unit, neonatal unit, pediatric intensive care unit (PICU), or a pediatric oncology unit.

Neonatal Nurse Specialists

As a neonatal nurse specialist, you'll work with the sickest and smallest infants in the hospital from birth or delivery till they are ready to move to a pediatric unit. These newborn patients may be very premature, or they may have a health condition that requires specialized treatment. You'll be required to complete a degree at least at the master’s level and your professional focus is on the management and care of premature and full-term infants who are either critically ill or convalescent as they grow and regain full health. You'll also gain hours of experience on-site within a neonatal unit before you gain full licensure.

In your daily job, you will work side-by-side with neonatologists (medical doctors who specialize in working with this population). Neonatal nurses can expect to work in one of several acute and non-acute settings focused on the health of these tiny patients.

Search Programs


At the level of a nurse practitioner, the agencies that accredit your education programs may focus on accrediting advanced nursing programs.

These may include:

  • The Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN)
  • The Commission on the Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)
  • National Certification Corporation (NCC)
  • American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC)
  • American Academy of Nurse Practitioners Certification Board (AANPCB)
  • The American Association or Critical Care Nurses (AACCN)
  • The Pediatric Nursing Certification Board (PNCB)

All of these credentialing agencies measure advanced nursing or health programs within a college or university and extend accreditation to those with top-notch content. Private and public nursing programs receive accreditation once they have been able to provide proof that their nursing programs, info and learning, and nursing faculty are all of high quality. Accreditation is fully voluntary; but when a nursing program at any level (ASN up to doctorate of nursing) is accredited, students benefit in many ways. Students who skip accreditation and instead choose unaccredited nursing programs can’t get federal financial aid and their salary may also be lower, among other things.


As you make note of the educational requirements to earn an advanced nursing degree, don’t forget that you must already hold R.N. licensure prior to beginning your new degree program. Once you have this degree, you will be able to work as either a neonatal nurse practitioner or a pediatric nurse specialist.

Your clinical experience will be arranged with the most appropriate preceptor and administrator. Your preceptor will do everything possible to arrange a clinical in your area. You should consider an experience with a multicultural population or those who are disadvantaged.

Example of courses you may take:

Pediatric Nurse Specialist:

  • Child and Family Wellness
  • Dynamics of Family Health
  • Advanced Practice in Ambulatory Care Nursing of Children
  • Child Health Maintenance
  • Collaborative Clinical Practice in Pediatric Primary Health Care

Neonatal Nurse Specialist:

  • Advanced Pharmacology Across the Lifespan
  • Comprehensive Neonatal Assessment Theory
  • Methodologies for DNP Projects
  • General Management of the Sick Neonate—Theory
  • Neonatal Disease Process 1 Theory

Licensing and Certification

Different licensing and certification boards are responsible for different advanced practice nursing specialties. While your educational programs will focus on advanced nursing practice, each degree had differing nursing techniques and applicable knowledge for you to learn.

This is one reason for different boards to certify or license you once you have demonstrated a good command of the knowledge you will be using in your work. In addition, different boards focus on different specialties.

Neonatal nurse practitioners (specialists) are licensed/certified by:

  • The National Certification Corporation

Pediatric Nurse Specialists are licensed/certified by:

  • Pediatric Nursing Certification Board (various pediatric specializations)
  • American Nurses Credentialing Center

Professional Associations

  • National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners (NAPNAP)
  • National Association of Neonatal Nurses (NANN)
  • Northeast Pediatric Cardiology Nurses Association (NPCNA)
  • (Association of Child Neurology Nurses (ACNN)
  • The National Association of Neonatal Nurse Practitioners (NANNP)

A Day in the Life

As an advanced practice registered nurse (APRN), your days will be busy and filled with questions and consultations from the nurses whom you supervise.

If you are a Neonatal Nurse Practitioner (NNP), your day may look something like this:

When you arrive on shift, you’ll collaborate with pediatric specialists, neonatologists, and several other members of the healthcare team responsible for caring for the newborns in the NICU.

You will be involved in helping to stabilize and transport critically ill infants to the Level III or IV nurseries, using ground and air transport. When the infants are in your NICU, you will work to obtain health histories and then perform detailed, comprehensive physical exams, as well as developing gestational age assessments for each baby.

It will be up to you to perform any procedures necessary to help develop a diagnosis. You will write up daily orders for treatments, medications, and tests; evaluate the results and revise treatment plans accordingly.

As a pediatric nurse specialist, you provide nursing care to children from 2 years of age up to 17 years and 364 days. You will be providing critical care to children of all ages in the pediatric ward or emergency department of large metropolitan and smaller hospitals that have these wards.

You may work as a Pediatric Nurse NP Educator, encouraging each student to strive to become leaders in the field of nursing. You could also work as a Pediatric nurse practitioner in the Navy Nurse Corps. If you work in a pediatric outpatient clinic, your days will be extremely busy.

Search Programs