Becoming a Neonatal Nurse Practitioner

  1. Hi Guys!

    So, I'm a high school senior and I'm very interested in becoming a NNP(deep in my heart). I've been researching the steps online, but it all seems to confuse me. I know that I first must earn my BSN and then take the NCLEX to become an RN, and enroll in a master's program concentrated in Neonatal nursing. I know that some hospitals want you to have experience in the NICU before they hire you, so does that mean after I get my RN I need to become certified as a Neonatal Nurse, and work for two years in the NICU, then apply to the MSN program? I guess my question is, how do I start working in the NICU after my BSN? And what are all the licensing and certifications needed? If you could list step by step process that would be great!! Thanks.
  2. Visit ElaineT profile page

    About ElaineT

    Joined: Sep '13; Posts: 4


  3. by   babyNP.
    Welcome to AN

    I had the same dream (although it didn't hit me until my senior year in nursing school). There are a lot of posts regarding what you're asking in the NICU forum here on allnurses and I highly recommend utilizing the search function.

    The short of it, though, is that you go to nursing school (preferably going the bachelor's route or if you're going the community college route, getting your bachelor's soon afterwards) and then after you graduate, you take the NCLEX, which is the national exam that all nurses must take in order to practice.

    Then you apply to various hospitals to become a NICU RN. I recommend going to an academic center (what they call a "teaching hospital") where new grad nurses are plentiful with generally excellent orientations, IMO, for NICU nurses. You may not get into NICU right away, but there are various strategies you can employ to increase your chances (again, use the search function). I applied to NICUs about 6 months before I graduated and received my job offer and worked in my dream job for the past 5 years.

    There are various certifications you can earn, but most of them require that you be a NICU nurse for awhile before you can be certified. Notable exceptions include the Neonatal Resuscitative Program (NRP) and S.T.A.B.L.E. program. I took NRP as a nursing student and it was doable, although very hard since nursing school is generally geared towards adults and I had no background with infants.

    Once you've gained some experience (and two years is the minimum, although I think that unless you're at a high acuity NICU, you really need more), you can apply for NNP programs. There is a thread in the NICU forum that lists all the NNP programs in the country, although it hasn't been updated for a couple of years. Once you complete your NNP program, you are eligible to take the boards for your NNP license and then you can start practicing.

    I've loved most minutes of my time in NICU and school, while rough at times, is amazing. It's completely worth it.

    Wishing you the best and hope you'll keep us updated on your progress!
  4. by   ElaineT
    Thank you so much!! So, does this mean I don't need to be certified in NIC? There is no additional tests needed after the NCLEX, I could just apply and work in the NICU?

    Also, the only NNP program in NC(that I could afford) at a university is ECU and it's online. Here is what it says:

    Applicants for the neonatal nurse practitioner concentration, in addition to the general admission criteria, must have two years of current practice experience in a critical-care environment for high risk neonatal care RN experience and provide a third reference from a health care provider knowledgeable about the applicant's nursing practice.

    Applicants may take core courses while gaining the required RN experience for admission into selected concentrations.

    By core courses, does that mean the NNP courses in the program? Could I work and gain experience as an NICU-RN while studying for my master's for NNP?

  5. by   babyNP.
    Yep, that's about it and you can apply to work in NICUs prior to taking NCLEX as a nurse tech and also be hired as a RN pending passing NCLEX.

    You'll need to ask that question of the university as I do not go there. In general, most programs require at least 1 year's experience before you start taking classes and working. Trust me- the first year of being a NICU RN is very challenging and it's like being in nursing school for a 5th year because you basically have to forget most of what you learned in nursing school, which is geared towards adults.
  6. by   ElaineT
    Okay, Thank you!!