Pediatric Nurse Practitioner: Job Description, Salary, And How to Become One

Read more about the job description, responsibilities, salary expectations, and steps to becoming a pediatric nurse practitioner (PNP). Careers

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If you're interested in playing a vital role in promoting the health and well-being of infants, children, and adolescents, consider becoming a pediatric nurse practitioner (PNP). Whether you're a nursing student or a healthcare professional interested in furthering your career, read more to learn about the job description, responsibilities, salary expectations, and steps to becoming a PNP.

Pediatric NP Job Description

Pediatric Nurse Practitioners (PNPs) play a crucial role in the healthcare community, offering specialized and holistic care to children from infancy through adolescence. They operate across diverse settings such as hospitals, pediatric clinics, and community health centers, collaborating closely with families and multidisciplinary teams to ensure optimal pediatric health.

PNP Specialties

PNPs can specialize in either primary care or acute care, each addressing distinct aspects of pediatric health:

  • Primary Care PNPs focus on continuous health monitoring and preventive care. They oversee children's overall health needs, conducting routine check-ups, administering vaccinations, and managing common childhood illnesses. Their role emphasizes ongoing health surveillance and tracking developmental milestones throughout a child's growth.
     
  • Acute Care PNPs are trained to handle acute, critical, and chronic health conditions requiring immediate attention. Often found in hospital settings like emergency rooms or specialized intensive care units, they excel in quick decision-making and administering intensive treatments.

Moreover, within pediatric healthcare, PNPs can pursue further specialized fields:

Oncology PNPs are specialized practitioners who provide compassionate care to children and adolescents battling cancer or hematological disorders. Collaborating closely with oncologists and hematologists, they administer treatments, manage symptoms, and offer support to patients and their families through the challenges of cancer treatment.

Additional specialized fields within pediatrics include:

  • Nephrology: PNPs in nephrology specialize in diagnosing and managing kidney disorders and diseases in pediatric patients.
  • Allergy and Immunology: PNPs in this field focus on diagnosing, treating, and managing allergies and immunological conditions in children.
  • Endocrinology: PNPs specializing in endocrinology manage hormonal disorders such as diabetes, thyroid disorders, and growth disorders in pediatric patients.
  • Neurology: PNPs in neurology diagnose and manage neurological disorders and conditions affecting the brain, spinal cord, and nervous system in children.
  • Pulmonology: PNPs in pulmonology specialize in diagnosing and managing respiratory disorders and conditions in pediatric patients, such as asthma, cystic fibrosis, and respiratory infections.

PNP Work Settings

PNPs can work in various settings, including:

  • Medical office
  • Hospital setting
    • Neonatal Intensive Care
    • Pediatric Intensive Care
    • Pediatric Unit/Hospital
  • Peri-Operative
  • Surgical Outpatient Services
  • Community Health Clinic

Telehealth is another option that may be incorporated into outpatient settings, allowing for the patient and family to receive medical care without the hassle of traveling. Telehealth also benefits families living in rural areas without abundant healthcare facilities.

Pediatric NP Responsibilities

PNPs have a wide assortment of responsibilities including:

  • Pediatric Assessments: Conduct comprehensive physical examinations, developmental assessments, and health screenings to evaluate the overall health and growth of pediatric patients.
  • Diagnosing and Treating Illnesses: Diagnose and treat common acute and chronic illnesses in pediatric patients. This includes prescribing appropriate medications, therapies, and treatments.
  • Preventive Care and Health Promotion: Such as immunizations, regular check-ups, and health education to promote healthy lifestyles and prevent illnesses.
  • Managing Chronic Conditions: Monitor and manage chronic health conditions in pediatric patients, collaborating with other healthcare professionals to develop and implement comprehensive care plans.
  • Patient Education and Counseling: Educate patients and their families about various health conditions, treatment options, and strategies for maintaining optimal health. Provide counseling on topics like nutrition, development, and behavior.
  • Collaborative Care: Work closely with physicians, nurses, specialists, and other healthcare professionals to coordinate care, ensure effective communication, and provide holistic care for pediatric patients.
  • Family Involvement: Engage and involve families in the care and decision-making process, ensuring their understanding of treatment plans, medications, and potential side effects.
  • Research and Evidence-Based Practice: Stay up-to-date with the latest research, guidelines, and advancements in pediatric healthcare. Apply evidence-based practice to deliver high-quality and patient-centered care.
  • Advocacy: Serve as an advocate for pediatric patients, promoting their rights and needs in healthcare settings. Advocate for improved healthcare policies and practices that benefit pediatric populations.

Pediatric NP Career Outlook

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) anticipates a substantial 38% increase in Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN) positions from 2022 to 2032, with PNPs playing a pivotal role in meeting the rising demand for pediatric healthcare services. Among the APRN roles, nurse practitioners, including PNPs, are poised to experience the most significant employment growth.

Since their establishment, PNPs have been instrumental in improving access to pediatric healthcare services. With a dedicated focus on children's health, PNPs are indispensable in an era marked by heightened demand for specialized pediatric care, driven by population growth and a prioritization of preventive healthcare. As the healthcare landscape continues to evolve, PNPs are positioned as indispensable providers of primary pediatric care, addressing both routine and complex healthcare needs of children.

Currently, the primary employment settings for PNPs are projected to be:

  • Physicians Offices or Primary Care Practices: 47%
  • General Medical & Surgical Hospitals: 25%
  • Outpatient Care Centers: 9%

Pediatric NP Salary

According to data from the BLS, nurse practitioners, including PNPs, have a median annual wage of $129,480 annually or $62.25 per hour. However, it's important to recognize that this figure represents an average of all APRNs and will vary depending on your role, specialty, geographic location, and specific employer.

The top-paying states for NPs are:

  • California: $158,130
  • New Jersey: $143,250
  • Massachusetts: $138,700
  • Oregon: $136,250
  • Nevada: $136,230

The top-paying industries for NPs are: 

  • Home Health Care Services $148,960
  • Vocational Rehabilitation Services $139,640
  • Business, Professional, Labor, Political & Similar $137,310

 ZipRecruiter reports a national average annual salary of $135,161 for Pediatric NPs, which equates to a total of $65 per hour. 

The top-paying states for PNPs are:

  • New Jersey: $148,540
  • Wisconsin: $145,152
  • Alaska: $142,023
  • Massachusetts: $142,913
  • Washington: $141,670

PNPs may also enjoy additional benefits beyond their salary, such as health insurance, bonuses, retirement plans, and paid time off. Some employers may offer differential pay for working night shifts, weekends, or holidays. Moreover, the salary structures offered by private practices or academic institutions may differ from those in hospitals or medical centers.

It's essential to acknowledge that salary ranges can fluctuate over time due to factors such as inflation, demand for PNPs, and changes in healthcare policies. Therefore, it's advisable to research the specific salary ranges and job opportunities in your desired location and consult reliable sources, such as recent job market reports and professional organizations, for the most up-to-date information.

How To Become a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner in Five Steps

Step 1: Foundational Nursing Education

Begin your journey toward becoming a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner (PNP) by earning your nursing degree, either an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) or a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN). Upon completing your undergraduate nursing program, you'll be eligible to sit for the NCLEX-RN, commonly referred to as the nursing boards.

Step 2: Obtain RN Licensure

After obtaining your RN license, gaining hands-on experience in the field becomes essential. The duration of RN experience required varies based on the specific graduate program you choose, ranging from one to five years.

Step 3: Advanced Nursing Education

Take the next step toward becoming a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner by enrolling in a specialized PNP program.

  • MSN PNP Pathway: The Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) serves as the primary entry-level credential for Advanced Practice Registered Nurses (APRNs), including PNPs. Multiple pathways lead to earning an MSN with a focus on PNP, such as BSN to MSN, RN to MSN, and Bridge RN to MSN programs. Completing an MSN PNP typically takes two to four years, considering previous education and study pace. Admission prerequisites, program duration, and course load may vary based on your chosen pathway.
     
  • Post-Masters PNP Certificate Pathway: Nurses holding an MSN can pursue a post-master certificate in PNP for specialization. These certificate programs cater to RNs or APRNs with existing master's degrees and typically require about a year and a half to two years for completion.
     
  • DNP PNP Pathway: For nurses aspiring to earn a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) with a PNP concentration, various options are available, including BSN to DNP and MSN to DNP routes. Full-time post-bachelor's DNP programs usually span three to four years, while part-time options may extend from four to seven years.

Before selecting your PNP educational pathway, it's crucial to note that the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) mandates doctoral-level education for APRNs, with the goal of establishing DNP as the standard entry-level credential by 2025. While this is currently not enacted, we can anticipate this change as evidenced by the new doctoral requirement for CRNAs. 

Upon choosing your graduate nursing education pathway, ensure the program holds national accreditation from organizations like CCNE, the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN), or the National League for Nursing Commission for Nursing Education Accreditation (CNEA). This ensures adherence to all standards for PNP education and future APRN practice.

Among the requirements for graduate-level PNP education, acquiring a minimum of 500 direct patient care clinical hours is imperative. While clinical hour prerequisites may slightly differ among PNP programs, the current regulations necessitate a minimum of 500 clinical hours to be eligible for the PNP certification exam.

Step 4: PNP Certification Exam

Just as Registered Nurses (RNs) must pass the NCLEX-RN exam, Pediatric Nurse Practitioners (PNPs) are required to successfully complete a certification exam to practice as Advanced Practice Registered Nurses (APRNs).

The certification exam for PNPs is administered by the Pediatric Nursing Certification Board (PNCB). They offer three certification options: the Acute Care Certified Pediatric Nurse Practitioner (CPNP-AC), the Primary Care Certified Pediatric Nurse Practitioner (CPNP-PC), and the Pediatric Primary Care Mental Health Specialist (PMHS).

Step 5: PNP Licensure

Apply for APRN PNP licensure in the state where you intend to practice.

Becoming a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner offers a fulfilling and impactful career path for registered nurses. It provides opportunities to positively impact the lives of pediatric patients and underserved communities while advancing professional development and earning potential. With the growing demand for APRNs, pursuing a career as a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner allows individuals to contribute meaningfully to healthcare and realize their aspirations within the field.

If you are ready to get started on your Pediatric Nurse Practitioner journey, check out the Best, Fastest, and Most Affordable PNP programs today! 

Gastrointestinal Columnist

Brenda F. Johnson has 32 years experience as a MSN and specializes in Gastrointestinal Nursing.

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