NICU Nurse torn on becoming an NNP

  1. I'm absolutely torn on becoming a neonatal nurse practitioner. Some days I'm all for it and other days I question if it would be a good fit for me. I am still a fairly new NICU nurse as I've been working for a year and a few months. Of course I wouldn't go back to school until I have two years of experience.

    I'm torn about becoming an NNP just because I love being at the bedside and loving on my babies. I love being the first one to give them a bottle; first one to bathe them; being the first to tell their parents that they've reached a new milestone; letting them hold for the first time; encouraging them to change their micro-preemie's diaper although they're absolutely horrified, and most of all hearing "you're my baby's favorite nurse" I've noticed that a lot of the older nurses I work with don't really find joy in those type of things anymore which scares me. I wonder if I too will start to no longer find as much enjoyment in those things anymore as time goes on. I'm in my early 20's and I don't have any children yet which is another reason why I think I find so much enjoyment in being at the bedside..I guess because I don't feel "burnt out" as many would say and I truly love coming to work.

    A few things that make becoming an NNP more favorable in my eyes is: Having more autonomy, definitely. The possibility of only working 7-8 24-hour shifts a month. Being the one who writes the order that saves a life Going on high-risk deliveries (not too much experience with this but every time I go its exciting!) Learning on a higher level, being able to diagnose, and critically think as a provider is also exciting for me. I feel like I'd absolutely love being an NNP as part of a transport team! I love to learn and even if I never become an NNP I want to continue to fill my brain up with as much info as I can because I plan to do NICU for life! As I get older and more experienced, start a family, etc. I feel that being an NNP would be a good move for me however, I would like to go back to school while I'm still young. Enrolling in an online part-time program while working full-time for an additional three years as an RN is the plan. Upon graduation I'd have 5 years of level III NICU experience.

    I'd love to hear feedback on my post and I would also LOVE to hear insight from any NNP's out there and if you were stuck in this same dilemma at some point, what made you decide? Also, any RN's facing this decision, love to hear from you as well!
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    About NICURN'17

    Joined: Oct '18; Posts: 1

    4 Comments

  3. by   llg
    Maybe I am the wrong person to respond ... because I made a different decision than you seem to be leaning towards ... but ...

    I started my career as a NICU nurse and started graduate school at 24, having been a NICU staff nurse for 2 years. In other words, my timetable was pretty much the same as you are considering. However, I decided against the NNP role for myself and because a Neonatal CNS and then a NICU Nursing Professional Development Specialist. (Now, many years later, I am a Nursing Professional Development Specialist for a Children's Hospital -- working no nights, no weekends, no holidays, etc.)

    I chose my career path because I wanted to become an expert neonatal nurse, to advance neonatal nursing practice, and to support neonatal nurses in their roles as bedside nurses. I totally support the NNP role, have many friends who are NNP's, etc. -- but I was simply more committed to supporting the staff nurses and advancing the care they provide than in moving over to the medical management side of things. Both are good career paths.

    There is nothing wrong with starting grad school after 2 years of experience -- but there is also nothing wrong with waiting a bit longer. If you are really not sure which path is right for you, then maybe you should wait a little bit longer, when you are more sure. It always makes me cringe to see people get half-way through grad school -- or even graduate -- only to discover that they had made the wrong choice of majors. Keep thinking, keep asking people to share their stories, etc. and keep an open mind for a little longer. Then, when you feel ready to make that big decision, make it with confidence.

    Good luck with whatever you decide.
  4. by   adventure_rn
    Until you feel more certain, I'd hold off. I've known too many people (both in nursing and in other fields) who have started graduate programs, spent a ton of money on tuition (or accumulated a bunch of debt), realized halfway through that it wasn't what they wanted, but then felt obligated to finish the program and work in a field they didn't enjoy in order to recoup the money they'd already spent on the program.

    For now, there are still a ton of ways for you to grow professionally without going back to school, and all of them would make you a stronger candidate if you do eventually apply to NNP school. So many NICUs have opportunities for bedside nurses to advance, like attending high-risk deliveries, joining the transport team (the NNP doesn't transport the baby alone, lol), or even learning specialized skills like intubation or placing PICCs/umbi lines. You can also take your CCRN or start studying for your RNC.

    Like you, I went back and forth about NNP school. One of the main deciding factors for me was missing out on the 'fun' parts of NICU, like giving baths, therapeutic snuggling, celebrating milestones, and connecting intimately with families. Many people in many professions like their jobs, but their jobs don't necessarily bring them joy; I found so much joy in that part of my job, and I wasn't willing to give it up because I wasn't sure if I'd find that again.

    The thing is, graduate school will always be there. Even if now seems like ideal timing to start school, it isn't the right time if it's the wrong path. Additionally, the more years of NICU experience you have when you start NNP school, the stronger an NNP student (and NNP new grad) you will be. I don't think you could go wrong by holding off for another year or two.

    Keep us posted!
  5. by   babyNP.
    I think you got some great advice from up above! I'll chime in with my experience...

    I knew I wanted to take care of babies since I realized it was a thing and knew I wanted to be a NNP shortly after that. You should not do it unless you are reasonably certain (if you wait until 100% you won't do it- I had my own doubts even though I thought I knew it). See if you can talk with NICU educators and NNPs. Remember that some of both may not be fully happy in their jobs, so be sure to get multiple folks and not let one response color what you may think.

    I went back to school after 4 years and felt it was a good time, although I think 3 years while still working would have been fine for me. Everyone is different. My program director said that they preferred those doing NP programs to have 2-4 years. Any less and you run the risk of struggling due to lack of experience. More and you run the risk of having trouble transitioning into a different mindset of thinking like a provider. While I don't think the 2-4 years is absolute, I have personally seen this play out with nurses attempting to transition as a NP with a significant amount of experience, like 15-20+ and struggled with the different role. I think part of it was that it must have been hard to feel like a new grad again after being an "expert" but it's a very different way of thinking as well. It also should be said that your salary potential is much less if you wait too long- I know of another colleague who had so much RN experience in salary that her NP salary was a little bit of a pay cut.

    For now I would keep on dreaming and researching- definitely get your RNC or CCRN, get involved with the unit. I think your heart will let you know where you want to go if you reflect on it enough and give it time.

    All 3 roles, bedside, education, and advanced practice are important and make a big difference in patient lives and their families

    Do I miss feeding babies? Sure, but not as much as I thought I would. There is a certain amount of grind that comes with taking care of 3 feeder/growers every day no matter how much I like it objectively. I don't miss the "firsts" sharing with parents because I feel like I get to do it in other ways. I love updating parents during and after rounds about their baby's overall progress and what to expect in the coming weeks.

    Well, that was a bit ramble. I'm on my phone therwise I would try to clean it up a bit. Hope that helps and best of luck with your career whichever you decide. You can't go wrong with any of your ideas!
  6. by   infantsonly
    I am a new NNP, just coming off orientation. Going into nursing, I knew my goal was to become an NNP. Much like you, I tried to learn as much as possible while working as a bedside nurse, always asking questions and reading about different conditions to better understand. I started an NNP program with a year and a half of experienxe, worked full time throughout the program, and graduated with 3.5 years of RN experience. During that time I continued to learn as much as possible at both clinical and working as an RN, I volunteered for critical assignments, to be a part of the high risk delivery team, and passed the RNC-NIC.

    At first I got pushback from many of the experienced nurses on my unit for going back to school so quickly, but by the time I started clinicals I was no longer receiving pushback and really felt supported by all of the nurses on my unit.

    I received several job offers (even before graduating) and ended up accepting a position where my last clinical rotation was. I do not feel my less years of experience as a NICU RN has hindered my education or my abilities/potential as an NNP.

    I am new so maybe my opinion will change, but just as there are many things to enjoy or look forward to as an RN (such as helping a parent hold their infant for the first time), there are enjoyable parts or being an NNP.

    Good luck with your decision!

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