Everything You Need to Know Before Becoming a Neonatal Nurse Practitioner

Many people have ambitions of becoming a nurse from an early age. If you’re passionate about serving those in need and want to make a positive difference, stepping into the world of healthcare is a no brainer. However, with many different nursing specialties to pick from, it can be hard to make your final decision on which occupation will suit you best.

For those who are interested in working with babies, neonatal nursing is a specialty that focuses on birth and infants. If this sounds like the career path for you, here is a guide on what you need to know before working as a neonatal nurse practitioner.

Career Overview

A baby is born every eight seconds in the US, many of which can either be full-term neonates or preterm. In a hospital environment, should a newborn need emergency care, this is where a neonatal nurse practitioner steps in to ensure the newborn has continuous support. In a nutshell, neonatal nurse practitioners are responsible for assisting, supervising, and providing care for high-risk infants who need additional help due to complications of prematurity, low birth weights, or heart abnormalities.

In some instances, neonatal nurse practitioners may work with infants with long-term health conditions over an extended period. While NNPs operate under the guidance of a neonatologist or neonatal fellow, they take on full responsibility for their patients and exercise judgment when needed to ensure they are delivering excellent care.

nursing duty

Duties and Responsibilities

If you are interested in becoming a neonatal nurse practitioner, you need to understand that no two days are the same. One day you may be working a shift in the intensive care unit, and the next in a special care baby unit. Some neonatal nurse practitioners work in the community, delivering continuing support and care for infants and their families. On a typical day, NNPs are expected to:

  • Deliver support and information to patient’s families, including intensive, neonatal, and postpartum care
  • Perform intricate therapeutic and diagnostic procedures on patients
  • Diagnose surgical and medical problems of the infant and prescribe treatment
  • Record and analyze patient data
  • Distribute medication under a cooperative agreement with a physician

The duties that an NNP performs will depend on the setting they are in. Most hospital environments have three specific levels of care that categorize infants and the needs they have. These are level one (newborn nursery care), level two (intermediate care), and level three (neonatal intensive care).

Key Skills

To flourish in a neonatal nursing role, there are various key skills and attributes you must possess. Like with any nursing role, having empathy and compassion for your patients is a must. As you will be working with newborns, they won’t have the capacity to clearly tell you when something is wrong, meaning it’s up to you to read between the lines and be patient with your care.

Neonatal nurse practitioners work with neonatologists, physicians, patients, and their families on a day-to-day basis. This means that you must possess exceptional communication skills which can help to build solid relationships. There is no room for error as an NNP, meaning attention to detail is crucial. All successful neonatal nurse practitioners understand the importance of time management, multitasking, and observation skills which are key for delivering the best care possible. NNPs must also have excellent listening skills and be able to work well as a team.


Now you have a better understanding of what a neonatal nurse practitioner does, before you can qualify and work as an NNP, there are qualifications you must obtain beforehand. If you currently work as a registered nurse, there are neonatal nurse practitioner schools that provide a DNP-NNP track that will teach you the core skills needed to succeed in this role. Neonatal nurse practitioners must have a registered nursing license, two years of experience in the NICU (neonatal intensive care unit), as well as a Master of Science in Nursing.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, you can obtain your DNP-NNP online. There are lots of benefits you can gain from studying online, such as having the freedom and flexibility to learn at your own pace, meaning you won’t have to worry about attending lectures and seminars. What’s more, if you’re already working as a nurse, you may not be in the financial position to take time off work to commit to education. Studying online means you can factor in time during the week to put your full concentration into your education.

Salary and Career Outlook

No matter what kind of job you do, job security and financial stability are crucial. Should you qualify to work as a neonatal nurse practitioner, you can expect to earn between $78,000 and $122,000 a year. And in the next ten years, there is expected to be an employment growth of roughly 36%, meaning that neonatal nurse practitioners are, and will continue to be, in high demand.

If you continue your training and education, you can earn the credentials needed to work as an NNP or NICU clinical nurse, which can see you earn over $100,000 each year. And with close to 20 million nursing roles worldwide, this means you can work as an NNP anywhere in the world. Whether your goal is to work in a hospital, or a specialized clinic, if you like the idea of traveling and seeing the world, you can relocate with ease and find an NNP position quickly. To get a better understanding of whether an NNP role is right for you, speaking to those already in the field can be a great idea.

Caring for sick babies and providing guidance and support to their parents and families can be highly rewarding. If you can work well under pressure and are able to keep your emotions and feelings at bay, a neonatal nursing career can provide numerous benefits beyond the satisfying role of patient care. Like with any nursing field, there are a range of key skills, qualifications, and experience you will need to possess in order to qualify for the position and perform your duties correctly.