What is a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 08 March 2018
  • Copyright Protected:
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A pediatric nurse practitioner (PNP) is a registered nurse who has undergone additional training and achieved board certification in pediatric nursing. PNPs, like other nurse practitioners, typically hold a Master's degree in nursing, and some may have pursued additional graduate work, up to and including a doctorate degree. The scope of a pediatric nurse practitioner's practice varies, depending on the laws where he or she works, but as a general rule, these health care professionals can provide a wide range of medical services, from conducting school physicals to helping a patient manage a chronic condition like diabetes.

The training a pediatric nurse practitioner receives qualifies him or her to work specifically with children. The training includes diagnosis, treatment, and management of acute and chronic diseases, along with simple medical procedures, administration of vaccinations and medications, and a variety of other topics. Pediatric nurse practitioners can often prescribe medications, sometimes independently and sometimes only with the approval of a doctor, depending on the regions where they practice. They cannot perform major surgery.


For parents, taking a child to a pediatric nurse practitioner can often be equivalent to taking the child to the doctor. While some people think of nurses as people on a lesser status than doctors, this thinking is not totally accurate; pediatric nurse practitioners are highly qualified and extremely professional, and they can provide care which is appropriate, timely, and extensive. PNPs will not hesitate to refer patients to a doctor if they feel that they cannot adequately care for them, as may occur when a child presents with a heart condition, cancer, or another serious medical problem. The same referral would occur if a child was seen by a general pediatrician.

In some regions, pediatric nurse practitioners are allowed to operate their own private practices, where they may work independently or with other nurse practitioners. Others need to work under the supervision of a doctor, and they may be found in clinics and hospital environments as part of a medical team providing care to patients. PNPs can also be retained by schools and other institutions which work with children to provide on-site medical care.

People who are interested in pursuing a career as a pediatric nurse practitioner will first need to become registered nurses by completing a nursing program and the associated clinical training. Once a nursing student has qualified as a nurse, he or she can pursue a pediatric nursing program which will qualify the student for board certification and licensure as a nurse practitioner. Prospective pediatric nurse practitioners may want to research the laws where they plan to practice to find out what kind of restrictions are placed on PNPs.



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