Online Neonatal Nurse Practitioner Programs (NNP)

Neonatal nurse practitioners (NNPs) typically care for high-risk newborns and infants in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). They collaborate with neonatologists, neonatal nurses, pediatric nurse practitioners, and other medical staff to support neonates and infants that suffer from such conditions as prematurity, low birth weight, infection, birth defects, cardiac arrest, and surgical complications. Neonatal nurse practitioners also counsel and advise the families of newborns before, during and after childbirth.

To become a neonatal nurse practitioner, registered nurses must hold an active license to practice in their state of residence and complete a neonatal nurse practitioner program at an institution that has been accredited by either the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) or the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN). After completing an accredited program, RNs must apply for certification as an NNP from the National Certification Corporation (NCC) before applying to their state’s board of nursing for certification or licensure.

Overview of Online Neonatal Nurse Practitioner Programs

Accredited online NNP programs are available at the MSN, post-MSN certificate and DNP levels, and are generally categorized according to their eligibility requirements. Students should note that all accredited NNP programs require applicants to hold an active, unrestricted license as a registered nurse in their state of residence. Examples of accredited online neonatal nurse practitioner programs include:

  • Online BSN to MSN NNP Programs require RNs to have earned a bachelor’s of science in nursing (BSN) from an accredited institution in order to be eligible for admission. This type of program generally involves the completion of 50 to 65 credits, and can take one to two years to complete.
  • Online Bachelor’s to MSN NNP Programs accept registered nurses who hold either a BSN or a bachelor’s degree in a field other than nursing from an accredited program. For BSN graduates, this type of program is equivalent to a BSN to MSN program. Students with a bachelor’s in a non-nursing field typically need to complete certain undergraduate-level bridge or prerequisite courses prior to starting their graduate course of study, and thus Bachelor’s to MSN programs for these students often require 65 to 75 credits to graduate, and take two to two and a half years to complete.
  • Online RN to MSN NNP Programs admit RNs who hold either an associate degree in nursing (ADN) or a diploma in nursing from an accredited institution. While some RN to MSN programs only accept ADN graduates, others accept both ADN and nursing diploma recipients. Most RN to MSN programs allow students to earn their BSN and MSN together and often take two to three years and between 120 and 150 credits to complete.
  • Online Post-MSN NNP Certificate Programs admit individuals who have already earned their MSN in a field other than neonatal nursing, and who wish to gain training and certification in this area. Post-MSN certificate programs typically take between 12 and 15 months, and require the completion of 25 to 40 credits.
  • Online BSN to DNP NNP Programs offer RNs who possess a BSN the most direct path to earning their DNP. These programs typically entail 65 to 95 credits, and take three to four years of full-time study to complete. Part-time BSN to DNP NNP programs are also available, and can take up to six years to complete. While these programs contain both MSN and DNP-level coursework, students should note that only some grant both an MSN and DNP degree. Other programs culminate in just the DNP.
  • Online Post-Master’s to DNP NNP Programs are designed for nurses who already possess a master’s degree from an accredited school of nursing, and want to pursue both a DNP and APRN certification. These programs are essentially a DNP program combined with a post-master’s NNP certificate program, and may have different admission requirements based on their particular structure. MSN to DNP NNP new specialty programs are for students who have a master’s degree in a non-APRN nursing field (such as nurse administration or clinical nurse leader), while MSN to DNP NNP second specialty programs are for APRNs who want to earn a second certification along with their DNP. Depending on the specific program structure, students can expect to complete an online MSN to DNP NNP program in one to two years.

Admission Requirements for Online Neonatal NP Programs

In addition to the degree requirements described above, admission requirements for online neonatal nurse practitioner programs may include a minimum overall college GPA, completion of certain key prerequisite courses with a minimum grade, and at least two years of professional experience working with high risk newborns in a clinical setting. Registered nurses who wish to apply to this type of program generally need to submit transcripts of all undergraduate and graduate coursework, a personal statement, letters of recommendation, and a professional resume.

Curriculum Details for Online Neonatal Nurse Practitioner Programs

Neonatal nurse practitioner programs are typically comprised of core courses in advanced nursing, such as Advanced Health Assessment, Advanced Pharmacology, and Research Methods in Nursing, as well as concentration courses that focus on neonatal care, such as Advanced Nursing Care for the Childbearing Family and Caring for Medically Fragile Infants.

Along with these courses, DNP programs in this specialty contain doctoral-level coursework designed to prepare students in the eight core competencies outlined in the American Association of Colleges of Nursing’s Essentials of Doctoral Education for Advanced Nursing Practice. These are fundamental skills all DNP graduates must be trained in, and include topics such as health care policy, systems leadership, clinical prevention and population health, health care information systems, and analytical methods for evidence-based practice.

Online neonatal NP programs are available in full-time and part-time formats. Full-time programs generally require students to take more classes per term, and therefore, typically allow students to earn their degree in a shorter amount of time, compared to part-time programs. Conversely, part-time neonatal NP programs enable students to take fewer courses per term, but take longer to complete. Part-time programs may provide more flexibility for people who have other personal and professional commitments outside of their degree program.

When choosing between a full-time and a part-time nursing program, prospective students should take into account their present and future extracurricular responsibilities and try to balance those responsibilities against how quickly they would like to earn their degree.

Clinical Hours Requirements for Online Neonatal Nurse Practitioner Programs

Apart from graduate coursework, students of neonatal nurse practitioner programs must complete upwards of 600 clinical hours, depending on the program. Online DNP students can expect to complete 1000 or more clinical practicum hours as part of their program. Clinical hours are defined as the time a student devotes to fulfilling actual nursing tasks in a real medical environment, under the supervision of a preceptor (a medical professional who mentors them and evaluates their progress).

Online NNP programs generally divide students’ clinical hours requirements across multiple terms, and incorporate them into clinical practicum courses. These practicum courses allow students to discuss their clinical experiences with faculty and peers. Some NNP programs match their students to clinical sites and preceptors, while other programs ask that students find their own clinical location and supervisor, but provide support and advice to students during their search.

Campus Visits Requirements for Online NNP Programs

The majority of online nursing programs, including online NNP programs, require their students to attend a minimum number of on-campus intensives. These intensives, also known as campus visits, generally include such activities as in-person lectures and discussions with program faculty, networking events, group projects, and clinical simulation experiences. On OnlineFNPPrograms.com, we define an online program as one that requires three or fewer visits to campus per year.

Sample Courses for Online NNP Programs

Accredited online neonatal nurse practitioner programs include a combination of classes in general advanced practice nursing, and classes that focus specifically on neonatal nursing care. While course titles and content will vary across programs, typical courses for this type of program may include:

Core Courses in Online NNP Programs:

  • Advanced Pharmacology: The common classes of drugs that address chronic and acute health conditions in humans across the lifespan. How different medicines affect the tissues, organs, and organ systems of the human body. Students will also develop their understanding of pharmacokinetics, drug metabolism, pharmacodynamics, and dose-response relationships.
  • Advanced Human Physiology and Pathophysiology: The structure and function of the cells, tissues, organs, and organ systems within the human body. How human physiology changes across the lifespan. The common diseases and conditions that afflict humans from infancy through old age, and how they originate, develop, and impact the human body.
  • Advanced Health Assessment: How to evaluate and monitor the health of patients across the lifespan through a combination of clinical interviewing, observation, diagnostic reasoning, and medical knowledge. This course builds off of students’ previous training in health assessment to cover more advanced topics in patient evaluation and taking medical histories.

Neonatal Nursing Concentration Courses:

  • Clinical Interventions for the Medically Fragile Newborn: Human embryology, anatomy, and pathophysiology. How a normal, healthy fetus develops, and how diseases and conditions develop in fetuses, newborns, and infants. The essential methods of identifying the needs of high-risk neonates, infants, and their families.
  • Neonatal Practicum: This course combines students’ clinical hours in the NICU with seminars during which they present and discuss their clinical experiences with faculty and peers. Students complete research projects alongside their clinical hours for credit, and are required to attend deliveries and provide nursing care to infants and neonates in the nursery.
  • Advanced Nursing Concepts for the Childbearing Family: How to support the childbearing family unit during and after pregnancy. The emotional, physical, and psychosocial impact of neonatal health complications on the family unit, and the role of the NNP in addressing the health needs of childbearing women and their families.