Pediatric primary care nurse practitioners (also known as PPCNPs or PPC-NPs) are advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) who focus on providing advanced primary nursing care to children and adolescents. PPCNPs provide such services as routine health examinations, diagnoses of chronic and acute health conditions, ordering and interpreting labs and other medical tests, providing medical counseling to child patients and their families, and recommending treatments. Pediatric primary care nurse practitioners tend to work in medical settings such as hospitals, private clinics, schools, and community wellness centers.
Registered nurses who wish to become pediatric primary care nurse practitioners must complete a PPCNP program 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 take and pass a certification examination administered by either the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) or the Pediatric Nursing Certification Board (PNCB), and subsequently apply for APRN certification in their state of residence.
Overview of Accredited Online Pediatric Primary Care NP Programs
Different types of pediatric primary care nurse practitioner programs are available for applicants who have obtained different levels of education. The length of a given program generally depends on the student’s prior educational background. For example, a post-master’s certificate program will generally require fewer units and less time compared to an RN to MSN program that allows students to earn their BSN and MSN together through one program.
All online graduate programs in pediatric primary care nursing require that applicants be registered nurses with an active, unrestricted license in their state of residence. Types of online pediatric primary care NP programs include:
- Online BSN to MSN PPCNP Programs require applicants to hold a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) from a CCNE or ACEN accredited program. This type of program typically requires the completion of 50 to 60 credits, and often takes between 12 to 24 months to complete.
- Online Bachelor’s to MSN PPCNP Programs admit RNs who hold a bachelor’s degree (either a BSN or a bachelor’s in a non-nursing field) from an accredited institution. For students with a BSN, these programs are equivalent to BSN to MSN programs. For students with a non-nursing bachelor’s degree, Bachelor’s to MSN-PPCNP programs typically involve the completion of 60 to 75 credits, and can take 24 to 30 months to complete, as students without a BSN need to complete a certain number of undergraduate-level bridge courses prior to beginning their graduate course of study.
- Online RN to MSN PPCNP Programs accept registered nurses who have either an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) or a diploma in nursing from an accredited program, and who wish to earn their BSN and MSN through one program. This type of program generally takes 24 to 36 months and 120 to 150 units to complete. Many RN to MSN programs allow students to transfer credits from their ADN or nursing diploma to help save time and units. While some online RN to MSN PPCNP programs accept candidates with either an ADN or a diploma, other RN to MSN PPCNP programs only accept ADN graduates.
- Online Post-MSN Certificate PPCNP Programs accept individuals who have already earned an MSN in a field other than pediatrics, and who wish to gain training and certification as a PPCNP. Post-MSN certificate programs generally take 12 to 15 months and 25 to 40 credits to complete.
- Online BSN to DNP PPCNP Programs are for licensed RNs who have earned a BSN and want to take a direct path to earning their DNP without completing a separate MSN program beforehand. These programs can consist of anywhere from 65 to 95 credits, and include both MSN and DNP-level courses. Full-time BSN to DNP PPCNP programs generally take three to four years to complete, while part-time programs may take up to six years. Students should note that some BSN to DNP PPCNP programs grant both an MSN and DNP degree, and others only culminate in a DNP.
- Online Post-Master’s to DNP PPCNP Programs give master’s-prepared nurses the opportunity to earn a DNP and gain APRN certification as a PPCNP. Students can think of these programs as a post-MSN DNP program combined with a post-master’s PPCNP certificate program. MSN to DNP programs typically take one to two years to complete, and have different admission requirements based on their particular structure. MSN to DNP PPCNP new specialty programs are designed for nurses who have a master’s degree in a non-APRN nursing field (such as clinical nurse leader or nurse administration), and want to pursue both a DNP and APRN certification. MSN to DNP PPCNP second specialty programs are for students who already hold APRN certification in a specialty area, but want to pursue a second certification as a PPCNP as part of their DNP program.
Admission Requirements for Online PPCNP Programs
In addition to the degree requirements described above, other academic requirements may include a minimum GPA requirement for undergraduate and graduate coursework, completion of certain courses such as statistics and health assessment, and one or more years of professional experience as a nurse. Applicants to online PPCNP programs generally need to submit transcripts of all their college coursework, a personal statement, a professional resume, and letters of recommendation.
Curriculum Details for Online Pediatric Primary Care Nurse Practitioner Programs
Online PPCNP programs typically require students to complete a core set of courses that cover the fundamentals of advanced nursing, such as Health Assessment, Human Physiology, and Pharmacology. After completing the core courses of their program, students progress to specialized classes that focus on pediatric primary care, such as Clinical Care for Adolescents and Family and Child Development.
Online pediatric primary care NP programs are offered in both full-time and part-time formats. Full-time programs require students to take more classes per term, and thus enable students to earn their degree in a shorter amount of time, relative to part time programs. Part-time programs allow students to take fewer courses per term, and thus may be a helpful option for individuals who have other professional or personal responsibilities. When choosing between a full-time and a part-time program, students should consider such factors as how soon they would like to earn their degree, as well as their present and future commitments outside of school.
Clinical Hours Requirements for Online Pediatric Primary Care NP Programs
In addition to graduate coursework, pediatric primary care nurse practitioner programs generally require students to complete 600 to 1000 clinical hours during their course of study. Clinical hours are the time a student devotes to fulfilling real nursing responsibilities in an actual medical setting, under the supervision of a preceptor, who is a medical professional that mentors and evaluates students during their clinical tasks.
Online PPCNP programs generally divide students’ clinical hours across multiple terms and incorporate them into practicum courses, so that students complete their hours while also attending seminars during which they discuss their clinical experiences with faculty and peers. Some PPCNP programs match students to preceptors and clinical sites. Other programs ask that students find their own clinical site and supervisor, but may provide assistance to students during their search.
Online PPCNP Programs: Campus Visit Requirements
Most online APRN programs, including PPCNP programs, require students to attend a minimum number of campus visits, otherwise known as on-campus intensives. During these visits, students may participate in networking events, in-person lectures and discussions with faculty and students, clinical simulation experiences, and/or group projects. OnlineFNPPrograms.com defines an online program as one that requires three or fewer visits to campus per year.
Sample Courses for Online PPCNP Programs
Online PPCNP programs feature a combination of classes that cover general advanced practice nursing principles and methods, as well as topics specific to pediatric nursing care. While course content and titles do vary across programs, typical courses for this type of program may include:
Core Courses in Online PPCNP Programs:
- Advanced Physical/Health Assessment: Advanced concepts, principles, and methods in taking patient histories and health assessments. How to bring together physical examinations, clinical interviews, and knowledge of human physiology, pathophysiology, and psychology to take accurate medical histories.
- Advanced Physiology and Pathophysiology: How the human body functions at the cellular, tissue, organ, and organ systems levels, and how the different systems within the human body work together to maintain homeostasis. How common diseases and conditions disrupt homeostasis by affecting different organ systems, organs, tissues, and cells in the body.
- Research Methods in Nursing: How to gather, read, and interpret data from medical studies. How to incorporate sound medical research into clinical work with patients. This course will generally build off of students’ understanding of statistics to teach them how to evaluate the validity of medical studies and understand their relevance to clinical practice.
Pediatric Primary Care Concentration Courses:
- Neonatal and Pediatric Nutrition: The specific nutritional needs of children from infancy to adolescence. How the pediatric nurse practitioner can advise and support families in the delivery of proper nutrition to children throughout their development.
- Clinical Care for Adolescents: The common physical, developmental, psychological, and social issues that adolescents face, and how these issues impact overall health. How to advise and support adolescent patients who are facing chronic or acute health conditions. How to incorporate genetic, cultural, social, emotional, and psychological considerations into an overall health care plan for the adolescent patient.
- Child and Family Development: An overview of the development of the family unit and the physical, psychological, social, and emotional development of children from infancy to adolescence. The role of the pediatric nurse practitioner in supporting the health of children in the context of the family.
- Chronic and Acute Pediatric Illnesses: Common chronic and acute conditions that children face at different stages in their development, and the treatment and prevention of these illnesses. How PPCNPs can not only treat these conditions, but also provide emotional and psychological support to children and their families who must manage such illnesses.