What Are the Steps to Becoming a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner?

Pediatric nurse practitioners provide acute and primary health care services to children, from infants to young adults. They are advanced practice registered nurses who are qualified to handle complex tasks, such as diagnosing childhood illnesses and devising patient care plans. The steps to becoming a pediatric nurse practitioner are straightforward, but the career path requires persistence and a long-term commitment to sharpening one’s mastery of clinical nursing practice.

Step 1: Commit to Nursing Practice

Nursing involves taking responsibility for other people’s health and safety. The path a nurse chooses to pursue after earning a bachelor’s degree determines which patients he or she interacts with and how. Although some student nurses may prefer to transition from clinical practice to administration, research, or education, others strive to become advanced practice registered nurses, such as nurse practitioners. Before taking steps toward becoming a pediatric nurse practitioner, student nurses should consider the path they wish to follow and whether a clinical specialization is what they are interested in.

Step 2: Earn an Undergraduate Nursing Degree

Registered nurses without a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) should earn the degree immediately and then continue gaining professional experience in the field. Completing a BSN program is important, because the curriculum prepares students to pursue postgraduate degrees, namely the Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) and the Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP). After earning an undergraduate degree and before pursuing a postgraduate education, it may be helpful to become a certified pediatric nurse through the Pediatric Nursing Certification Board. This certification could help student nurses gain experience working in pediatrics before they enter advanced nursing practice.

Step 3: Choose a Postgraduate Program

The steps to becoming a pediatric nurse practitioner become more challenging when nurses start to look at postgraduate programs. They must determine whether they want to earn a master’s degree or move directly from a bachelor’s degree to a DNP. There are benefits to both options, but it is important to consider that the DNP is a terminal clinical practice degree that represents mastery of the profession. Both DNP and MSN programs can prepare nurses to apply for pediatric nurse practitioner licenses, but the DNP is likely to offer a more comprehensive grasp of nursing competencies. Compared with MSN programs, DNP programs are typically more challenging, as they feature coursework that aims to give students a well-rounded understanding of elaborate concepts, such as advanced nursing practice, organizational leadership, health care policy and advocacy, and informatics. While BSN to DNP programs may take longer than BSN to MSN programs on average, a terminal degree should prove to be valuable in the long term.

Step 4: Earn Postgraduate Certifications

Depending on the states in which NPs wish to work, they need to apply for nurse practitioner credentials after earning a Doctor of Nursing Practice. The Pediatric Nursing Certification Board is a respected organization that validates the skills and knowledge of pediatric nursing professionals. It offers pediatric nurse practitioner certifications in primary care and acute care.

Certified Pediatric Nurse Practitioner — Primary Care (CPNP-PC)

Primary care pediatric nurse practitioners provide ongoing health care support to children and their families to help them maintain optimal health and development. Their responsibilities include conducting health assessments, developing patient care strategies, helping patients manage chronic illnesses, diagnosing illnesses, conducting tests, and prescribing medications.

Certified Pediatric Nurse Practitioner — Acute Care (CPNP-AC)

Acute care pediatric nurse practitioners provide immediate medical assistance to children and adolescents who are afflicted with acute injuries or illnesses, such as broken bones or communicable diseases. Earning this certification will prove one’s viability for nurse practitioner positions in high-pressure acute care settings, such as pediatric intensive care units, surgery units, emergency departments, and specialty clinics.

Are the Steps to Becoming a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner Worth Taking?

This job is best suited for career-driven nurses who prefer clinical nursing roles and working with children. Pediatric NP positions typically involve working in health care facilities, such as hospitals and private practices. These nurses take pride in providing care to the most vulnerable of patients — children — and their services are in demand. Family and pediatric physicians are in short supply, especially in rural areas, so nurse practitioners who can provide medical care for children in these underserved areas are needed, the Washington Post reports. In fact, according to the National Center for Health Statistics, infant mortality rates in rural areas are higher than in urban areas where children have more access to health care providers. A study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found a correlation between access to health care providers and children’s physical and mental health and development. Pediatric nurse practitioners who work in these areas as primary care providers have opportunities to improve children’s health and save lives. Because NPs are young people’s first point of contact in health care, they can prevent illness and refer pediatric patients to mental health care providers so they can receive the care they need.

For those who have already solidified their commitment to nursing by earning a bachelor’s degree, pursuing a doctoral education could be a highly rewarding next step. With a Doctor of Nursing Practice, nurses can also earn the professional certifications they need to transition into advanced nursing practice. Earning a terminal nursing degree may seem intimidating for someone just beginning to study nursing, but earning a Bachelor of Science in Nursing and then a Doctor of Nursing Practice is a very realistic goal. With online courses, student nurses can complete a BSN to DNP program to expand their clinical experience and prepare to take on careers as pediatric nurse practitioners.

Learn More

The demand for nurses continues to increase, and the need for professionals with doctorates in the nursing field will only grow. Place yourself on the cutting edge of nursing practice by earning your online DNP degree from Regis College. Speak with an enrollment adviser today about how Regis College’s online BSN to DNP program can help prepare you for the future of nursing in America.


Recommended Reading
7 Leadership Skills Nurses Can Gain by Pursuing a BSN to DNP Program Online

4 Perspectives on Life as a Pediatric Nurse Practitioners

What Can I Do With a BSN-DNP Degree?



Bureau of Labor Statistics


Kids Health

The Washington Post

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: National Center for Health Statistics

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report