Certified Pediatric Nurse Practitioner

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Do you love caring for children?  Are you skilled in nursing?  If so, finding a career in pediatric nursing is a dream come true.  A Nurse Practitioner is a licensed care provider.  Pediatrics is the branch of medicine that focuses on the care of infants, children, and adolescents.  

What is a Certified Pediatric Nurse Practitioner (CPNP)?

A Certified Pediatric Nurse Practitioner is a vital member of children’s healthcare team.  They are licensed only to care for children.  However, they provide children with a range of services like performing complete health exams, patient and family education, order diagnostic tests and medical equipment, diagnose health conditions and prescribe medication. 

The Certified Pediatric Nurse Practitioner is Board-Certified and can focus on either acute care (CPNP-AC) or primary care (CPNP-PC).  Furthermore, the Certified Pediatric Nurse Practitioner has a unique viewpoint because they provide their patients and families with a focus on preventative care.  While many practitioners focus on merely diagnosing and treating disease, CPNPs focus on promoting health maintenance.  They feel that helping their patients to stay safe and become healthy prevents disease and creates better outcomes. This attention to detail makes for healthier communities.

The CPNP is an exceptionally educated Registered Nurse (RN) who has received a graduate degree (Master of Science in Nursing) or higher (Doctorate of Nursing Practice or Doctor of Philosophy). In recent years, more Nurse Practitioners are obtaining a Doctorate of Nursing Practice (DNP) or Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) as an entry to practice, but it is not yet required.  There may come a day where the doctorate is the gold standard for entry to becoming a Nurse Practitioner.  NPs of the past were grandfathered in with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN).  However, entry-level Nurse Practitioners are no longer permitted to start practicing as an NP with a BSN.

The Certified Pediatric Nurse Practitioner operates with a group of pediatricians, specialists, physician assistants, lactation consultants, nurses, and ancillary staff. The scope of the CPNPrelates to their state’s rules and regulations.  The CPNP may practice independently, require a collaborative agreement with a physician, or work directly under the supervision of a doctor. While some states still have restrictions on Nurse Practitioner practice, but many states have laws pending that will increase their independence. 

Why do we need a Certified Pediatric Nurse Practitioner?

Certified Pediatric Nurse Practitioners are trained experts in the field of pediatrics.  The nation is facing an increasing shortage of pediatric medical specialists and other primary care doctors.  Pediatric residents depend on unsecured funding from the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA).  The HRSA allocates funding on an annual basis.  No funds to place pediatric residents are guaranteed.  When you combine this with the growing amount of children with chronic health problems and special medical needs, there is a genuine need for more pediatric practitioners.  

Certified Pediatric Nurse Practitioners act to help fill the vacuum by seeing pediatric patients in pediatric and primary care clinics.  They can do primary care, gynecologic care, menopausal, and obstetric care for women. The CPNP can provide care to children of low socioeconomic status in urban and rural settings.  When a Certified Pediatric Nurse Practitioner treats a patient, it will improve the health outcomes of disadvantaged pediatric populations that lack physician support.  

Concentrating on pediatric benefits more than just children, it benefits everyone.  When children receive proper care, the global health of the community improves.  Children make up nearly one-quarter of our population.  The capable care by CPNPs will improve the health of children, families, and communities.

What does a Certified Pediatric Nurse Practitioner do? 

A CPNP obeys the state laws that control the type of care that a Nurse Practitioner may legally perform.  The job description for the particular occupation that the CPNP has chosen will further define the role that they will provide.  Overall, Certified Pediatric Nurse Practitioners give healthcare to children from infancy to age 21 years old and care for conditions ranging from acute ailments like nosebleeds or sore throats to chronic disease.  Certified Pediatric Nurse Practitioners can either focus on Primary Care (CPNP-PC) or Acute Care (CPNP-PC).

Job Description

CPNPs focus on patient-centered interventions like encouraging healthy families, proper developmental, and lifestyle changes. AllCertified Pediatric Nurse Practitioners have the clinical expertise to diagnose medical conditions and prescribe medications from infancy to age 21 years old. CPNPs work with other members of the healthcare team, connect with patients, use medical judgment, and provide compassionate care.

A Certified Pediatric Nurse Practitioner works closely with the population and selects the appropriate diagnostic tests (e.g., laboratory samples, blood tests, and radiology tests) for each visit type and diagnosis while simultaneously providing patients with education and empowerment.CPNPs complete history and physicals, diagnose medical conditions, order diagnostic tests, and medications, and refer patients to specialists or physicians when appropriate.  

Certified Pediatric Nurse Practitioners provide both primary health care services (CPNP-PC) and acute specialty services (CPNP-AC) for children. Certified Pediatric Nurse Practitioners that work in primary care have the unique role of seeing children regularly for their well-child visit, screening for risk factors, ordering vaccinations, and assessing for other risks factors for disease and chronic health conditions. 

Acute Care Certified Pediatric Nurse Practitioners (CPNP-AC)provide care for acutely, critically, and chronically ill children until age 21 years old.  CPNPs typically work in outpatient clinics but may work in hospitals, community agencies, pediatric emergency departments and sedation services, and pediatric intensive care units.

Scope of Practice

The Scope of Practice for a Certified Pediatric Nurse Practitioner depends on the state that you are licensed.  NPs can practice both autonomously and in conjunction with physicians and other healthcare professionals.  Some states allow CPNPs to practice with total independence and some require complete physician oversight. All CPNPs are permitted to care for children through age 21 years old.

How much does a Certified Pediatric Nurse Practitioner make?

Certified Pediatric Nurse Practitioners posses significantly more medical knowledge, and risk for liability and malpractice than a Registered Nurse.  This increase in responsibility and skills commands fair compensation by way of a higher salary.  Luckily, the outlook is positive for future CPNPs.  

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (2017), the market for all specialties and subspecialties of Nurse Practitioners will increase by 36%, exceeding the average job growth rate for most other U.S. professions. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (2017) also estimates that the average salary for a U.S. employed Nurse Practitioner is $107,480 annually.  The median hourly wage is $49.94, and the mean hourly wage is $51.68.  In the United States, CPNPs make between $96,000 to $131,000 annually, according to Glassdoor 

The Pediatric Nursing Certification Board (2017) states that there are 15,392 CPNP-PCs and 1,758 CPNP-ACs in the United States (source).

CPNPs practice in many health care settings.  Their primary employment is in physician's offices, outpatient facilities, hospitals, schools, and public health departments.  They function as nursing clinical and didactic instructors at colleges, universities, and professional schools.

Certified Pediatric Nurse Practitioner Certification

Certified Pediatric Nurse Practitioners first earn a Bachelor's of Science Degree in Nursing (BSN) from an accredited college or university.  Next, the BSN graduate must pass the NCLEX-RN examination and become a licensed, Registered Nurse.  The future CPNP will enter into a Master of Science of Nursing (MSN) or Doctorate of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree program for Certified Pediatric Nurse Practitioners.  Most Nurse Practitioner programs prefer that applicants have practiced as a Registered Nurse before admission. 

After graduating with an MSN or DNP from a CPNP program, they qualify to sit for a certification exam.  This rigorous certification ensures that the board-certifiedCPNPs maintain the minimum professional standards of the certifying board. Once a CPNP is Board Certified, they become licensed as a Primary Care Certified Pediatric Nurse Practitioner (CPNP- PC) or an Acute Care Certified Pediatric Nurse Practitioner (CPNP-AC).

The PNCB strives for optimal outcomes in global pediatric health by providing a strict certification program for Certified Pediatric Nurse Practitioners.  The PNCB validates and standardizes pediatric nursing knowledge and clinical competence. The National Commission for Certifying Agencies(NCCA) accredits the PNCB certification program.

The PNCB offers the following certifications:

  • Primary Care Certified Pediatric Nurse Practitioner (CPNP-PC)
  • Acute Care Certified Pediatric Nurse Practitioner (CPNP-AC)

The National Certification Exam

When the Certified Pediatric Nurse Practitioner passes a national certification exam, the credentialing body certifies that the CPNP has achieved the practical skills and knowledge required for professional clinical practice.  After completing the CPNP exam, you will learn your test results immediately.

Test results are broken down into either passing or failing.  According to 2017passing rates, the average pass rate was 90% for the CPNP-PC exam and 80% for the CPNP-AC exam. If you fail the PNCB's CPNP exam, in two to three weeks, you will receive official test results with performance ratings in each content area.  You are allowed to reapply to the exam after you get the detailed score report and obtain a new 90-day testing window.  You may take a different form of the exam up to four times in one year.  If you fail two or more times, the PNCB requires you to contact customer service for additional instructions at exam@pncb.org. 

If you pass the PNCB certification exam, you must apply to the state board for licensure in the state in which you would like to practice. Every state's rules and regulations specify the scope of practice and any required collaborative or supervisory agreements for Certified Pediatric Nurse Practitioners. 

While new Certified Pediatric Nurse Practitioners can only test into the CPNP-PC and CPNP-AC specialties, several former pediatric specialties and subspecialties still allow NPs to qualify for renewal.  The following pediatric NP specialties have retired their certification exams.  

  • Pediatric NP (PNP-BC)
  • Pediatric Primary Care NP (PPCNP-BC)
  • School NP (SNP-BC)