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How to Become a Pediatric Primary Care Nurse Practitioner? (Answered by an NP)


Written By: Kasee Wiesen DNP, APRN, FNP-C

Do you have a passion for the pediatric population? Do you want to be able to develop relationships with your patients from birth until college? Do you like communicating with parents to ensure their children are okay? Have you wondered what exactly is a pediatric primary care nurse practitioner and would it be a good fit for you? If you answered yes to any of these questions, then becoming a pediatric primary care nurse practitioner may be just the job for you!

Pediatric primary care nurse practitioners deliver care to pediatric patients from birth until young adulthood. They perform well-child checks, treat acute and chronic illness, and have a passion for supporting pediatric patients' physiologic and psychological health. Below, I will discuss how to become a pediatric primary care nurse practitioner, including the duties of the pediatric primary care NP, skills needed, examples of programs to attend, and their salary.


What Does A Pediatric Primary Care Nurse Practitioner Do?


Have you wondered, what does a pediatric primary care nurse practitioner do? The pediatric primary care nurse practitioner's duties include the delivery of primary care to the pediatric patient, including infant to young adult. Pediatric NPs use their knowledge and experience to focus on well child care and management of acute and chronic conditions in the pediatric patient. They promote the health of the child in all stages of their life. The pediatric primary care NP typically works alongside a physician, but some states grant the NP full practice authority, which means they can own their practice and work independently.

Their typical duties include:

◦ Obtaining a history from the patient or family member.
◦ Performing an assessment.
◦ Interpreting diagnostic results.
◦ Formulating a treatment plan.


They will also reassess their patients as needed to ensure the appropriate treatment plan was initiated and the patient responded well. If the child is not responding well to the treatment plan or improving, a revision to the plan may need to be made, including trying a new medication or a referral to a specialist. Their goal is to support both the physiologic and psychological needs of the patient and do what they can to ensure high-quality care is provided to their patient.


What Skills And Abilities Are Needed To Work As A Pediatric Primary Care NP?


Pediatric primary care nurse practitioner’s skills include a variety of technical skills as well as interpersonal skills. Below I have compiled a list of five necessary skills to become a successful pediatric primary care NP.

1. Strong Communication Skills: Communication is key to being a pediatric primary care NP. This includes communication with the treatment team, as well as the patient and their family member. When delivering care to the pediatric population, a lot of the communication is between the parent/caregiver and the provider. It is essential to communicate diagnoses, treatment plans, etc., to ensure the child receives the appropriate care.

2. Patience: Again, the population served is the pediatric patient, which includes infants to young adults. You must display patience when completing your assessment, answering questions, and taking those few extra minutes with the child to build rapport with them. Many children fear going to the doctor. As a pediatric primary care NP, you can help ease this fear by getting down on their level, demonstrating patience during the assessment, and involving the patient when you can.

3. Teamwork: Teamwork is vital in all aspects of healthcare. This includes teamwork between the receptionist, clinical staff, providers, and any consulting specialties. To ensure the best care is delivered to the patient, interprofessional/interdisciplinary teamwork is necessary, and communication is a key component.

4. Professional Development: The desire to grow as a pediatric primary care NP is crucial in that it demonstrates that you have the drive to grow as a practitioner. This is achieved through attending conferences, webinars and completing online learning. It also involves setting goals for yourself, whether it is annual bi-annual or even more frequent than that. Having the desire to grow as a practitioner allows you to deliver evidence-based medicine and provide the best care possible to your patient.

5. Technical Skills: You must be proficient in many skills when delivering care to pediatric patients. This includes competency in a head-to-toe assessment, knowing the developmental milestones for the different ages, calculating weight-based medications, and many other skills. You may not be proficient in all skills after graduating from NP school, so it is important to participate in professional development and ask questions.


Where Do Pediatric Primary Care Nurse Practitioners Work?


Pediatric Primary Care Nurse Practitioners work primarily in the outpatient setting. This can include a clinic in either a private practice or for an organization. While a primary care NP may work in most outpatient specialty clinics, by definition, a primary care nurse practitioner will work in a primary care/pediatrician clinic. It is uncommon for pediatric primary care NPs to work in the inpatient setting, but they may work in Urgent Care.

What Is The Typical Work Schedule For A Pediatric Primary Care NP?


The typical work schedule for a pediatric primary care NP is pretty standard as most, if not all, pediatric primary care NPs work in the outpatient setting. This typically involves working Monday through Friday daytime hours such as 8 am or 9 am to 5 pm. Some clinics may require an occasional Saturday morning clinic. Depending on the clinic worked, the pediatric primary care NP may also take calls throughout the week, select holidays, and certain weekends throughout the year.

What Is The Difference Between Pediatric Primary Care NP And Pediatric primary care Nurse?


The difference between a pediatric primary care NP and a pediatric primary care RN is determined by their license and scope of practice. A primary care RN works in a clinic alongside the pediatric primary care NP or physician. They check patients in which involves getting the pediatric patient’s vital signs and reason for the visit. They may administer medications and vaccines, draw blood via venipuncture or finger poke and deliver education to the patient and their family. The pediatric primary care RN will also call the patient/family with results, recommendations and to follow up with the patient and family regarding the patient’s well-being.

The pediatric primary care NP will assess, diagnose, treat and evaluate the pediatric patient. The diagnosis may be determined solely by completing a head-to-toe assessment, or they may have to interpret diagnostic tests such as x-rays and lab results. The pediatric primary care NP will diagnose and prescribe the appropriate treatment plan and medications, including educating the patient and family about the plan and medications prescribed. The NP will also provide recommendations regarding follow-up and any consults needed to evaluate further and treat the pediatric patient.


Pros Of Becoming A Pediatric Primary Care Nurse Practitioner


There are many pros of becoming a pediatric primary care nurse practitioner. First, if you have a passion for caring for pediatric patients, this is the perfect job for you! You get to deliver care to infants for their well-child checks, acute illness visits, and chronic illness rechecks. You have the opportunity to develop relationships with patients and their families while the child is developing and growing into a young adult.

The hours are also a pro for those who become a pediatric primary care NP. They primarily work daytime hours, and you have most, if not all, weekends off. Most clinics are also closed on holidays, allowing you to be home with your family instead of working. While you do occasionally have to be on-call, whether it be a weekday, weekend, or holiday, you are at least able to do it from the comfort of your home.


Cons Of Becoming A Pediatric Primary Care Nurse Practitioner


I do not believe there are cons to becoming a pediatric primary care nurse practitioner, but the population served is very specialized. Therefore, you must have a true passion and desire to deliver care to pediatric patients. You will also most likely work a minimum of 4 days a week and may have to work an occasional Saturday morning and be on call throughout the year.


How Long Does It Take To Become A Pediatric Primary Care Nurse Practitioner?


To become a pediatric primary care nurse practitioner, on average, takes about 6 to 8 years. This does not include getting a couple of years of experience as an RN or obtaining a terminal nursing degree.

The first step is to complete your BSN, which typically takes four years. Next, you must apply for graduate school. Completing your MSN will take approximately 2 to 4 years depending if you attend full-time vs. part-time and if your program offers summer classes. Again, this number is average and does not include years of experience, and I recommend a minimum of 1 to 2 years of nursing experience before applying for graduate school. If your goal is to obtain a terminal nursing degree such as your DNP, you must complete another 1 to 2 years of school.


How Much Does It Cost To Become A Pediatric Primary Care Nurse Practitioner?


The cost of becoming a pediatric primary care NP is a very vast range influenced by multiple factors. Regardless, the first step is to complete your BSN, which can range from $40,000 to $200,000. This is a significant range and depends on multiple factors such as the school's location and if you are attending part-time or full-time. It will also depend on paying out-of-state tuition for a public university, in-state tuition for a public university, or a private university. Cost may also be impacted if you choose to complete your associate's degree in nursing (ADN) first and then complete an RN-BSN program to achieve your BSN. It does not matter the path you select, but you must be a BSN-prepared nurse who passed the NCLEX before applying and attending an NP program.

Next, graduate school. Just like your BSN, multiple factors influence the cost of completing your graduate degree. This includes status you attend, location of the school, and if you are paying out-of-state tuition for a public university vs. private tuition vs. in-state tuition for a public university. The average cost for a BSN-to-MSN program is $81,810 to $185,280, and if you choose to pursue your DNP, the average cost of a BSN-to-DNP program is $26,490 to $254,260.

Other costs that are not always considered when becoming a pediatric primary care nurse practitioner include registering for the NCLEX and NP board certification exam, prep courses for these exams, and certifications that may be required or strongly recommended for your job. It is important to note that some jobs will reimburse for your licensure and certifications, and when applying for jobs, this is a question you can ask.


Step-By-Step Process Of Becoming A Pediatric Primary Care Nurse Practitioner


There are a couple of different paths that can be taken to become a pediatric primary care nurse practitioner. Below, I have provided a step-by-step process of one approach to achieve this goal.

1. Complete your BSN: The first step of becoming a pediatric primary care NP is completing your BSN and passing the NCLEX.

2. Gain RN Experience: This step is not required, but I strongly recommend the experience as it will help you build your critical thinking and nursing skills. I recommend you gain experience in the area/specialty you wish to pursue as an NP. Therefore, if you want to pursue pediatric primary NP, I suggest you achieve one or more years of experience in pediatrics.

3. Apply to NP graduate school: Next, apply to pediatric primary care of family practice NP program(s). Before application, be sure you know the pre-requisites, and you have them completed before you apply.

4. Graduate from NP school

5. Apply and pass the board certification exam: After graduation, before you can practice as a pediatric primary care NP, you must pass the board certification specific to the specialty you selected in graduate school.

6. Apply for licensure: Once you pass the board certification exam, you can apply for state licensure. Keep in mind, most if not all states require you to maintain an active RN and APRN license.

7. Apply for pediatric primary care nurse practitioner jobs: This step can start before passing your board certification exam and receiving your state licensure.

8. Complete pediatric certifications needed for your job: It is crucial to ensure you complete all certificates required for your job. There are also a few pediatric certifications that can enhance your role as a pediatric NP and may help set you apart from other applicants or co-workers.

9. If desired, complete your DNP. This step is optional and is for those NPs who wish to have a terminal degree. Completing your DNP may lead to a higher salary, different job opportunities, and the ability to teach at the graduate level.


Top Pediatric Primary Care Nurse Practitioner Programs


There are multiple pediatric primary care nurse practitioner programs available for nurses aspiring to be a pediatric primary care nurse practitioner. Below I will discuss three of the top pediatric primary care NP programs in 2021 based on the rankings from US News and World Reports.

Rush University: Rush University is located in Chicago and is one of the top DNP pediatric primary care NP programs. They offer a part-time and full-time options for both their BSN-DNP program and their MSN-DNP program. The program is primarily online, but they do have a minimum of 5 required on-campus sessions throughout the program. The program is for nurses who want to become NPs that specialize in pediatric primary care.

Duke University School of Nursing: Duke University is another top pediatric primary care NP program in the United States. You can complete their MSN or DNP pediatric primary care NP program, and both programs are offered part-time and full-time. The programs are primarily online, but students are required to go to campus a couple of days each semester for class, hands-on simulation, and other learning opportunities.

John Hopkins School of Nursing: John Hopkins offers a DNP program for pediatric primary care NPs. Like the other two programs discussed, it is one of the top programs available to aspiring pediatric NPs. The program is primarily online with designated days/weekends each semester that requires you to be present on campus for course immersions, allowing you to practice skills and work with other disciplines like you would in the hospital.


Recommended Certifications To Enhance Your Job Role As A Pediatric Primary Care NP


Certifications in your specialty demonstrate competency and dedication to your nursing and NP career. When you become a pediatric primary care nurse practitioner, these certifications may set you apart from other applicants in a job or lead to higher pay or recognition within your career. Before even applying to NP school, as a pediatric RN, you could become a Certified Pediatric Nurse which helps you stand out from other applicants. The pediatric primary care NP must be certified by the Certified Pediatric Nurse Practitioner-Primary Care. I will discuss both certifications below.

Certified Pediatric Nurse: To become a Certified Pediatric Nurse (CPN), you must pass the CPN exam. By holding this certification, you demonstrate a passion and commitment to the specialty of pediatric nursing. It also demonstrates your competency in the delivery of healthcare to the pediatric patient. For more information about the CPN exam and requirements, please visit their website.

Certified Pediatric Nurse Practitioner-Primary Care: This certification exam is taken after you graduate from a pediatric primary care NP program and before you start practicing. This certification exam is used to demonstrate your competence in delivering primary pediatric care at an entry-level skill set. You must pass this exam before starting your new job as a pediatric primary care NP. For more information about the requirements, please visit their website.

Two other certifications are most likely going to be required by the clinic you are employed.

Basic Life Support (BLS): BLS is a certification required by most, if not all, health facilities. This course teaches you how to deliver effective CPR to both pediatric and adult patients. It also teaches you how to and when to use an AED. Lastly, BLS focuses on the management of a choking patient, both the adult and pediatric patient. This certification does need to be renewed every two years.

Pediatric Advanced Life Support: PALS is for the healthcare provider delivering care to the pediatric patient and builds on the knowledge you learn in BLS. Throughout this course, you learn early recognition and treatment of respiratory and cardiac arrest. You also learn airway management, how to identify and treat arrhythmias, and sepsis management. Lastly, you learn more in-depth medication management of acute cardiac and pulmonary illness. This certification needs to be renewed every two years.


Continuing Education Requirements For Pediatric Primary Care Nurse Practitioners


The continuing education requirements for pediatric primary care nurse practitioners depend on the state you are licensed. Most, if not all, states require a minimum amount of continuing education hours over a specific amount of time (i.e., every two years). As I have stated previously, most states will require you to maintain an active RN license along with your APRN license. Therefore, you have to meet the continuing education hours for both the RN and APRN licenses. Fortunately, most hours apply to both licenses, but the APRN license typically requires more and more pharmacology-specific hours. For more information, please visit your state board of nursing.

Suppose you have other certifications in conjunction with your RN and APRN license, such as your pediatric nursing certification. In that case, you may have to complete additional continuing education hours to keep the certification active. Each certification has different requirements, including completing further education, watching webinars, attending conferences, or retaking certification exams. It is essential to know about renewal or relicensing requirements to ensure your certification is active when you receive any certification.

Above, I discussed a specific certification for the pediatric primary care NP. The Certified Pediatric Nurse Practitioner-Primary Care (CPNP-PC) certification has very specific requirements. For example, you must complete 15 contact hours related to your specialty every year, and every 7 years you must complete a total of 15 hours of pediatric pharmacology. Please visit the CPNP-PC website for more information regarding the re-certification process.


Starting Salary Of A Pediatric Primary Care Nurse Practitioner


The starting pediatric primary care nurse practitioner salary is $36.35 per hour, and if you work 40 hours a week, this totals to $75,610 a year. Again, these numbers are averages are can be influenced by multiple factors, including the city and state you work and if you work for an organization or private practice.

Per Hour$36.35
Per Month$6,300
Per Year$75,610


Average Salary Of A Pediatric Primary Care Nurse Practitioner


Now that I have told you what the average starting salary is, are you wondering what is the average salary of a pediatric primary care nurse practitioner? The average pediatric primary care nurse practitioner salary is $49.94 per hour, and if you work 40 hours a week, this totals $103,873 a year. Just like I stated above, this number is an average and is influenced by multiple factors. Some of these factors include the city and state work and working private practice or for an organization.

Per Hour$49.94
Per Month$8,660
Per Year$103,873
(Source: Ziprecruiter.Com)


Job Outlook For Pediatric Primary Care Nurse Practitioners


The job outlook for pediatric primary care nurse practitioners is very promising. The population continues to grow, leading to a need for more practitioners to deliver care to the pediatric population. While family practice providers can deliver care to a pediatric patient, many parents take their children to pediatric primary care specialists, leading to more demand for pediatric providers. There is also a shortage of physicians, and the NP can help fill those gaps.


Useful Organizations & Associations


There are numerous organizations and associations available to the pediatric primary care NP. These include more generalized organizations such as the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners to more specific organizations I have provided below.

Society of Pediatric Nurses: This organization is for all nurses who deliver care to the pediatric population, and their goal is to advance the pediatric nursing specialty. The SPN achieves this through education, practice resources, networking opportunities, conferences, and certification courses.

National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners: This organization is for nurse practitioners who deliver care to the pediatric population. Some of the benefits of being a member of this organization include resources and access to current research, education opportunities such as webinars and conferences, and networking opportunities.

Association of Faculties of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners: This organization is for nurse practitioners who are faculty members for family practice and pediatric nurse practitioner programs. The organization's purpose is to provide the faculty of NP programs a place to network and collaborate on various practices and educational issues. They also offer resources to the faculty of NP programs, including curriculum development.


Finally, Is Pediatric Primary Care Nursing The Right NP Specialty For You?


Did I answer your question, what is a pediatric primary care nurse practitioner? The cost and length of schooling can be overwhelming, but the outcome can be gratifying. You get the opportunity to care for pediatric patients, develop relationships with parents and children and bring smiles to many people every day. While there will be challenging times, overall, becoming a pediatric primary care nurse practitioner is a very rewarding career path!


Kasee Wiesen DNP, APRN, FNP-C
Kasee Wiesen is a practicing family nurse practitioner. Her nursing background includes emergency medicine, pediatrics and peri-op. Education is a passion of Kasee’s, and she has taught BSN, RN-BSN and DNP students, and has enjoyed every moment of it!