15 Reasons Neonatal Nurse Practitioners Are in High Demand For The Next 10 Years

Written By: Caitlin Goodwin DNP, CNM, RN

Neonatal nurse practitioners (NNPs) are advanced practice nurses who specialize in caring for babies.
NNPs primarily work with those that are premature, have medical conditions, or are experiencing acute illness. As a certified nurse-midwife, I watch NNPs combine their knowledge of neonatal medicine and the art of nursing to create an exceptional career that changes the lives of infants and families. While the job sounds like a dream, many NNPs also wonder about job security.

Why are neonatal nurse practitioners in high demand? The demand for NNPs is growing due to technological advances in neonatal intensive care units (NICU) and the rising preterm birth rates. I will discuss the 15 reasons neonatal nurse practitioners are in high demand for the next 10 years.


According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the estimated demand for neonatal nurse practitioners for NNPs is strong in the coming years. Neonatal nurse practitioners are in high demand currently, but the projections show that the need will only grow over the next ten years. The market demand for neonatal care skills and expertise in NNPs is quite evident. Between 2021 and 2031, the job outlook is robust for NNPs, and the demand for the profession will increase by 45.68%.

(Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics)


(The following are the 15 main reasons why neonatal nurse practitioners are in high demand for the next 10 years.)

REASON #1: Increasing Preterm Births

Neonatal nurse practitioners are in high demand because of the rising incidence of premature births. According to the March of Dimes, preterm births are increasing. In 2021, the premature birth rate increased to 10.5% from 6.5% in 2020, a four percent increase in just one year. The 2020 rate is also the highest recorded in nearly 15 years. NNPs are crucial players in supporting preterm infants through their specialized knowledge and skills. As the prematurity rate rises, the demand for neonatal medical services will increase. Luckily, as skilled healthcare providers, NNPs will effectively support this population.

REASON #2: NICU Technology

The massive leaps and bounds made by technology companies have impacted neonatal healthcare. One of the ways that NICU technology has improved is extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) pumps blood from the baby through an artificial lung, adding oxygen and removing carbon dioxide. Webcams in NICUs also enable NNPs to interact directly with high-level specialists and interdisciplinary care providers, but also families and loved ones.

The electronic health records and computerized order entry systems have ensured that NNPs can even place orders remotely to support patients more efficiently. Since NNPs are an integral part of the medical team, improving technology in the NICU will further increase the demand for NNPs.

REASON #3: Larger NICU Capability

Neonatal nurse practitioners are in high demand because of the growing capacities of NICUs. More infants require specialized neonatal care due to the increased preterm birth rate. With improved mortality rates, babies at younger gestational ages and with complex health conditions survive and need specialized advanced care. With the increasing number of infants needing care, more neonatal care means health systems need larger NICUs with additional NNPs.

REASON #4: Nursing shortages

NNPs are in high demand due to nationwide nursing shortages of neonatal care professionals. Across the United States, the healthcare system needs more experienced, quality healthcare professionals. NNPs are also affected by the nursing shortage. For example, community hospitals suffered a shortage of qualified NNPs, and the gap between the available NNPs and open positions continues to grow. The optimal staffing ratios for a higher level of care paired with the increased patient population mean that facilities need more NNPs to staff their NICUs. Ensuring optimal NICU staff ratios ensures quality care and patient safety while increasing the demand for neonatal care providers.

REASON #5: Research advances.

One of the key ways to ensure medicine moves forward is through research. The advances in research play a significant role in the increasing need for NNPs because the evidence demonstrates that NNPs are safe with excellent outcomes, and are cost-effective. NNPs also provide evidence-based care to neonatal patients and stay current with recommended practice changes. NNPs incorporate new research into their practice, while some contribute to the field by participating. As the specialization grows and improves from contemporary research, neonatal nurse practitioners will continue to provide exceptional care.

REASON #6: Continuity of Care

Neonatal nurse practitioners are in high demand and are excellent at providing a possible opportunity for the continuity of care for infants. Most NNPs work long shifts that last 12 to 24 hours, so parents who experienced an unexpected issue with their baby may get to work with the same professional for most of the initial time. Some hospitals use the NNP to unify the NICU team in caring for the infant and how to communicate and live out the treatment plan. Examples include NNPs supporting patients and families as they transition between settings and providing multidisciplinary care referrals. NNPs ensure that infants receive comprehensive, continuous care throughout their medical experience.

REASON #7: Family-centered care

When NNPs focus on family-centered care, they support the neonate and ensure they have created the best support system. For example, NNPs closely collaborate with family members to learn important information about any relevant family history, family preferences, and daily routines. NNPs partner with families for shared decision-making, know what the family desires, and ensure their goals and decisions occur throughout the process. Babies are a vital part of the family, and the family-centered care provided by NNPs acknowledges and respects this relationship. When families and neonatal nurse practitioners work together, everyone benefits.

REASON #8: Interdisciplinary collaboration

NNPs work closely with other professionals to support their patients and families best. Since NNPs have a longstanding nursing career that features collaboration, they easily communicate with the many professionals that each infant patient needs during their stay. For example, NNPs coordinate team efforts with nurses, respiratory therapists, radiology, surgeons, specialists, nutritionists, lactation consultants, and therapists. While an interdisciplinary team may require lots of moving parts, the long-term benefits improve the quality of care. When NNPs facilitate regular care conferences, they can ensure seamless collaboration between team members.

REASON #9: Advances in Neonatal Medicine

One of the main reasons that neonatal nurse practitioners are in high demand is the evolving technology and research in neonatal medicine. As the advances in neonatal medicine progress, the need for neonatal nurse practitioners to enact these techniques will increase. For example, research examines the importance of promoting sound development in preterm infants. There was also a recent discussion regarding respiratory distress syndrome (RDS) in preterm babies. Finally, hemodynamic monitoring has made advances in neonatal care.

REASON #10: Follow-up Care

While most NNPs are in delivery rooms or the NICU, others perform follow-up care after the patient gets discharged home. They are excellent at providing follow-up care to ensure a smooth transition between the hospital and home. NNPs offer coordination of care, family-centered support, and health education. By helping high-risk infants with aftercare, NNPs can ensure the care plan recommendations are followed, including emotional and social issues.

REASON #11: Long-term Support

One of the significant reasons NNPs are in demand is that providing additional support to the baby and family is critical. The outstanding long-term support that NNPs provide ensures improved parent satisfaction, neonatal outcomes, and staff satisfaction. Long-term support from NNPs promotes a holistic care approach focusing on the unique needs of each neonatal patient and family. By focusing on their emotional, physical, and developmental needs, NNPs can provide long-term support.

REASON #12: Outcomes

One of the reasons that neonatal nurse practitioners are in high demand is because of the quality outcomes they provide. NNPs improve mortality and have comparable results to neonatologists. By utilizing NNPs, the evidence demonstrates a way to improve access to babies and families and improve community outcomes.

REASON #13: Increasing Quality and Safety Standards

As the reliance on healthcare metrics grows, the industry must strive to meet these new quality and safety standards. These criteria include quality benchmarking, where NNPs track and evaluate neonatal practice outcomes. When NNPs align with quality and safety standards, the work environment, quality of care, and patient outcomes improve. NNPs drive quality improvement initiatives and evidence-based change.

REASON #14: Education

Neonatal nurse practitioners are in demand because they are experts in providing thorough education to families. Neonatal nurse practitioners are skilled educators who provide specialized care instructions for complex medical conditions or anticipatory guidance. NNPs give education on developmental milestones and practical expectations regarding their baby. NNPs can discuss medication, medical procedures, and immunizations. They also can describe complicated medical terms and provide a supportive treatment plan. They can provide a tailored education since NNPs have an intimate knowledge of the patient and family.

REASON #15: Advocacy

One reason that neonatal nurse practitioners are in high demand is that they are strong advocates for causes, patients, and colleagues. In fact, NNPs can directly improve care by advocating for individual patients and families and assisting them in getting the care they deserve. Advocating for neonatal patients is an excellent way to provide crucial support to entire families. NNPs support advocacy of global health initiatives that strive to improve neonatal health on a large scale by focusing on mortality rates, healthcare access, or policies that support neonatal health.


I am grateful to have skilled neonatal nurse practitioners attend high-risk births and witness their skill in managing infants with complex conditions. While working in busy obstetric units, I see the demand for NNPs is based on their specialized knowledge, skills, and experience. With proven outcomes and additional support, NNPs are essential members of the neonatal healthcare team.

In conclusion, this article helped answer the must-ask question, “Why are neonatal nurse practitioners in high demand?” The market for NNPs is booming and expected to grow over the next decade due to the 15 reasons neonatal nurse practitioners are in high demand for the next 10 years. I know these reasons position NNPs as crucial neonatal medicine providers that improve the outcomes of babies and support the needs of families during stressful periods.

Caitlin Goodwin DNP, CNM, RN
Caitlin Goodwin is a Certified Nurse-Midwife who has been a nurse for 12 years, primarily in women’s health. She is passionate about caring for children with developmental disabilities, as her son has Autism Spectrum Disorder. She is currently working as a freelance writer and consultant and is passionate about advocating for her patients, students, and profession.