Acute Care Pediatric Nurse Practitioner Overview

  • What You Will Do: Provide care for adolescents and children who have acute, chronic, or critical illnesses by assessing, diagnosing, treating, and educating them and their families.
  • Where Will You Work: Children’s hospitals, intensive care units, urgent care clinics, emergency departments, and more.
  • Employment Projections: The NP profession is estimated to grow by 31 percent from 2016 to 2026.
  • How Much Will I Earn: Acute Care Pediatric Nurse Practitioners (AC PNPs) have a competitive salary range from $80,000 to $120,000 according to various sources.
  • Number of Programs: In the U.S. there are 27 AC PNP programs.
  • How Long Does It Take to Become an AC PNP: An AC PNP master’s program will be around 2 to 3 years in length.
  • Requirements to Become One: After an RN license, a bachelor’s degree, and a master’s in nursing you can earn your NP license. Some programs require acute care RN experience.

Eight Steps to Become a AC-PNP

  1. Earn Your RN – After you get your RN or BSN from a university that is accredited by the ACEN or CCNE, you can apply to master’s programs. Use our BSN guide to help you figure out the process.
  2. Pass The NCLEX-RN Exam – All RNs have to take the NCLEX-RN exam to get licensed. We have an NCLEX-RN guide and some practice exams that can help you pass the test.
  3. Earn Your MSN – Your MSN curriculum will include classes in advanced health assessment, pharmacotherapeutics, medical ethics, acute care, and more.
  4. Complete Supervised Clinical Hours – As a part of your NP program you must complete 500 supervised hours of clinical care.
  5. Become Board Certified – The certifying body for AC PNPs is the Pediatric Nurse Certification Board (PNCB).
  6. Obtain Licensure – You can apply for state licensure through your Board of Nursing (BON) after you are certified.
  7. Obtain a DEA Number – In order to prescribe medication you must apply for a DEA registration number.
  8. Maintain Active Certification and Licensure –The PNCB requires 15 contact hours per year to annually renew your certification. Every 7 years you will also be required to meet certain requirements to maintain your certification.

What is an Acute Care Pediatric Nurse Practitioner?

AC PNPs manage acutely ill and chronically ill infants, children, adolescents, and young adults. As an AC PNP you will work within a larger healthcare team to assess and treat illnesses as well as provide holistic care for the entire family unit. You will be responsible for prescribing medications and managing patient care plans. According to the PNCB, you will care for patients with life-threatening illnesses, organ dysfunctions and failure, and more. While Pediatric Nurse Practitioners (PNPs) traditionally care for children, AC PNPs may care for young adults who are still battling childhood illnesses and diseases. An important part of being an AC PNP is providing education to patients and their families. Read about the Pediatric Primary Care Nurse Practitioner (PPCNP) and Pediatrics Registered Nurse.

Campus and Online Acute Care Pediatric Nurse Practitioner (PNP-AC) Programs

University Offered asCity/State
University of Alabama at Birmingham Campus, Hybrid, OnlineBirmingham, AL
University of South Alabama Campus, OnlineMobile, AL
University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences-Little Rock Campus, HybridLittle Rock, AR
University of Illinois at Chicago Campus, Hybrid, OnlineChicago, IL
Northeastern University – Accelerated Campus, Hybrid, OnlineBoston, MA
University of Michigan-Ann Arbor Campus, HybridAnn Arbor, MI
Wayne State University Campus, HybridDetroit, MI
University of Akron Main Campus Campus, Hybrid, OnlineAkron, OH
Case Western Reserve University Campus, HybridCleveland, OH
University of Florida – Gainesville Campus, Hybrid, OnlineGainesville, FL
Creighton University Campus, Hybrid, OnlineOmaha, NE
University of Cincinnati-Main Campus Campus, HybridCincinnati, OH
The Ohio State University-Main Campus (Columbus) Campus, Hybrid, OnlineColumbus, OH
The University of Texas at Arlington Campus, Hybrid, OnlineArlington, TX
The University of Texas at El Paso Campus, OnlineEl Paso, TX
Marquette University Campus, HybridMilwaukee, WI
Emory University Campus, HybridAtlanta, GA
Wright State University-Main Campus Campus, Hybrid, OnlineDayton, OH
Brandman University Campus, Hybrid, OnlineIrvine, CA
University of Maryland-Baltimore Campus, Hybrid, OnlineBaltimore, MD
Drexel University Campus, Hybrid, OnlinePhiladelphia, PA
Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center Campus, Hybrid, OnlineLubbock, TX
Duquesne University Campus, OnlinePittsburgh, PA
University of Virginia Campus, Hybrid, OnlineCharlottesville, VA
Duke University Campus, HybridDurham, NC

How Do I Become an Acute Care Pediatric Nurse Practitioner?

All NP roles first require a bachelor’s degree and then a master’s in nursing. You must get your RN before you become an AC PNP. If you are not currently an RN there are still options for you to become an AC PNP.

  • BSN to MSN: 2 year-long master’s programs are available if you already have your BSN.
  • Bachelors to MSN: Direct Entry Master’s in Nursing programs provide a way for non-nurses to enter the nursing field and become NPs. You will become an RN and earn your master’s in nursing in the same program. Before entering the program you will likely need to take courses in anatomy and physiology, microbiology, chemistry, and developmental psychology. Direct Entry programs are usually 2 to 3 years in length.
  • BSN to DNP: Earning a Doctorate in Nursing Practice (DNP) degree will also get you a master’s in nursing in 4 years. This degree prepares you to integrate evidence based research into your clinical practice.
  • MSN to DNP: Getting a DNP if you already have an MSN will take about 2 to 3 years.

Certification and Licensure: By getting certified through the PNBC you prove that you have the required knowledge to care for acutely ill pediatric patients. You must renew this certification annually by proving that you have met the 15-contact hour requirement. Every 7 years the PNBC also requires that AC PNPs meet additional requirements to keep their certification. Once certified you can submit your certification, RN license, NP program transcripts, and a fee to get licensed through your state’s BON.

Where Do AC PNPs Typically Work?

As an AC PNP you will work in hospitals, emergency departments, intensive care units, patient homes, subspecialty clinics and more. This provides you with the opportunity to change your practice setting throughout your career.

How Much Do Pediatric Primary Care Nurse Practitioners Earn?

Your salary will vary depending on your state, city, experience, and practice setting. You can expect to make around $80,000 to $120,000 per year. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics all NPs earn a median of $104,610 annually. Working in a more specialized area or a private hospital will likely pay more than a public one. However, there are advantages to working with the medically underserved population. The Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program and Nurse Corps Loan Repayment Program are available for people working in medically underserved areas. Perkins Loan forgiveness is another way that you can get some of your student debt paid for if you are eligible.

Online AC PNP Programs

Education offered online has made it possible for busy professionals to obtain their master’s degrees. AC PNP online programs enable you to keep up with your personal life while pursuing a career as an NP. These programs allow you to do your coursework and classes online while completing clinical hours in a location that is convenient for you. You may not even need to go to campus at all. While there is only 1 fully online program for AC PNPs, there are a number of hybrid programs. Hybrid programs allow you to do some of your coursework online and require minimal campus time.

What is a Typical AC PNP Curriculum?

Vanderbilt University has a great example of the typical curriculum that you will see in your AC PNP program. There will likely be additional courses as well that vary from university to university:

  • Applications of Research to Practice
  • Health Promotion of Behavior Development: Birth through Adolescence
  • Advanced Pathophysiology
  • Advanced Health Assessment
  • Advanced Practice Nursing in Pediatric Acute Care
  • Pharmacology

The Role of the AC PNP in the Healthcare Provider Shortage

While the greatest shortage of healthcare providers is currently within the primary care arena, the aging baby boomer generation means that more and more healthcare providers in all fields are retiring. The Affordable Care Act has placed emphasis on preventative care, but the U.S. still has high rates of acute and chronic illnesses. This applies to the pediatric population as well. Since the Affordable Care Act has also raised the number of insured people, there has been an increase in people seeking healthcare. AC PNPs can help fill the gap of providers in the pediatric acute care field.

Number of AC PNP Programs in the United States

There are 27 AC PNP programs in the U.S. and only 1 completely online program. The online program is offered through the University of Texas-El Paso. The number of total AC PNP programs in the U.S. is small, but almost all of them offer hybrid courses which increases accessibility.

Acute Care Pediatric Nurse Practitioner Resources

Denisco, S. M., Barker, A. M., (2016). Advanced practice nursing: Essential knowledge for the profession. Burlington, MA: Jones and Barlett Learning.

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