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Best Online Neonatal Nurse Practitioner Programs

If you’re ready to become a neonatal nurse practitioner, we’re ready to help you get started. Explore top programs, degree paths, essential skills, and more.

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Stepping into the world of neonatal care is both a calling and a commitment. For those who want to spend their days caring for newborns and helping families, an advanced degree is often necessary.

Becoming a neonatal nurse practitioner is a journey that demands not just expertise, but a profound dedication to the most vulnerable patients. Getting a neonatal NP degree is easier than ever, with online neonatal nurse practitioner programs popping up at major universities across the country.

These programs, while accessible from the comfort of your own home, are rigorous, comprehensive, and designed to prepare you for the challenges and complexities of neonatal care. Universities that offer online NNP programs offer the same high-quality education and training as their in-person counterparts.

In this guide, we’ll explore the top online neonatal nurse practitioner programs designed for current RNs looking to advance their careers. We’ll also cover the type of programs offered, how much they cost, and the few in-person components required by each. Keep reading to get started.

Profiling Popular Online Neonatal Nurse Practitioner Programs

Online neonatal nurse practitioner programs help RNs advance their careers and focus on a much-needed area of care. A select number of universities offer this specialty, typically in two-to-three-year programs with specialized training and coursework.

Below are three reputable online neonatal nurse practitioner programs that offer mostly remote degree options.

Baylor University

Baylor University offers a competitive, online DNP program with a neonatal specialty. The NNP track gives graduates the skills they need to work with newborns up to 24 months old. Students learn how to provide care for newborns, manage high-tech hospital equipment, and how to collaborate with other health professionals.

To apply, students must meet basic requirements such as a BSN from an accredited nursing school and a 3.0 GPA or higher from that program. You must also have worked for at least a year in NICU neonatal clinical practice.

Baylor’s BSN to DNP program is 75 credits and takes a little over three years to complete mostly online. Only certain states can apply for the program. You can find out if you’re one of the 25 states accepted on Baylor University’s map.

All students must complete some type of clinical experience to graduate, but Baylor has a large network and works individually with students to find the right placement for their needs. Some of these placements even end with jobs after graduation.

Regis University

Regis University offers an MS in Nursing with a neonatal nurse practitioner focus. The degree combines advanced medical techniques, health care policy, and ethics so students receive a well-rounded education.

The program is offered in a synchronized web-based format, so you must attend online classes at a certain time. Classes are held once a week from 8 am to 5 pm. For the 2023-24 academic year, tuition is $965 per credit, so for the 44-credit program, you’ll pay about $42,460.

A total of 630 hours of mentored clinical experience is required, and students must attend two on-campus intensives in their second and fourth semesters. Each intensive lasts two to three days.

Regis University’s NNP program is accredited by the National Association of Neonatal Nurses (NANN). To apply for the program, students must already have a bachelor’s degree from an accredited school and a minimum GPA of 2.75 or higher. Potential students must also have an active RN license and an AHA Basic Life Support (BLS) certification.

University of Connecticut

The University of Connecticut offers an MS & DNP program for those looking to become NNPs. The program is taught by nurses actively working in the field, so students can trust their professors to deliver the most up-to-date information.

Courses are entirely online, but two campus visits are required during the program so students can take part in intensives. The program is a minimum of two years with full-time study, but there are part-time options, as well. Part-time study requires six or seven semesters versus the five semesters required for full-time students.

Students can choose from several online neonatal nurse practitioner programs, including the 44-credit Master of Science degree, a 76- to 82-credit BS to Doctor of Nursing Practice, and a 29-credit post-graduate certificate.

Upon graduation from any of these programs, NNPs are eligible to take the Neonatal Nurse Practitioner (NNP) examination given by the National Certification Corporation for the Obstetric, Gynecologic, and Neonatal Specialties.

How to Choose a Neonatal NP Degree Path

As a prospective neonatal nurse practitioner, you can choose from multiple academic paths to earn your certification. Whether you pursue a master’s or a doctorate, will depend on factors like the job you hope to get after graduation, your desired scope of practice, and more. There are also financial ramifications to consider.

Consider these factors and more when deciding which one of the online neonatal practitioner programs may work best for your goals.

Career Goals

MSN

Nurses who choose to get a master’s are qualified to work within hospitals and clinics as practicing nurses in neonatal wards. They take the skills they learned in their programs and apply them to real-life situations within these settings.

DNP

With a more advanced degree, neonatal nurses holding doctorates often take on higher leadership roles within hospitals and NICUs. They also tend to work in the education field, acting as professors in the same programs they received their degrees.

A DNP can provide the skills and education necessary to take on roles in healthcare policy and government. Or these nurses may choose to work in public health settings or clinical research.

Desired Scope of Practice

MSN

A neonatal nurse practitioner who holds a master’s degree has the skills to treat and diagnose newborn patients. They also gain an understanding of how to work with families of patients and advocate for their patient’s needs.

DNP

Neonatal nurses with DNPs often take their knowledge a step further than those with a master’s. They learn more advanced diagnostic skills and focus on administration and management. If you want a wider range of responsibilities and opportunities, a DNP may be a better choice than an MSN that offers a slightly more limited skill set.

Time & Budget

MSN

Master’s in nursing degrees are typically more affordable since they’re only two to three years. The coursework may also be less rigorous than DNP coursework, allowing for more flexibility in scheduling. MSN degrees also often allow full- or part-time study.

DNP

Like any doctoral degree, a DNP is a more rigorous, time-consuming option. Often full time, a doctorate focuses on advanced skills and will likely take four years instead of two, making it the more expensive option. To make the program more affordable, make sure you’re considering scholarship options at the school of your choice or paid internships outside of school.

Essential Skills for Aspiring Neonatal Nurse Practitioners

Working in a neonatal unit takes some extra skills that not all nurses can offer. NNPs work with newborns who have a variety of ailments and their very anxious parents. When deciding if an NNP track is the right move for you, consider the skills you’ll need listed below.

Adaptability

Neonatal settings are dynamic and can be unpredictable. Working in a NICU requires you to adapt constantly. If you’re looking for a fast-paced career that helps one of the most vulnerable populations, working in neonatal care may be the right option.

Communication

A good bedside manner is of utmost importance if you are a neonatal nurse. You’re not only communicating constantly with doctors and other nurses, but you’re there to answer the questions of worried parents and family members. You need to build a rapport with these families and be able to deliver crucial, sometimes difficult information.

Cultural Sensitivity

When you work in a neonatal ward of a hospital, you’re going to encounter people of all different backgrounds. Understanding and appreciating these backgrounds is necessary to build a relationship with families and their newborn children. People from diverse cultures and backgrounds can have different ways of communicating, and you’ll want to keep this in mind if you work as an NNP.

Empathy

Neonatal nurses must always have a sense of empathy when dealing with newborn patients and their families. Doctors and nurses are often subject to compassion fatigue, which refers to the emotional and physical drain healthcare professionals face when dealing with patients who are suffering. Compassion fatigue can result in less empathetic practitioners. Compassion and empathy are essential in a neonatal ward where parents are more vulnerable than ever.

Resilience

Helping patients can be exhausting, particularly when they’re children. Neonatal nurse practitioners need to learn how to compartmentalize and find a way to be resilient during especially challenging times.

Your FAQs, Answered

Neonatal programs look different from school to school, so you likely have a ton of questions. Below are some of the most frequently asked questions about NNP programs and the answers to them.

Are online neonatal nurse practitioner programs legitimate?

Absolutely. Online neonatal nurse practitioner programs are often just as legitimate as on-campus programs, they’re just delivered online instead. Check to see if a program and/or school is accredited, meaning it follows a specific set of guidelines and is reputable.

Are there MSN online neonatal nurse practitioner programs?

Yes, there are MSN online neonatal programs. Most neonatal nursing programs are master of science in nursing degrees that have a specialty or track that focuses on neonatal nursing. The MSN is the umbrella for all nursing students, with different specialties underneath.

Can I earn a DNP with a specialization in neonatal care?

Some schools offer Doctor of Nursing Practice with a neonatal specialty. Both the University of Connecticut and Regis University offer DNP options. Regis’ program is BN to DNP, so students just need to have a bachelor’s degree from an accredited university and meet other university-specific requirements.

How long does it take to complete an online neonatal nurse practitioner program?

The length of time it takes to complete an online neonatal nurse practitioner program depends on a few things. Full-time students and those who choose accelerated programs will finish their degrees faster than those who are part-time. Generally, expect your degree to take at least two years, and upwards of four. Completion time also depends on whether you’re getting a master’s or doctorate. Master’s degrees take less time than doctorate-level degrees.

Is becoming a neonatal nurse practitioner worth it?

Becoming a neonatal nurse practitioner can be a rewarding career that offers nurses the ability to work exclusively with newborns and provide top-notch care. Some nurses choose to focus on other areas of medicine depending on their interests and career goals.

What certification do I need to earn after completing my program?

Most graduates of neonatal nursing programs must sit for the Neonatal Nurse Practitioner (NNP) examination, offered by the National Certification Corporation for the Obstetric, Gynecologic, and Neonatal Specialties. Hospitals require that nurses pass this exam to demonstrate their knowledge in the neonatal specialty.