Pediatric Nurse Practitioner Masters of Science in Nursing Degree Programs

Working with children as their patient population focus, pediatric nurse practitioners serve the primary and acute care needs of young people from birth to young adulthood. Specializing in pediatrics involves treating ill children, as well as providing routine care for well children of all ages. This means that pediatric nurse practitioners are found working in a wide range of settings, from pediatric offices, clinics, and schools, to hospitals and other acute care settings.

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Pediatric nurse practitioners provide family-centered care, a unique approach that values family collaboration as a way to ensure the best possible outcomes for the children in their care. Family-centered care focuses on the overall wellbeing of children and recognizes that families strengthen and enhance the effectiveness of the care children get from healthcare providers.

Pediatric nurse practitioners offer a wide array of services that include:

  • Managing acute, chronic and critical pediatric illnesses
  • Diagnosing and treating common childhood illnesses
  • Providing counseling regarding common child health concerns, such as nutrition and obesity
  • Performing developmental screenings
  • Ordering and interpreting the results of laboratory and diagnostic tests
  • Prescribing medications and medical equipment
  • Providing behavioral counseling and screening and managing mental health illnesses in children and adolescents
  • Providing pediatric healthcare maintenance, including well child exams
  • Performing in-depth physical assessments
  • Performing school physicals
  • Providing childhood immunizations

Like other advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs), pediatric nurse practitioners must earn a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) at a minimum to qualify for Pediatric Nurse Practitioner national certification and APRN state licensure:

How to Become a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner: Earning an MSN in Preparation for National Certification and State Licensure

A Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) with a Pediatric NP concentration (and either a primary or acute care focus) is specifically designed to meet the education requirements necessary for RNs to become pediatric nurse practitioners. Graduates of MSN Pediatric Nurse Practitioner primary or acute care programs are eligible for state licensure and national certification through either of the certifying bodies that offer advanced practice Pediatric Nurse Practitioner credentials:

Admission Requirements

Admission into a conventional two-year MSN-PNP program requires a current and unencumbered RN license and a Bachelor of Science in Nursing. However, because these programs tend to be highly competitive, it is common for universities and nursing schools to require candidates to possess the following:

  • Minimum undergraduate GPA
  • Minimum GRE scores
  • Letters of recommendation (academic, professional, and clinical)
  • Resume or CV
  • Admissions essay (or sit for an admissions interview)

Further, most programs require candidates to gain one to two years of full-time pediatric nursing experience prior to entering the program.

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Pediatric Nurse Practitioner MSN Program Options for Nontraditional Grad Students

Although traditional MSN programs require students to possess a BSN, a number of unique programs allow both nurses and non-nurses to pursue a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner MSN program in a condensed/accelerated format:

  • RN-to-MSN Programs for ADN-Prepared RNs: RN-to-MSN bridge programs allow ADN-prepared RNs to earn both their BSN and MSN in preparation to become pediatric NPs in an accelerated format that takes about three years to complete.
  • Direct-Entry MSN Programs for Bachelor’s Degree Holders in a Non-Nursing Major: Direct-entry MSN programs (also called entry-Level MSN programs) are designed for career changers who possess a bachelor’s degree in a major other than nursing. These programs allow students to first earn their RN and then work toward their MSN in an accelerated format that takes three to four years to complete.

Part-time and online programs have also become popular options for working RNs with busy schedules. Online programs allow students to complete some or all of their coursework online and then complete the clinical requirements of the program at partner sites within close proximity to home. In many instances, clinical sequences are able to be completed at an RN’s current place of employment.

Pediatric Nurse Practitioner MSN Program Content

Graduates of MSN Pediatric Nurse Practitioner (MSN-PNP) degree programs are prepared to:

  • Provide direct healthcare services to children and families in a variety of settings
  • Apply theory and research to clinical practice with children and their families
  • Design, implement, and evaluate plans of care
  • Utilize leadership skills to create positive change for children and their families
  • Contribute to the advancement of the pediatric nursing profession

The MSN-PNP prepares students through didactic and practical knowledge development in areas such as:

  • Advanced pediatric health assessment
  • Child/adolescent development and theory
  • Pediatric physiology and pathophysiology
  • Nutritional and pharmacologic management in pediatrics
  • Clinical management of the pediatric patient
  • Pediatric ethical and sociocultural issues
  • Professional role development

Students begin working on their graduate core curriculum during the first year, with clinical experiences gradually occurring during the second year. These programs are designed to include the 600 clinical hours required for national certification.

Coursework and clinical experiences depend on the focus of the MSN Pediatric Nurse Practitioner program:

Additional Content in Pediatric Primary Care NP Programs

MSN Nurse Practitioner programs in pediatric primary care (PNP-PC) prepare students to provide care for well children, children with common acute illnesses, and children with stable chronic conditions in a variety of practice settings. Courses prepare students to provide:

  • Well-child examinations
  • Routine developmental screenings
  • Diagnostic and treatment of common childhood illnesses
  • Guidance regarding common child health concerns
  • Childhood immunizations

Pediatric primary care nurse practitioners are also educated and trained to conduct research, provide education, and influence health policy as it relates to pediatric care. Many MSN-Nurse Practitioner programs in pediatric primary care emphasize health disparities as it relates to socioeconomics as a way to prepare students to work with diverse, vulnerable, and underserved pediatric and adolescent populations.


Specialty courses in a PNP-PC program include:

  • Nursing Concepts in Advanced Family Nursing
  • Pharmacology and Pharmacotherapeutic Management of Common Minor and Acute Illnesses
  • Infant, Child and Adolescent Health Management of Minor Common Illnesses
  • Infant, Child and Adolescent Health: Wellness
  • Infant Child and Adolescent Health: Children with Chronic Conditions

Clinical Rotations

Clinical experiences for a PNP-PC program would take place in:

  • Group clinical practices
  • Specialty clinics
  • Rural health clinics
  • School-based health clinics
  • Health departments
  • Hospital ambulatory settings
  • Nurse-managed clinics

Additional Content in Pediatric Acute Care NP Programs

MSN Pediatric Nurse Practitioner programs with a focus on acute care (PNP-AC) prepare students to provide care to infants and children with complex and rapidly changing health conditions in acute care settings. Coursework prepares students to manage acute, chronic, and critical illnesses in infants, children, and adolescent and to handle complex monitoring and ongoing management of intensive therapies.


Specialty courses in a PNP-AC program include:

  • Family/child/adolescent development
  • Pediatric physiology/acute care pathophysiology
  • Nutritional and pharmacologic management in acute care
  • Diagnostic and therapeutic management of acutely and critically ill children
  • Ethical issues in the acute care settings
  • Pediatric end-of-life/palliative care
  • Professional ethics and role development

Clinical Rotations

Clinical experiences in PNP-AC program focus on acute care support decision-making, continuity of care, family interventions, collaboration, and transitional care. Rotations occur in a number of diverse settings, such as:

  • Pediatric intensive care units
  • Pediatric surgery
  • Pediatric step-down units
  • Inpatient units
  • Emergency departments
  • Pediatric/neonatal transport
  • Ambulatory, rehabilitative, and specialty-based clinics

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