A nurse practitioner (NP) is a registered nurse (RN) who has additional education
and training in a specialty area, such as family practice or pediatrics. Pediatric
and family practice NPs can provide regular health care for kids.
Nurse practitioners (also referred to as advanced practice nurses, or APNs) have
a master's degree in nursing (MS or MSN) and board certification in their specialty.
For example, a pediatric NP has advanced education, skills, and training in caring
for infants, children, and teens.
Licensed as nurse practitioners and registered nurses, NPs follow the rules and
regulations of the Nurse Practice Act of the state where they work. If accredited
through the national board exam, the NP will have an additional credential, such as
Certified Pediatric Nurse Practitioner (CPNP) or Certified Family Nurse Practitioner
teach other health care members, student nurses, and local groups about children's
provide referrals to community groups
provide telemedicine care for children and their parents
NPs and Doctors
Most NPs maintain close working relationships with doctors and consult them as
needed. NPs are licensed in all 50 states and can dispense most medicines. Some states
require a doctor to co-sign prescriptions. In a few states, NPs can practice and prescribe
without physician supervision.
Although doctors have additional training to help patients deal with complex medical
problems, many people feel that NPs spend more time with their patients. NP training
emphasizes disease prevention, reduction of health risks, and thorough patient education.
Like doctors, NPs are involved in more than just direct patient care. Many participate
in education, research, and legislative activities to improve the quality of health
care in the United States.
Should My Kids See a Nurse Practitioner?
Pediatric NPs can deliver much of the health care that kids require, consulting
doctors and specialists as necessary. Educating kids and their families about normal
growth and childhood development issues (e.g., toilet
tantrums, biting) is a big part of the pediatric NP's
If your child has severe health problems that require advanced training or highly
specialized medical care, you may need to see a doctor. If you're unsure about your
child's specific illness and want to know if an NP can help, ask your doctor. The
scope of an NP's practice depends upon your state's regulations.
If you want to verify an NP's credentials, check with the American College of Nurse
Practitioners (ACNP). It's also a good idea to ask NPs about their specific qualifications,
education, and training, just as you would interview any doctor for your child.
Also be sure to check with your health insurance provider to be sure that services
provided by NPs are covered through your policy.
How Can I Find an NP?
You can find pediatric NPs through the National Association of Pediatric Nurse
Practitioners (NAPNAP) and through local hospitals or nursing schools. Also, many
doctors share office space with NPs to provide all types of primary care. Other doctors
work with NPs to offer them training in different types of health care. Your doctor
might already have such an arrangement in place, so just ask.