The Difference Between Acute Care and Primary Care Pediatric Nurse Practitioners
Nurses interested in pediatric care have several paths they can follow. However, earning a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree with a pediatric nurse practitioner (PNP) specialization can solidify your career focus and give you the advanced training needed to assess, diagnose, and treat children and adolescents. For many, the question becomes whether to choose to specialize in acute care or primary care pediatrics. The two specialties have a number of similarities and differences.
Nurses in both acute care and primary care pediatric nurse practitioner specialties have master’s degrees and treat patients from birth to age 21. They may perform some similar duties and work in some of the same settings. Both pediatric nursing specialties are vital, but they are also very different. Here are some key points highlighting the unique responsibilities of these careers in nursing:
Pediatric Nurse Practitioner Acute Care
These specialty nurses perform essential roles in pediatric critical care, working with the sickest and most vulnerable infants and children. According to the Pediatric Nursing Certification Board (PNCB), “The acute care PNP role is distinct and separate from the primary care PNP role, and is dependent on patient care needs, not settings.”1 Acute care pediatric nurse practitioners are part of interprofessional teams caring for patients with life-threatening illnesses and organ dysfunction or failure. The care they provide depends on the specific needs of the patient. Some of the regular responsibilities associated with being an acute care PNP include:1
- Diagnosing and managing complex emergencies and life-threatening conditions
- Conducting advanced physical assessments
- Interpreting lab and diagnostic test results
- Providing families and patients with the information and support they need for complex health-related decision-making
- Working with patients and families to coordinate aftercare options
A graduate of an MSN degree program with a PNP acute care specialization might practice in pediatric specialty areas that include cardiology, dermatology, and gastroenterology.2 While job settings vary, these pediatric nursing professionals may work in hospitals, intensive care units, emergency departments, and specialty clinics. Some make home visits as well.1
Pediatric Nurse Practitioner Primary Care
These healthcare professionals practice general pediatrics. Their work is wide-ranging and includes diagnosing and treating common childhood illnesses, performing child wellness exams and developmental screenings, ordering and interpreting diagnostic tests, and providing scheduled immunizations.3
As a graduate of an MSN degree program with a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner Primary Care specialization, you might choose to work in a primary care practice, specialty clinic, hospital, urgent care facility, or school-based health clinic. Wherever you decide to dedicate your talents, you should know that you’ll be helping to fill what the National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners (NAPNAP) calls a “critical shortage” of pediatric nurse practitioners.4
“Of 270,000 nurse practitioners in the U.S., less than 8% are educated and certified as pediatric nurse practitioners. While the number of family nurse practitioner graduates increases dramatically each year, the supply of PNPs has not appreciably grown compared with other NP specialties,” NAPNAP says.
Earn an MSN Degree With a PNP Primary Care Specialization Online
You can help serve the diverse needs of infants, youth, and young adults by earning an online MSN degree with a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner (PNP) Primary Care specialization from Walden University, No. 1 in Master of Science in Nursing graduates in the U.S.5
Walden’s master’s program in nursing (MSN) is accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE), an autonomous accrediting body officially recognized by the U.S. Secretary of Education. And the MSN Pediatric Nurse Practitioner Primary Care’s content is aligned with the educational standards of the National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners and the National Organization of Nurse Practitioner Faculties (NONPF).
When you choose Walden to earn your online nursing degree, you’ll learn from the accredited university’s distinguished faculty composed of experienced practitioners, published scholars, board members, award winners for teaching and mentorship, and honorees for leadership in the field—including several Fellows of the American Academy of Nursing/American Association of Nurse Practitioners.
As a Walden MSN student, you’ll experience engaging coursework with state-of-the-art learning technologies and interactive simulations, expand your existing skill set through the practical application of new knowledge in pediatric settings, and be prepared with the educational requirements to sit for the national pediatric nurse practitioner certification exam.
Walden University Practicum Pledge™
Walden University understands that finding a site or preceptor can be challenging and we are dedicated to supporting you at every step of the way to ensure a timely and successful placement. Walden University Practicum Pledge™ creates a collaborative search process between our MSN NP and DNP NP students and our large network of field sites and preceptors. If after several tries you’re unable to identify your own site and preceptor, we pledge to help match you with a preceptor and site. We’ve added a dedicated Field Placement Team to explain the process and requirements and proactively partner with you to offer site and preceptor matching. The Walden University Practicum Pledge™ gives our students added confidence as they embark on their NP journey.
If providing pediatric care as a nurse practitioner is your ambition, earning a degree online can provide the flexibility to help you reach your goal. You can stay engaged with your family and active in your nursing career while preparing for a future helping children in your community lead healthier lives.
Walden University is an accredited institution offering an online MSN degree program with a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner (PNP) Primary Care specialization. Expand your career options and earn your degree in a convenient, flexible format that fits your busy life.
5Source: National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) IPEDS database. Based on the most recent year of completions survey data available, using CIP code family 51.38 “Registered Nursing, Nursing Administration, Nursing Research, and Clinical Nursing” for Master’s degrees (Award level 7). Available at https://nces.ed.gov/ipeds/use-the-data. (Retrieved January 2021; may consist of or include provisional release data.)
The baccalaureate degree program in nursing (BSN), master’s degree program in nursing (MSN), and Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) program at Walden University are accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (www.ccneaccreditation.org).
Walden University is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission, www.hlcommission.org.
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