The United States faces a critical shortage of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners (PNP) in the coming years, a shortage that could especially hurt the less-populated areas of the country. The projected demand for nurse practitioners shows how important finding qualified nurses has become. Nationwide, the number of nurse practitioners is expected to grow 31% by 2026, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). In Texas, that number is expected to reach a staggering 43.8%. Those who enter a Master of Science in Nursing – Pediatric Nurse Practitioner degree program are preparing themselves to take on important roles in this in-demand profession. 

What A PNP Does 

A PNP can work in primary care or acute care. Those who work in primary care develop the extensive knowledge needed to treat patients below the age of 21. This includes well-care, preventive medicine and management of acute and chronic conditions. PNP learns holistic care that seeks to attain optimal health outcomes not only for individual patients but also for families and communities. 

Quality Master of Science in Nursing programs prepare pediatric nursing practitioners with the latest healthcare strategies, including the use of technology, to handle the complex situations that frequently arise in pediatric healthcare. PNP may work in a hospital, doctor’s clinic, school, community center, and telehealth center. The top practice setting for PNPs is hospital outpatient clinics. 

The Shortage of PNP Nurses 

Right now, there are about 270,000 nurse practitioners in the United States. About 5% of those work in pediatrics, according to the American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP). Other facts about nurse practitioners from the AANP include: 

  • The mean, full-time base salary in 2018 for nurse practitioners was $105,903 
  • Most nurse practitioners see three patients per hour 
  • The average age of nurse practitioners is 49
  • Malpractice issues are extremely low, with less than 1% of nurse practitioners being named the primary defendant in a malpractice case 

An effort is needed to recruit more PNP nurses, according to a 2019 white paper from researchers at a variety of universities, including University of Pittsburgh, Northeastern University, University of Iowa and Texas A&M University. The paper reports “a forecasted critical shortage of PNPs over the next decade. Even with significant interventions to enhance the supply pipeline, shortage predictions remain.” 

In commenting on the white paper, the National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners writes that “many U.S. counties continue to have a critical provider shortage. Underserved and rural areas are most detrimentally affected, with current provider shortages leaving millions of children without access to a pediatric primary care provider.” 

How to Become a PNP 

For those who hold their Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree and have obtained their Texas Board of Nursing license,  the next step to earning a PNP is to earn a master’s degree in nursing with a specialty in pediatric nurse practitioner. Finishing such a program prepares nurses to sit for the Pediatric Nurse Practitioner in Primary Care certification examination. The exam is administered by either the Pediatric Nurse Certification Board or the American Nurses Credentialing Center. 

The graduate program focuses on giving nurses the skills and knowledge they need to provide care for patients between birth and the age of 21. Hybrid online programs, such as the one offered through Houston Christian University, allow nurses flexibility in how they earn their degree. The shortage of PNP nurses has led to a wealth of opportunity for those willing to make the commitment to earning their master’s degree. With the emergence of online learning, doing so have never been more convenient.