When you walk into your pediatrician’s office, you expect to see a receptionist, nurses, and of course, a couple doctors. But many pediatricians also work closely with pediatric nurse practitioners (PNPs). These medical specialists are nurses who have undergone additional training, hold a master’s degree in nursing, and are board-certified in pediatrics.
While a PNP is not a medical doctor, he or she can handle many aspects of your child’s care, from treating common illnesses to doing a physical exam, ordering lab tests, performing simple procedures, and prescribing most medications — though in some states, a doctor has to co-sign any prescriptions ordered by a PNP.
Across the country, there are some 13,000 PNPs, and most of them are women. Some PNPs work alone, and others work with doctors as a team. While the rules about exactly what a PNP is able to do vary from state to state, these professionals do receive training in disease prevention, health risk reduction and patient (and parent) education for a number of conditions, lifestyle behaviors, and more. Many of the retail health clinics opening in drugstores across the country are staffed by nurse practitioners.
If your child has a serious health problem that requires specialized care, you may be more comfortable visiting a medical doctor, but for everyday conditions like ear infections, rashes, colds and flu, urinary tract infections and more, a PNP may be able to treat your child, as well.
To find a PNP, visit the National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners (NAPNAP).
Reviewed by Dr. Sara Connolly, April 2019
- Pediatric Nurse Practitioners (PNPs) are registered nurses who have undergone additional training.
- The rules about what PNPs can and cannot do vary from state to state.
- PNPs can teach kids and their parents about healthy lifestyle choices and answer any questions that arise.