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.


  1. National Institutes of Health. Nurse Practitioner.
  2. National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners.
  3. Pediatrics. A Program to Increase Health Care for Children: The Pediatric Nurse Practitioner Program.
  4. American Medical Association. American Medical News.
  5. Pediatrics. Pediatric Nurse Practitioners: Roles and scope of practice.
  6. Harvard Medical School. More Americans Using Retail Health Clinics.


  1. This is a great option for everyday illnesses, especially if you can’t get in to see your pediatrician. It’s nice to know that more options are available for less serious illnesses.

    1. Yes a nurse practitioner is quite capable of handling the routine childhood illnesses. Good option if you go to a busy pediatric practice where it is sometimes difficult to get a timely appointment.

  2. We usually see a PNP in our pediatrician’s office. It’s easier to get in with her, and so far, we haven’t needed any visits outside of well checks. My only negative about our PNP is that she is younger and does not have children herself. She seems to be quite knowledgeable so far, but she can’t give me any information based on personal experiences.


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