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Neonatal Nurse Practitioners: Distribution, Roles and Scope of Practice

Freed GL, Dunham KM, Lamarand KE, Loveland-Cherry C, Martyn KK; American Board of Pediatrics Research Advisory Committee.
Pub Med #: 

We sought to determine the distribution and scope of practice of the neonatal nurse practitioner (NNP) workforce across the United States.

To determine distribution, we used counts of certified NNPs from the National Certification Corp (Chicago, IL). We calculated state NNP/child population ratios as the number of NNPs divided by the state population 0 to 17 years of age. We calculated NNP/NICU bed ratios as the number of NNPs divided by the total number of NICU beds per state. To characterize roles and scope of practice, we conducted a mail survey of a random national sample of 300 NNPs in states that license nursepractitioners to practice independently and 350 NNPs in states that require physician involvement.

The greatest concentrations of NNPs per capita were in the Midwest, South, and Mid-Atlantic region. Thirty-one states had <100 total NNPs. The survey response rate was 77.1%. More than one-half of NNP respondents (54% [n = 211]) reported that they spent the majority of their time in a community hospital, whereas more than one-third (37% [n = 144]) were in an academic health center. Only 2% (n = 7) reported that they engaged in independent practice.

As with many health care professionals, the supply of NNPs may not be distributed according to need. With increasing concern regarding the availability of NNPs, comprehensive studies that examine the demand for NNPs and the roles of other clinicians in the NICU should provide a greater understanding of appropriate NICU workforce capacity and needs.