How to Become a Pediatric Acute Care Nurse Practitioner 

Pediatric acute care nurse practitioners are responsible for providing care to children with acute, chronic, and critical illnesses. Their position in the healthcare field is both significant and complex. To treat their patients and manage certain conditions, pediatric acute care nurse practitioners must not only possess an in-depth understanding of how illnesses, injuries and disorders affect childhood development. 

Generally, a career in pediatric nursing also calls for empathy, patience, effective communication, a deep-seated passion for your patient population and the ability to manage relationships with parents and caregivers. 

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Steps to Become a Pediatric Acute Care Nurse Practitioner 

In order to become a pediatric acute nurse practitioner, you must first be licensed as a registered nurse, complete an advanced practice degree, fulfill any clinical hour requirements, apply for state certification, and pass an exam. 

1. Become a registered nurse. 

The first requirement in becoming a pediatric acute care nurse practitioner is that you must be a registered nurse (RN) in your state. To do this, you must pass the National Council Licensure Examination, also known as the NCLEX-RN exam. 

2. Apply to an accredited nurse practitioner program.

There are many nurse practitioner programs, including distance learning options, available to you. Most are master’s or postgraduate programs. Make sure your desired program has pediatric acute care nursing as a specialization/concentration. 

To ensure that your program will provide you with the highest level of knowledge and education in the field, verify that it is accredited by the Commission of Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) or the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN). 

3. Earn 500 to 600 clinical practice hours in acute care pediatrics.

If you are applying for the Acute Care Certified Pediatric Nurse Practitioner (CPNP-AC) exam from the Pediatric Nursing Certification Board (PNCB), it is highly recommended that you pursue 600  hours of clinical practice.

4. Sit for the pediatric nurse practitioner acute care exam. 

Once you’ve completed your accredited program, you will be prepared to take the Certified Pediatric Nurse Practitioner-Acute Care (CPNP-AC) exam offered by the Pediatric Nursing Certification Board (PNCB). 

5. Apply for state certification as a pediatric nurse practitioner in the state where you wish to practice.

Successful completion of the program qualifies you to apply for national certification from the Pediatric Nursing Certification Board (PNCB) as a Certified Pediatric Nurse Practitioner – Acute Care (CPNP), as well as licensure in all 50 states.

Should I Become a Pediatric Acute Care Nurse Practitioner?

If you are dedicated to improving the health of children and young adults and enjoy challenging yet rewarding work, a pediatric nurse practitioner program or acute care nurse practitioner program may be suitable for you. 

Benefits of the profession are numerous—from opportunities to pursue other advanced nursing roles in pediatrics, such as pediatric clinical nurse specialist, to making a difference in the lives of your patients and their families. You can connect with professionals in the field and current students to learn more about the unique perks and challenges pediatric acute care nursing.

Pediatric Acute Care Nurse Practitioner Certification 

The pediatric acute care nurse practitioner certification (CPNP-AC) is offered by the Pediatric Nursing Certification Board (PCNB). The certification gives validity to entry-level registered nurses who have completed an advanced degree in pediatric acute care nursing.

CPNP-AC eligibility requirements  include:

  • Current, active RN licensure by a US state, territory or Canada
  • Completed graduate degree from an ACEN or CCNE masters or doctorate in nursing program with concentration in pediatric acute care or dual primary/acute care nursing OR completed of a post-master’s certificate program as a pediatric acute care nurse practitioner
  • Minimum of 500 supervised clinical practice hours
  • Completion of physiology/pathophysiology, advanced health assessment, and advanced pharmacology graduate coursework

The CPNP-AC exam costs $385, which includes a $130 non-refundable registration fee. Dual PC and AC PNP graduates may apply for both exams at the same time.

Pediatric Acute Care Nurse Practitioner Resources

Organizations can be a strong resource for current and prospective pediatric acute care nurse practitioners. One notable organization is the National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners (NAPNP). Their mission is to improve the quality of health care for infants, children and adolescents by empowering their members through expert resources and networking opportunities. NAPNAP has 50 chapters across the country as well as an e-chapter. 

In addition to granting certification to pediatric nurse practitioners, the Pediatric Nursing Certification Board (PNCB) shares useful resources for students and professionals, including a calendar of continuing education events. On the PNCB website, you’ll also be able to find many of the answers to common questions about the certification exam.

Nursing Licensure


Below are a few frequently asked questions about becoming a pediatric acute care nurse practitioner:

What is a Pediatric Acute Care Nurse?

A pediatric acute care nurse addresses and treats acute illnesses in patients who range from newborns to young adults. 

Candidates for this role are those who are dedicated to improving the quality of health in children, as well as giving them and their caretakers the education needed to manage and prevent certain illnesses. 

What Does a Pediatric Acute Care Nurse Practitioner Do?

A pediatric acute care nurse practitioner meets the needs of children, adolescents and young adults who are dealing with acute, chronic and complex illnesses. 

Some of their day-to-day responsibilities include monitoring their patients and managing the therapies of their patients while focusing on restorative care of these illnesses. Those who are in this field will carry out their roles and responsibilities in a variety of work environments. 

Where Does a Pediatric Acute Care Nurse Practitioner Work?

As a pediatric acute care nurse practitioner, your work environment may vary from another nurse practitioner in the field. You may work in various hospital-based pediatric departments, such as pediatric intensive care units and emergency departments. You may also find yourself in various inpatient and outpatient settings as well. 

How Long Does it Take to Become a Pediatric Acute Care Nurse?

How long it takes to become a pediatric acute care nurse practitioner may vary depending on factors such as the length of your pediatric acute care nurse practitioner program and whether you’re studying on a part-time basis.

How Much Does a Pediatric Acute Care Nurse Make?

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) does not provide pay data for pediatric acute care nurse practitioners, but it does have salary information for nurse practitioners in general. In 2019, the median annual pay for nurse practitioners was $115,800. Pay varies by employer, location, number of years of experience, specialization and more.

Information on this page was last retrieved in June 2020.