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What is a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner?

When you walk into your pediatrician’s office, you expect to see a receptionist, nurses, and of course, a couple of 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).


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

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