One of the most important choices to make as a parent is the person who will be the primary care provider for your baby. You know your choices include a pediatrician or a family physician, but you might want to think about a pediatric nurse practitioner.
A pediatric nurse practitioner is a registered nurse who has had additional training in the care of children, from infancy right up through the teen years. She (and the occasional he) can conduct physical exams, conduct physical examinations, make diagnoses, prescribe medications and treatments, and counsel patients and their parents.
Pediatric nurse practitioners, who are sometimes called advanced practice registered nurses, have a master’s degree in addition to a bachelor’s degree in nursing. They may have the initials PNP (pediatric nurse practitioner) or CPNP (certified pediatric nurse practitioner) after their name.
According to the National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners (You have to love an organization devoted to kids’ health that calls itself NAPNAP!), their 8,000 members treat a million patients annually. The organization also includes family nurse practitioners. Pediatric nurse practitioners often spend more time with their patients than a physician can. NAPNAP says that 55% of its members spend up to 20 minutes with a patient during a typical appointment and 23% say they spend more than 20 minutes during an appointment.
Pediatric nurse practitioners often are employed in a medical practice or medical clinic, which means that you may meet one if you bring your child in for an immediate problem such as an ear infection or stomachache. In most states nurse practitioners work in a collaborative agreement with a physician or group of physicians, but in many states nurse practitioners are allowed to work independently and have their own practices.
If you and your baby use a large pediatric group practice or clinic for healthcare, there may be a pediatric nurse practitioner on staff and you can ask for them as your primary healthcare provider.