Neonatal Nurse Practitioner

Frequently Asked Questions


Do I have to be a nurse to enter this program?

Yes. You can enter this program as a BSN or MSN. If you have a BSN or MSN, you enter directly into the specialty course work. Applicants to the MSN or Post-Master’s Certificate program in the neonatal nurse practitioner specialty must provide recommendations from an NNP and from a neonatologist. All students, regardless of entry type, graduate with a MSN degree or Post-Master’s Certificate.


Do I need RN work experience?

Yes. You need equivalent of two years (4,160 clock hours) full-time, recent (within the last two years) RN practice experience in a Level III nursery. Part-time students must have two years of full-time clinical experience in a Level III NICU before starting clinical courses. All applicants must provide recommendations from an NNP and from a neonatologist that have worked with the applicant in a clinical setting.


How many students are accepted into this specialty each year?

We encourage you to apply to the specialty that meets your career interest rather than focus on the number of spaces available. We strongly recommended that you complete your application by the October 15th early action date to have a greater probability of being admitted; however, applications are accepted after this date. The number of students admitted can vary each year based on many factors. 


Does the school accept transfer credit?

Matriculated students can transfer up to six semester credits of equivalent graduate level coursework from another accredited university to be applied toward the MSN. You must complete this petition and return, along with the course syllabus, to Sara Donahoe. Courses completed elsewhere must have been taken within the last five years. The decision is based on equivalent content (for required courses), credit allotment, and satisfactory completion of the courses.


I have an MSN degree, does the school have a post-master’s option?

Yes. There is a Post-Master’s Certificate for the Neonatal Nurse Practitioner program. This option is available to students who already possess an advanced nursing degree. Students interested in the Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) program may also receive a post-master’s degree as a part of the NNP program of study provided you already have an advanced degree in nursing. Please see information regarding our DNP program.  A program of study will be designed for you based on any transfer credits that may be accepted from your master’s program.  


Can I work full-time and go to school full-time?

We strongly recommend that students do not attempt full-time school and full-time work. The few students who have successfully completed full-time school and work used flex time or accrued compensatory time to continue to work full-time. Some have just worked weekend shifts.


Can I take this program part-time?

Yes, however you are required to follow a pre-determined program of studies.  Since most courses are offered only once a year, the semester hours are not evenly split. All clinical courses are taught during the second year of a part-time program of study.


Can I take this program via the modified distance learning format?

Yes. This program is only offered via the modified distance learning format and you do not need to give up employment or relocate to Nashville.


What is the modified distance learning format?

This means that you will do a portion of your course work in an online, asynchronous format via taped lectures and web conferencing to integrate the material. A portion of your work requires on-campus learning, followed by seminar and online discussions. For a sample modified block education format, click here.


How often will I need to travel to Nashville?

A typical travel schedule includes 5 trips to Nashville with blocks of time lasting 3-5 days. (schedule).


What housing options are there for students participating in the modified distance format?

Our Admissions Office has a listing of hotels near the VUSN campus and many students choose to share hotel rooms to lower costs. Some students stay with local classmates. See housing information at


What is the specialty portion of the curriculum like?

All full-time students, those living in the middle Tennessee area and those living outside of the middle Tennessee area, attend “block classes” on the Vanderbilt School of Nursing campus. There are five blocks of classes over a one-year period. These block classes may last from three to five days. Students must also attend orientation. Block dates are determined early for the entire academic year allowing students plenty of time for adequate work/travel planning. Faculty work closely with students throughout the entire program and are in continuous contact with students between block classes


How many times do I need to visit campus?

Students come to campus a total of five times. In the fall students are on campus three times; in the spring twice. Students do not come to campus in the summer. (schedule)


What are the clinical requirements for this program?

There are 700 clinical hours required.


How do you match me with a clinical preceptor?

The key to a student’s success in the distance format is a clinical placement with a qualified preceptor who is supporting and willing to mentor the student. We view clinical placements as a required and integral part of your education. Faculty work diligently with the clinical site to match you with appropriate preceptors so you can learn from clinical mentors and start applying your new skills and knowledge. We make every reasonable effort to accommodate a student’s placement request. Your specialty director will provide more information to assist you.


Is travel required as a part of my clinical placements?

Yes. In some cases students need to travel to their clinical sites. The selection of sites are determined between the student, clinical placement office and the specialty director.


What will my credentials and certifications be?

Once you pass the national certification exam your credentials will be NNP-BC.


What is the VUSN student pass rate on the certification exams?

Everyone will be well prepared for the certification exams as our students typically score well above national averages on these exams. Several graduates from our program have earned perfect scores on this exam. For specific information, click here.


Will I be able to get a job upon graduation?

Neonatal Nurse Practitioners are crucial contributors in intermediate and intensive care newborn nurseries throughout the country. Many students are offered positions at the institution where they complete their clinical rotation. There are also recruiters who specialize in job placement of new neonatal nurse practitioner graduates from our program if you choose to use their services. Most students are employed before or soon-after graduation from the program.


Can I earn a DNP Degree?

Yes!  Both the MSN and Post-master’s certificate programs are designed for you to seamlessly transition to our DNP program.  After successful completion of one semester of the specialty year curriculum, you complete an abbreviated application to indicate your interest in progressing to the DNP program; no additional application fee is required. Either you can progress directly into the DNP program or you can take a gap year to work as an APRN before starting the DNP program. The DNP program is designed for APRNs who are working full or part time. See DNP program details.


Who should I ask for a reference?

Three references are required and it is important that one reference be from a neonatologist and one from a neonatal nurse practitioner that you have worked with. The third reference can be from a professional colleague, or work supervisor who can evaluate your potential for success in the program. Recommendations from family, friends or co-workers, past instructors are NOT appropriate.