What’s The Difference Between a Neonatal Nurse Practitioner and a Neonatologist?

Neonatal nurse practitioners NNPs and Neonatologists are two different positions.

An Advanced-practice nurse who specializes in taking care of a newborn is NNPS – Neonatal Nurse Practitioners.

They are healthcare providers, but their job role is significantly different than the job of a neonatologist.

They differ in several aspects, starting from education.


Nurse practitioners start their careers as registered nurses.

After getting the license, they can finish the BSN program and continue their education with MSN or doctoral degree program.

At that time, nurses can pick the field in which they want to specialize, for example, Adult/Gerontology, Pediatrics, Psychiatry, Women’s Health, etc.

Students, who want to specialize in neonatology, can pick that specialization track or start the two-year advanced-practice neonatal nurse practitioner program.

The NP residency programs are also a possible educational pathway for aspiring neonatal NPs.

The NP residency programs have been created recently and they provide more clinical education in specific areas for the nurse practitioners.

Not every state has these programs available, and all nurses interested in the residency program should research for all available options in their state.

Nurses who choose MSN/DNP programs should be prepared for three or four years of commitment to education.

Neonatologists are medical doctors who specialized in the field of neonatology.

Their education lasts much longer, and they start with the medical school – four years, continue with residency – three years and complete a neonatology fellowship – three years.

Neonatology NPs VS. Neonatologists – Scope of Practise

Neonatologists are physicians, and therefore, they have a full scope of practice.

The scope of practice for neonatology NPs is a bit more complicated and regulated on the state level.

In some states, neonatologies NPs have a full scope of practice.

On the other hand, some states limited and restricted the scope of practice.

Each state Board of Nursing that has limited or restricted the NP scope of practice has defined circumstances in which the regulations are applied.

The regulations are usually about prescribing medications, and the relationship between NP and a supervising physician.

Also, some organizations and facilities have the authority to further limit the NPs scope of practice locally.


Medical doctors have to pass extensive medical training and learn how to focus on the disease and the treatment.

On the other hand, NP starts as nurses and follow the nursing model of care when providing care to the patients.

As every nurse, NPs follow the holistic care model, and approach the patient comprehensively, addressing the issues families may have, as well.

NPs also educate patients and families on illness and treatment.


In general, neonatologists and neonatology NPs share similar duties.

Duties depend on the level of neonatal care they provide to the patients.

Neonatologists and neonatology NPs can assist during high-risk childbirth.

They both provide treatment to babies with severe congenital disabilities or other illnesses.

Both can order tests and procedures and monitor medical equipment including tube feeding and ventilators.

Neonatologists and neonatology NPs can interpret tests to create the best treatment plan.

They can also order, and administer medications.

Bear in mind that some states have restricted scope of practice for NPs in terms of prescribing medicaments.

The important part of their duties is monitoring the treatment response and compassionate approach to patients and families.

Salary Differences

The salaries of the neonatologist and neonatology NPs differ significantly.

The data from PayScale.com show that the average annual salary of neonatalogists is $205.199.

The average annual salary of neonatology NP is $94.080.

However, you should know that salaries for both jobs are based on a set of factors such as experience, working facility, organization, city, etc.

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