First Advisor

Hayes, Janice S.

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Many neonatal intensive care nurseries require neonatal nurse practitioners (NNPs) to manage care of premature and sick neonates. The supply of NNPs has consistently lagged behind the demand for their services and the current number of projected graduates from NNP programs is unlikely to meet the demand. Neonatal nurse practitioner students are required to have two years of experience as a registered nurse in a neonatal intensive care unit prior to beginning a NNP program. The purpose of this qualitative study was to describe the experiences of registered nurses during their first year as neonatal nurse practitioner (NNP) students. This was a qualitative study using a phenomenological approach. Ten NNP students who were in the first year of their Neonatal Nurse Practitioner program were interviewed regarding their experiences in their NNP program. Open ended interview questions were used to obtain information regarding the experience of the participants in regards to transition to the NNP role. Interviews of participants took place between June 2014 and August 2014 and were analyzed by the researcher looking for categories and themes. Coding was done by hand and then repeated using NVivo 10 software. Five themes were identified from the interviews: Reliance on previous knowledge; Identification of knowledge deficit related to expert to novice; Precepting and working in same unit: support and awkwardness; Decision making and communication in relation to role transition; and Support from others related to role transition. There were some limitations to the study. All participants had a least some experience in a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) prior to beginning their NNP program. There were no participants without NICU experience. The researcher is a NNP and coordinator of a NNP program. The study suggested a number of implications for nursing and for curriculum design. The shortage of NNPs continues due to increased demand and a limited supply of students. This has raised the question of whether or not NNP students should be required to have previous RN experience. The National Association of Neonatal Nurses (NANN) recommends two years previous experience in a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), but this is based on anecdotal experience. Participants in this study describe times in their NNP program where they relied on their previous knowledge. This is likely expected because of the experience requirement prior to entering a program. Participants also identified areas where they had a knowledge deficit, in particular the well-baby nursery clinical experiences. Participants described the experience of transitioning from the role of expert nurse to novice and the role of support from peers and preceptors in making this transition.

Abstract Format



Nursing students; Neonatal nursing; Nurse practitioners; Advanced practice nurses


97 pages

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