PURPOSE: This descriptive, qualitative pilot study explored the interest and perceptions of neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) nurses regarding the neonatal nurse practitioner (NNP) role. Motivating factors to become an NNP, challenges facing NNPs, and rewards of the NNP role from the perspectives of NICU nurses were explored.
SUBJECTS: The convenience sample was obtained using 2 survey techniques. The first sample group included nurses who were employed in Level III NICUs located within 2 major Midwestern cities. In order to confirm the data and to expand the scope, the second sample group was recruited from NICU nurses who were attending a regional educational conference. All participants were currently employed NICU nurses and were therefore potential NNP students. Combining the participants of both enrollment techniques resulted in a potential of 696 subjects.
DESIGN AND METHODS: A simple self-administered survey was used to collect data. Narrative data were qualitatively analyzed. Demographic data and categorical items were quantified.
RESULTS: This study achieved a total 30% response rate (n = 209). Of the total participants, only 32% of Level III NICU nurses were interested in becoming an NNP. Analysis of the data revealed 6 major categories (themes) of reasons why nurses were not interested in the NNP role. The themes most often mentioned by the participants were (1) obligations to family and/or work (46%) and (2) too much responsibility in the NNP role (30%). The data also revealed several different rewards and challenges for those in the NNP role as well as factors that may motivate nurses to become an NNP.
CONCLUSIONS: Given the current NNP shortage, an increase in the supply of NNPs for the workforce is imperative. Current enrollment in NNP academic programs does not appear to be meeting the demand. Exploring the factors that influence enrollment in NNP programs from the perspective of potential NNP students is the first step towards increasing the supply of NNPs. The majority of participants were not interested in becoming an NNP for a variety of reasons. Negative perceptions of the NNP role were identified. Solutions posed from these results may provide scientifically sound solutions to help ease the shortage of NNPs. The findings of this naturalistic inquiry may be used to develop an instrument to measure interest in the NNP role.