Pediatric nurse practitioners: Partnering in health care for children

August 1, 2005

It's difficult to imagine pediatrics today without PNPs.

In 1978 and 1979, I served as co-director of a pediatric nurse practitioner (PNP) program that had been established under the auspices of the State University of New York at Syracuse. I was taking a year away from training to care for my infant daughter, after two years of pediatric residency, and the PNP program provided part-time work that allowed me to continue learning about child health. It also meant that my daughter became quite experienced as a model for teaching physical diagnosis!

The other co-director-and the heart, spirit, and soul of the program-was a knowledgeable and wise PNP who had worked as a school nurse for many years. Together, we provided didactic and clinical instruction to a group of bright, eager, thoughtful, and experienced nurses who wanted more independence than their RN license allowed in the care they provided to pediatric patients. They also wanted additional knowledge about infant and child development and physiology-often, more than I could provide to them.

Those were the earliest days of PNP programs. Most graduates planned for a career in the office of a community pediatrician, although some were most interested, even then, in providing specialized care for children who have a chronic, life-threatening illness. It was impossible to predict the important role nurse practitioners would play in virtually all areas of pediatric health care-roles that are described in the informative article that begins on of this issue.