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Neonatal Pediatric Specialty (NPS)
Credentials for Respiratory Therapists

Not all Respiratory Therapists are created equal.
Well, perhaps that is not exactly true. All respiratory Therapists must graduate from an accredited program to obtain the credential of certified respiratory therapist (CRT) or registered respiratory therapist (RRT). But what then? How can a therapist distinguish him or herself beyond CRT or RRT?

Fortunately, they can do so by specializing in areas such as neonatal pediatrics, adult critical care, pulmonary function testing, and sleep medicine. These credentials are what are called "add-on" certifications to the currently held CRT or RRT designation. Of all these certifications, one of the most popular is the Neonatal Pediatric Specialty (NPS) credential. Although the new Adult Critical Care Specialist (ACCS) certification is up and coming (just released in 2012), the Neonatal Pediatric Specialty (NPS) is by far the most sought after amendment to CRT and RRT credentialed respiratory therapists.

When the NPS credential is bestowed on a CRT or RRT, their new title simply becomes CRT-NPS, or RRT-NPS. Now, you may be asking, "what do I have to do to obtain this coveted NPS credential? Glad you asked.

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How do I get my NPS?

The Neonatal Pediatric Specialty (NPS) credential can be obtained by any CRT or RRT credentialed respiratory therapist by simply taking the NPS (Neonatal Pediatric Specialty) examination offered by the National Board of Respiratory Care (NBRC). A CRT can challenge the exam after some documented experience with neonates. (see NBRC for specific requirements). A respiratory therapist with an RRT credential may challenge the exam at will, regardless of experience (or no experience) with neonates or pediatric patients.

To challenge the NPS exam, one must visit the NBRC web site and complete an application. The application will ask some basic questions about education and degree. If a CRT, then some verification of experience is required. While the NBRC suggests experience is required, the amount of time spent caring for the little critters is not very specific and is usually not difficult to achieve with just a little neonatal pediatric care exposure. Again, visit the NBRC web site for details.

The NPS exam is consists of 140 multiple choice questions. The challenger is given 3 hours to complete the test. Most who take the exam indicate the main challenge is learning such topics as Mechanical Ventilation and assessment for a variety of age groups ranging from the fetal stage to a 17-year-old adolescent. Because questions also arise regarding the care of a pregnant mother, knowledge of adult critical care is also assessed. Thus, the exam covers the whole gamut of age range.

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Preparing for the NPS

The NPS exam is a notably difficult exam because of the age range it includes. The most common question asked is, "Do I have to do anything special to prepare for the NPS if I've already been working with neonates and pediatrics?". The answer is a resounding YES!

Like most credentialing examinations, there is a gap between what happens in real life and the what happens on the exam. The NPS exam is no different. There are reported peculiarities on the NBRC NPS exam that one must become aware of before challenging the test. The fact is that each area of the country practices neonatal pediatric care in a different way. For the NBRC, it must be difficult to adhere to all these varying practices, especially as they differ from region to region. Thus, the NPS exam certainly takes a certain stance on subjects ranging from assessments to provision of mechanical ventilation.

There are a variety of NPS exam study guides and NPS exam practice questions out there but the majority use the top two: Kettering National Seminars and LindseyJones, the latter of which appears to be preferable by most candidates. The LindseyJones Neonatal Pedatric Study Guide (including NPS practice exams) boasts the highest published pass rates whereas Kettering does not appear to publish their pass rates.

Whatever the company, aspiring neonatal pediatric specialists (NPS) should seriously consider investing in some level of professional NPS review material and practice exams.

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NPS Employment Prospects

According to the Bureau of Vital Statistics, Neonatal Pediatric Specialists (NPS) are the most employed of all specialty credentials among respiratory therapists. Of those who are not retired, approximately 96% of all NPS practitioners are employed. This compares to CRTs at 72% and RRTs at 85%. The Neonatal Pediatric Specialist (NPS) credential is one of the most sought after credentials by employers, even when neonatal or pediatric care is not part of the job description.

In addition to greater employability, those respiratory care practitioners who hold the NPS certification, CRT-NPS or RRT-NPS, enjoy greater pay. The national mean increase in pay found among NPS credentialed therapists is $2.05 per hour more than the mean RRT or CRT pay.

One new credential that appears to be attractive to employers, though very few respiratory therapists have yet to attain it, is the Adult Critical Care Specialist credential (ACCS). The NBRC, the agency who is responsible for administering the ACCS exam, only started testing in mid-2012. Bearing on employability remains to be seen but emphasais on the ACCS degree is expected to rise sharply over the next five years. This will be especially true in markets that are over-saturated with respiratory therapists and among employers who wish to differentiate between different levels of respiratory therapist in the employment pool.

The bottom line:
A little more education seems to pay off, particularly the NPS credential.

Bob Southwick, Staff Writer