Neonatal Nurse Practitioner (NNP)

Program Information

Karen D'ApolitoMeet the Program Director

Karen D’Apolito, PhD, APRN, NNP-BC, FAAN

Dr. Karen D’Apolito has been involved in neonatal nursing since 1973. She has worked as an advanced practice nurse in a variety of settings. She joined the Vanderbilt faculty in July 1998 and received the Excellence in Innovative Teaching Award in 2004 for her use of technology within the NNP program. Dr. D’Apolito has made many professional contributions to neonatal nursing. She served two terms on the Board of Directors of the National Association of Neonatal Nurses (NANN) and was instrumental in the development of neonatal nursing practice guidelines as Chairperson of the NANN Practice Committee. She is on the board of the the National Perinatal Association and functions as the Vice President for programs. Her research interests are in the area of infant adaptation and chemical dependency. She has had many publications in these areas and has published on the topic of neonatal pain. In 1999 she received the Research Paper of the Year Award from the Maternal Child Nursing Journal for her paper titled: “A Comparison of a Rocking Bed and Standard Bed for Decreasing Withdrawal Symptoms in Drug-Exposed Infants.” In 2008, Dr. D’Apolito received the Individual Contribution to Maternal and Child Health Award from the National Perinatal Association for her work with drug-exposed infants. Dr. D’Apolito is also the developer of an inter-observer reliability program for the Neonatal Abstinence Scoring Tool. She participated as co-investigator on a multi-site NIH Grant designed to assess the severity of withdrawal in neonates born to women who were randomly treated during pregnancy with either methadone or buprenorphine. Dr. D’Apolito continues to be active in the professional community by being on the editorial board of three  referred journals. She has also been a guest editor for several referred professional journals. Dr. D’Apolito is also active within the Nashville community at agencies that provide treatment for pregnant women who use illicit and non-illicit abusive drugs during their pregnancy.


Practice Experience Requirement

The equivalent of two years (4,160 clock hours) full-time, recent (within the last five years) RN practice experience in the care of critically ill newborns/infants. Part-Time students must have 2 years of experience in a NICU before starting clinical courses.


Modified Class Schedule

You will complete your NNP specialty program through a modified learning (block) format that includes: (1) courses offered in concentrated blocks of time on campus, including weekends, up to four times per semester, (2) on-line conferencing and (3) distributed course delivery methods which allow for continued faculty contact between sessions.


Students are required to attend courses in concentrated blocks of time on campus: 3 blocks in the Fall Semester, 2 blocks in the Spring semester and 1 block in the Summer for approximately five days. Due to State Boards of Nursing and/or State Higher Educational rules, the School may not be able to provide clinical placements in your location of choice, but every reasonable effort will be made to accommodate your placement request.


MSN Program for BSN Certificate-Prepared
NNPs Who Live at a Distance

Are you a BSN Certificate-Prepared Neonatal Nurse Practitioner who wants to complete the Master of Science in Nursing degree without relocating or giving up your employment? We offer a one calendar year program in a flexible format that may be right for you. Several course are eligible for credit by exam or validation. Contact Admission to learn more.