Neonatal Nurse

If you have strong maternal instincts, you might be ideally suited to become a neonatal nurse.

Every year in America tens of thousands of newborn and premature babies require acute hospital care. They are looked after day and night by prem nurses in neonatal intensive-care units (NICUs) and maternity wards.

As a neonatal nurse, you will spend your time feeding and changing the diapers of the newborn infants, checking their vital signs, doing tests, administering medications and also showing mothers how to properly care for their baby.

For parents, having a baby is one of the most exciting times of their lives. But newborns requiring neonatal care present their own particular problems and stresses for new mothers. They are often confused and worried about what is wrong with their baby and how long it will take before they can return home with them.

A Neonatal Nurse Provides Critical Care To Premature Babies

The role of a neonatal nurse is to not only care for the child through its critical first days and weeks, but to reassure the parents that their baby is receiving the best care and is in the right hands. It’s an enormous responsibility and requires nurses with a strong, even temperament.

When you are taking care of very sick newborn babies there is a strong sense of personal reward. Many premature baby nurses get immense satisfaction taking care of the babies as if they were their own.

Neonatal wards are some of the most sophisticated in hospitals and as a neonatal nurse you will be very highly trained. You will be handling high tech equipment that is helping premature and sick babies survive. In fact, today’s state-of-the-art NICU equipment is saving more babies lives today than was even possible a few generations ago

As a prem nurse, you can expect to work a typical 12-hour shift while caring for around three infants at any one time. Babies that are born slightly premature but otherwise are in good health, usually stay in the NICU for a few days only. But those infants with serious health issues can spend weeks or even months in the unit receiving around-the-clock neonatal care.

A Neonatal Nurse Develops Deep Emotional Bonds With Their Patients

It is not uncommon for you prem nuries to develop deep emotional bonds with the infants have such long-term care. This can even fast throughout the child’s life and many a neonatal nurse proudly displays cards, photographs and even college graduation announcements that they have received over the years from their former charges.

These are the special things that make neonatal nursing so special and fulfilling for every neonatal nurse. It is not unusual for a neonatal nurse to spend her entire career in the NICU because they find the job so rewarding. Most view their jobs as a liaison between the hospital staff and the infant’s family. They develop strong relationships with physicians while helping families to cope with the stress of having a newborn infant who is sick.

A good premature baby nurse cares not only cares about the babies they are helping but cares about the family as a whole. Your role is to get that child healthy again and deliver it back to its parents. When a baby finally leaves the neonatal ward it is a happy day in the NICU unit.

Neonatal Nurse Training And Career Paths

To take up a role as a neonatal nurse, you will require your registered nursing (RN) license. This involves studying for and passing the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN) which is administered by the National Council for State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN).

To become a fully accredited registered nurse you will be thoroughly tested in a wide range of nursing subjects including general healthcare, the control of infections and disease and pharmacological therapies. Every US state as different eligibility requirements to sit for the NCLEX-RN and you should check with your state nursing board to see what you need where you live.

If you are a registered nurse who would like to become a neonatal nurse many hospitals also require ongoing neonatal education credits. They often provide neonatal nursing training on-site or will send you to neonatal training workshops conducted by the National Association of Neonatal Nurses (NANN).

But this is often just the first step to become a neonatal nurse. Today, most hospitals are also looking for nurses with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree before hiring. The first two years of a BSN are spent fulfilling non-nursing requirements and usually include math, science, statistics, microbiology, anatomy and physiology.

The nursing requirements of your BSN cover everything from general healthcare to pharmacology. Along with more specific areas of nursing care including providing care to infants and families. BSN programs provide extensive and practical clinical experience in hospitals under the supervision of experienced registered nurses, physicians and other health professionals.

At this stage, you are in an ideal position to apply for a position as a neonatal nurse. But you can also choose to go one step further and undertake further training through a master’s degree program to become a prem nurse practitioner.

Neonate master’s programs train you to work in delivery rooms and also in the complete care of newborn babies. You will learn about and how to treat common illnesses and healthcare issues that affect premature babies. These courses also include clinical rotations in neonatal units so that you gain practical experience working in these environments and with young infants.

The knowledge you gain when obtaining a master’s degree in neonatal nursing can also be put to good use teaching other young nurses. Once you have experience working in a critical care neonatal unit, you can enroll in a certificate program that allows you to train nurse practitioners work with critically ill infants.

As a fully qualified prem nurse, you can can work in hospitals as a critical care floor nurse, transport nurse or case manager. Many experienced neonatal nurses often shift into management roles and, as we have already outlined, undertake further studies to become a neonatal nurse practitioner.

Neonatal research is another career option. It is not uncommon for a neonatal nurse to accumulate many years experience as an NICU charge nurse and then move into neonatal research on projects like the National Institutes of Health study on neonates.

With a growing increase in the number of premature babies requiring acute hospital care in NICU units, there is a growing demand for both new and experienced prem nurses. As a fully qualified neonatal nurse you can expect to earn around $74,000 a year. Although the true value of a neonatal nurse is invaluable because of the joy they bring to families after caring for their sick infant.

Without around 40,000 premature babies born every year in the United States, neonatal nurses continue to be in high demand.

Prem babies are at risk from everything from low-birth-weight, infections and heart malformations to poorly developed lungs, birth defects and lumbar punctures.

Advances in medical technology give these newborns are much greater chance to survival today than they had even just a decade ago. But they require constant care around-the-clock.

Neonate nurses provide that specialist care to both premature and full-term newborns who have these life-threatening medical issues. You will assist in delivering newborn babies, resuscitating prems who are having breathing difficulties, helping to transport the babies to more specialist hospitals facilities if necessary and teaching the infant’s parents how to properly take care of their baby.

Neonatal Nurses Are With Premature Babies Constantly

Most hospitals define neonatal care as covering the first month of life but in reality many neonates often receive specialist care for weeks and even months. You can expect to be in charge of your tiny patient from the day he or she is born until the day they are well enough to leave hospital. You are usually tasked with caring for up to three babies at any one time.

To become a neonatal nurse you must first enroll in an accredited nursing school to get your basic healthcare education. You can get a basic nursing diploma quite quickly through a hospital-based school of nursing or an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) in just two to three years at a junior or community college.

These nursing programs will introduce you to the basics of neonatal care such as neonatal health assessment and pediatric pharmacology. You will also have the chance to work with infants in nurseries and day-care centers so that you can get hands-on practical experience working with young children. But this is only the beginning of your nursing career.

Neonatal Nurses Need A BSN Degree

The best way to become a neonatal nurse is to complete a four-year Bachelor of Nursing Degree (BSN). These programs require you to study math, microbiology, anatomy and physiology in the first two years before concentrating on specialized nursing topics and clinical studies in the final two years. Your BSN course will teach you about pharmacology, nursing techniques, infant care and dealing with families. The final two years of your BSN program provide you with very extensive clinical experience in a hospital under the guidance of experienced registered nurses and physicians.

Once you have sat and passed your BSN nursing examinations you are well on your way to become a specialist prem nurse. Many RNs with a BSN degree often go on to complete another four years of intensive study to obtain their Master’s Degree in Nursing, specializing in neonatal care. This will fully prepare you to take care of premature infants in a hospital delivery room as a neonate nurse practitioner. The course cover common infant illnesses and treatments and you will also undertake clinical rotations in the neonatal units of hospitals.

As a qualified neonate nurse you will be on the front line of care for premature babies. A typical working day in a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) can consist of helping with the delivery of a tiny premature baby, overseeing the care of a full-term newborn who needs the assistance of a ventilator to breathe, or simply help a new mother cope with her sick baby and assist her with its feeding and sleeping routine.

Neonatal nurses work closely with the parents of newborn babies who are often going through an anxious and stressful period of their lives. You’ll gain a tremendous amount of personal satisfaction helping take acre of a very ill infant in the critical first few days and weeks of its life. You can literally be the difference between the baby surviving and growing normally or else becoming a child with chronic health problems for life.

The role of a prem nurse is often not simply confined to just one hospital or state either. Sick infants are often transported to other cities for more specialized care and you often have to accompany the premature babies on these trips as a member of a neonatal transport team.

Neonatal nurse practitioners (NNPs) work closely with physicians to provide critical care to infants in the neonatal intensive care unit. This can include being a part of the extra-corporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) team that undertakes heart-lung bypass surgery on critically ill infants. You’ll also obtain the specialist skills for neonatal procedures like newborn resuscitation, IV line replacements, incubation and lumbar punctures which can all be life-threatening to newborns.

After years of practical experience in NICU, many neonate nurses move into the more advanced roles of neonatal nurse managers, nurse educators and clinical nurse specialists. Nurse managers look after the staff requirements and specialist care needs of NICU units.

Neonatal nurse educators and clinical nurse specialists make sure that the nursing staff are properly trained and up-to-date with the latest developments for critical infant care. This can include ensuring staff undertake proper neonatal refresher courses and that the NICU has the best available equipment on-hand to care for sick babies.

Clinical nurse specialists often work directly with nursing staff in taking care of premature babies. Their role is to oversee the infant’s treatment and make sure that the nurses are providing the best possible care and administering medications correctly. Neonatal developmental care specialists provide advice to their colleges about the ongoing care of the infant as it grows and continues to get stronger.

Job prospects for prem nurses are bright over the next 10 years. There is a huge demand for these specialist nurses in the NICUs of major hospitals across the country and they are attracting high salaries. A neonate nurse practitioner can expect to earn in excess of $100,000 dollars annually.

But, just as importantly, child care nurses are working in a specialized area of infant medical care. You can not put a price on the satisfaction neonatal nurses experience when a critically ill premature baby is finally strong enough to leave hospital and go home for the first time.