Neonatal nurses became a popular career in the 1960s when the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) was invented. There are NICUs in practically every hospital in the US. Therefore, neonatal nurses are generally in demand and expected to possess highly specialized skills in doing their job.
Neonatal nurses are assigned in the NICU of children’s hospital or any hospital. Neonatal nurses take care of premature newborn infants or babies who are already sick when born. This requires a special set of skills to carry out this job efficiently. Baby care is a delicate task, so, the neonatal nurses need to know vast knowledge of the healthcare system.
Premature babies need special care and have specific needs, and neonatal nurses are considered to be specialists in this area of health care system. Thus, they are highly in demand.
Educational Requirement and Training
Before you can become a neonatal nurse, there are certain educational requirements and training. A neonatal nurse needs to have a college degree and must pass the licensure exam for nurses. There are hospitals who accept staff nurses at their NICUs even if they only finished a two-year associate degree course. However, in most cases, hospitals favor those who finished a four-year degree course in nursing.
For further training and professional development, a neonatal nurse can take up a master’s degree program, especially for those who will be given specialized tasks at the NICU. There is a master’s degree program that focuses on Neonatal Care and Practice. Advanced nursing courses are discussed thoroughly and practical experiences for neonatal nurse are required in these courses. All states in the US require nurses to pass the licensure exam, as well as, the NCLEX for Registered Nurses. Both these qualifications are needed for a neonatal nurse to allow her to practice the profession.
A neonatal nurse is expected to be an expert on the behaviors of babies, as well as, the parents. Neonatal nurses have to be very good analytical thinkers and quick decision-makers during emergency situations. They also need to manage stress efficiently. Neonatal nurses need to know how to be calm in order to transpire the same disposition to the parents of the baby whose life may be at risk. If both the nurse and parents are stressed at the same time, there is less chance for the baby’s survival.
Every day is a different situation in the hospital and neonatal nurses encounter people of all sorts. They are expected to be flexible in handling different situations and different types of person. A neonatal nurse has to know how to effectively communicate with hospital clients. There are technical or medical terms which need to be explained clearly to parents of the infants. A neonatal nurse must have great attention to detail.
Neonatal nurses usually work as staff nurses in hospitals taking care of sick babies. After gaining experience as a staff neonatal nurse, they can advance to a higher level by taking the national certification exam. There are many different career options available for neonatal nurses. You can choose to be a part of the “neonatal transport team” or the ECMO (extracorporeal membrane oxygenation) team which is the one handling cases wherein young infants are in need of a heart or lung bypass procedure.
Neonatal nurse practitioners are considered advanced nurses who directly work with doctors and other nurses. With certification, license and master’s degree, the responsibilities of a neonatal nurse widen. Hence, they grow higher in rank. The neonatal nurse is also given more responsibilities, especially assignment with infants who are in critical conditions.
Career Outlook and Salary
According to the Bureau of US Labor, there is an extremely high demand for nurses with specific expertise such as neonatal nurses. For the past two years, a neonatal nurse earns an average salary of US$ 65,000.
Do you love children and have a passion to take care of them, especially when they are born prematurely or sick – then, consider a career as a neonatal nurse today.