What Are the Duties of a Neonatal Nurse?

Within the field of nursing, there are a variety of specialty areas. If you enjoy working with infants and want to help the tiniest patients, you may enjoy a career as a neonatal nurse. Schools offering Nursing degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Job Description

Neonatal nursing focuses on the care of newborns and infants, specifically those who require special medical attention. Patients may have been born early, have deformities, struggle with breathing, need surgery, or suffer from other complications that require intensive medical care. As a neonatal nurse, you'll look after these infants in a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) alongside other newborn-care specialists. You may also offer care to healthy infants during their short stays in the nursery after birth.

Most of the patients you care for will be under the age of two. Typically, patients are newborns; however, if they suffer from long-term care needs, they may remain in the NICU for a couple of years before being transferred to a pediatrics unit.

Important Facts About Neonatal Nurses

Median Salary (2014) $66,640 ('for all registered nurses')
Job Outlook (2014-2024) 16% growth
Work Environment Hospitals; physicians offices; outpatient care centers
Similar Occupations Licensed practical nurses; licensed vocational nurses; physicians assistants; nurse midwives; nurse anesthetists; nurse practitioners; EMTs; paramedics

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Tasks and Responsibilities

Duties often include changing feeding tubes, using monitoring devices, administering medication, and performing intubations. Not all of your work will be medical in nature. You may also hold and rock babies, feed them from bottles, and change diapers. In NICU cases where parents can't be present all the time, you may be the person who sits with the baby and provides him or her with emotional, physical, and social interaction.

When working with patients, you'll also interact with their families. You may educate parents or relatives on the baby's condition and provide instructions for care once the baby leaves the hospital. If parents have questions, you'll provide answers or direct them to someone who can.

Work Environment

As a neonatal nurse, you may work in NICU units in different healthcare settings, but the most common is a hospital. Along with general and children's hospitals, you might find employment in pediatricians' offices. Additionally, you may specialize in different levels of neonatal care. Level I is usually for healthy babies who require minimal care, such as bathing, feeding, and dressing; however, it's more common for healthy babies to stay with their mothers during their hospital stay.

Level II nursing is for babies requiring more intensive care. They may need assisted breathing or intravenous feeding, but they're expected to have a relatively short hospital stay and overcome their problems quickly. Level III is the most intensive stage and involves providing care for extended periods of time. Patients include infants who have heart and breathing conditions, require surgery, or need constant monitoring of body functions.

Education and Licensing

To become a neonatal nurse, you need to complete a nursing associate's or bachelor's degree program and obtain your nursing license. During your nursing program, you may want to take courses in pediatrics and neonatology. Some employers want you to have work experience with infants or in an NICU; however, employer's requirements can vary, and you may also need additional, formal education or training.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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