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What's the Job Description of a Neonatal Nurse?

Neonatal nurses provide medical care to babies in intensive care units. Read on to discover how your work as a neonatal nurse could help these critically-ill children survive.

Occupation Defined

According to the National Association of Neonatal Nurses (NANN), if you work as a neonatal nurse, you'll provide care for infants through their first four weeks of life and sometimes beyond (www.nann.org). While some of your work may focus on caring for healthy infants, you'll mostly look after babies who experience problems after birth.

Your patients could include infants who are premature, have low birth weight, or suffer from other chronic health conditions. Because most of your patients will be in critical condition, you'll work primarily in a hospital's neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), according to NANN. You'll likely work 12-hour shifts since critical care is provided 24 hours a day.

Important Facts About Neonatal Nurses

On-the-Job Training Not provided
Key Skills Close observation, problem solving, critical thinking, clear written and spoken communication, service oriented, good judgment and decision making
Work Environment Hospitals, physicians offices, home healthcare services
Similar Occupations Certified nurse assistants, charge nurses, clinical nurse managers, nurse case managers, registered nurses

Duties and Responsibilities

Often, nurses who work with critically-ill babies are registered nurses (RNs) who have completed two- or four-year undergraduate degree programs in nursing and passed the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN). However, some hospitals may hire applicants with as little as one year of postsecondary nursing education. According to NANN, your duties as a neonatal nurse might include the following:

  • Assist a mother with breastfeeding
  • Help deliver a premature infant
  • Administer intravenous medication to ill babies
  • Educate parents about their infants' care needs
  • Operate incubators or ventilators

Advancement in the Field

If you want to take on more responsibilities in the NICU, you'll need to become a neonatal nurse practitioner (NNP). To become an NNP, you must earn at least a master's degree in nursing and pass a neonatal nurse practitioner certification exam administered by the National Certification Corporation. If you become an NNP, your duties might include the following:

  • Diagnose infant health problems
  • Order medical tests and interpret test results
  • Perform lumbar puncture and intubation procedures
  • Develop treatment plans
  • Educate nurses and other members of your hospital's neonatal team

Salary Info and Job Outlook

According to PayScale.com, most NICU registered nurses earn between $43,000 and $100,000 a year, as of June 2019. The same source published that the majority of neonatal nurse practitioners earn salaries ranging from $78,000 to $122,000 annually. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS, www.bls.gov) indicated that the employment of all types of registered nurses is projected to increase by 15% between 2016 and 2026.