A neonatal nursing degree is a subspecialty within nursing education that deals with infants who are born with any of a variety of problems. Neonatal nurses find themselves caring for and treating newborn infants with problems such as prematurity, infections, cardiac malformations, birth defects, and other problems that require intensive care or even surgery. Although some birth problems require long term attention from a neonatal nursing staff, most neonatal nurses only treat newborn babies from the time they are born until the time they are released from the hospital.
Neonatal Nursing School
To become a neonatal nurse, you must become a registered nurse first. Doing this requires a degree in nursing. Nursing degrees are available at different levels of education. You can earn an associate’s degree in nursing, or a bachelor’s degree in nursing. The preferred avenue for someone who desires to become a neonatal nurse is to earn a bachelor’s degree in nursing, as that nursing degree offers more flexibility and prepares the nursing student more thoroughly for a neonatal nursing career.
Neonatal Nursing As A Specialty
Although it is not necessarily required, your job prospects as a neonatal nurse will be dramatically improve with a course of study that specializes in neonatal nursing. Universities such as Baylor University in Texas and Vanderbilt University in Tennessee offer master’s nursing degree programs specializing in neonatal care. Baylor University’s Neonatal Nursing track is for experienced nurses who want to advance their careers and become Neonatal Nurse Practitioners (NNP). It is a 37 credit hour curriculum that focuses on nursing care for infants from birth through two years old. The Medical University of South Carolina offers a similar program that requires prospective neonatal nursing students to have at least one year of nursing experience in a neonatal intensive care unit.
What You Can Expect From Your Neonatal Nursing Degree
As a specialized field of nursing, job and earnings prospects for students receiving a neonatal nursing degree are better than for registered nurses in general. Where registered nurses can expect to earn an average of $60,000 a year, neonatal nursing program graduates can expect an average wage of $80,000 a year.
Different Levels of Neonatal Nursing Care
Neonatal nursing degrees prepare students for all levels of neonatal nursing care. The first level of care is for newborn infants who are healthy. There is not much demand for nurses in this field. The second level of care is for sick or premature infants. There is a much greater demand for neonatal nurses at this level because these babies need around the clock care and attention. The third level of care occurs in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. This is for infants who are seriously ill or extremely premature. Nurses at this level not only care for infants who are on ventilators and feeding tubes, but also educate the parents of these sick newborns as to how to care for their infant when they are discharged from the hospital.
The Cost Of A Neonatal Nursing Degree
Neonatal nursing degree costs range from $200 to $1000 per credit hour. The curriculum is usually a 40 credit hour curriculum. In-state tuition is always less expensive, so you can save a substantial sum of money by establishing residency in the state where you want to receive your neonatal nursing education. Some courses of study are as long as 60 credit hours. Other costs associated with a degree in neonatal nursing are the costs of certification exams which range from $250 to $300, as well as uniforms, books, and supplies.
Financial Aid For Nursing Students
Students who are seeking a neonatal nursing degree have a variety of resources available for financial aid. The government has acknowledged a shortage of nurses, and therefore has instated a number of programs designed to help students afford a nursing degree. Among these programs is one from the US Department of Health And Human Services that pays for tuition, costs, fees and even provides a monthly stipend to nursing students in return for a commitment to working in a facility that has a critical shortage of nurses. The Department of Education also has work study programs in place for students who can demonstrate a financial need. Professional nursing organizations also have lists of sources of financial aid for nursing students. In particular, The National Association of Neonatal Nurses has a number of resources available to guide prospective neonatal nursing students.