Caring For Newborns
The neonatal nurse cares for newborns. Neonatal nurses care for newborns from the healthy newborn to the critically ill or medically unstable newborn. The neonatal nurse cares for the baby until they are ready to leave the hospital. They interact with parents answering their questions about the infant’s medical status. These nurses also instruct the parents when necessary on how to care for the healthy infant once they are home.
Neonatal Nurse Job Description & Scope of Practice
Healthy newborns may go to a regular neonatal unit where their vital signs are measured, apgar scores are recorded and the baby readied to visit the proud new parents. The nurse in the healthy neonatal unit will normally have many infants under her care.
Stable but ill newborns may go to an intermediate neonatal care unit (depending upon the size of the hospital) and neonatal nurses will monitor vital signs, administer oxygen and medications as necessary and perform regular care activities as necessary such as diaper changes and bathing.
The seriously ill or medically unstable neonate will usually be in the neonatal intensive care unit. Nurses in this unit have a very small patient load and constantly monitor and adjust medication for these critically ill newborns. Patient loads are minimized for the neonatal ICU nurse because these infants require so much specialized attention.
Neonatal nurses in all three-care situations will keep records of status changes for the infant; administer medications and any treatments ordered by the physician. They will also keep parents informed as to the health status of the newborn and facilitate parent interaction with the infant.
How to Become a Neonatal Nurse
The newborn nursery with healthy infants is a very popular place during school clinical. Many nurses decide based on their experience there and in pediatrics that they want to become neonatal nurses. A high score in pediactric care courses, infant and child development can help. Openings in neonatal units may be infrequent depending upon the size of the hospital, so any extra courses taken in newborn care can help when it comes time to interview. Nurses may have to accept a position in pediatrics until there is opening in the neonatal hospital. All neonatal nurses are required to have neonatal resuscitation provider certification.
High grades in school, extra courses in pediatrics and infant development and enthusiasm for the specialty are an excellent start for the nurse planning in specializing in newborn care.
Neonatal Nurse Education Requirements, Certification, and Schooling Programs
- Graduation from an accredited 4 year nursing school and a Bachelor of Science degree is required.
- A current and unencumbered RN license is required.
- Certification as a neonatal resuscitation provider is required to work in the newborn units.
- Neonatal nurses are certified through the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses (AACN) Certification Corporation. After taking an exam pertaining to various aspects of neonatal care including knowledge, skills ability, applicants receive certification as a Critical Care Registered Nurse (CCRN). Specific topics on the exam include signs, symptoms, lab values, blood gases, medications and reactions as well as procedures followed for certain types of illnesses. Exams may be taken online. Certification is not required to work as a neonatal nurse. However, the AACN strongly urges nurses working in the field to become certified as it lends credibility and proves their expertise to employers.
Neonatal Nurse Salary and Career Outlook
The career outlook for a neonatal nurse is bright. Jobs in nursing are predicted to grow at an excellent rate of around 21% per year through 2018.
The neonatal nurse makes from around $70,000 to $119,000 per year depending upon their location and level of education.