Neonatal Nurse Education
Neonatal nurses are nurses that work in the nurseries of hospitals caring for newborn babies or in the neonatal intensive care units caring for babies that need extra care after being born early or with a serious health condition. Compared to other areas of nursing, neonatal care is a relatively new branch. It has been around since the 1960s when more women started to have their babies in hospitals as opposed to home births. Because neonatal nurses care with the smallest patients in a hospital there are some additional training requirements to be ready for the job.
Nurses who desire to go into the neonatal field must earn their bachelor’s degree in nursing. There are two ways that this degree can be earned. First is to go into a four year university, complete all four years there and earn the bachelor’s degree at the end of it. The other option is to first get a two year associate’s degree from a smaller institution and find employment at an agency that offers tuition reimbursement. Then, while working for them, go to a four year university to finish the remaining two years in order to obtain the bachelor’s degree. There are also nursing diploma programs that are offered by hospitals but they are losing popularity as education at universities becomes more accessible for all students.
The requirements to work in the neonatal ward vary among different hospitals. Some require that the neonatal nurses first work for at least a year caring for adults before they can apply for a job in the neonatal division. Others require specialized emergency care by having nurses work in the emergency room or the Intensive Care Unit before they can be considered for the neonatal area. Some require that there be some kind of specialized education in neonatal care. This can be done by taking all the electives for the bachelor’s degree in the neonatal field or by taking courses in a neonatal concentration.
Nurses in all fields are required to pass a licensing exam before they can start to work and this is also true for neonatal nurses. For nurses who want to further their education in neonatal health care, there is also the option of obtaining a master’s degree in neonatal care. These are offered under different specific names at a number of universities across the country. These degrees would be helpful for nurses who want to make their work home in the neonatal unit and would like to continue to climb the career ladder there.