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What Do Neonatal Nurses Do?

Neonatal nurses are those that specialize in carrying for newborns, whether healthy or critically ill. A newborn presents special challenges for the nurse. Their small stature and often underdeveloped internal systems make them quite different from even infants that are a few months old. Whether a baby comes out healthy and full term or enters the world underweight and under term, the neonatal nurse is there to help. The nurse provides assessment of the newborn and has special training in how to handle the needs of these tiny patients. They work closely with neonatologists to keep critically ill newborns alive and thriving.

Healthy babies require caring nurses that can handle nervous parents. Most nurseries have one of three ratings, beginning with 1 and going up to 3. A level 1 nursery is for the healthy, full-term babies. Most women stay in the hospital at least a day or two after delivery. The babies can be either in a separate nursery or in the rooms with the mothers. Level 1 care involves helping the parents adjust while making sure the infant is as healthy as the original assessment showed. This is usually the first place that neonatal nurses start when becoming part of the department.

Premature babies often need protection from the elements and time to grow. This is the level 2 nursery situation. Some babies are born a few weeks premature. In most cases, they may have underdeveloped lungs or other challenges. With the right care and monitoring, these infants can transition to home within a few weeks. In these nurseries, nurses help with feeding and care. They educate parents on how to handle these premature infants. They monitor the babies for complications and work with doctors to administer medications and appropriate care. This level of nursery care comes after working with healthy newborns for awhile.

Critically ill infants require the highest level of care. That is the level 3 nursery. These are often the infants born months early instead of weeks. They are drastically underweight and have many underdeveloped internal systems. Other infants that require this level of care include those born with critical birth defects or those that develop serious infections before or after birth. This level of care requires the most experienced neonatal nurses on staff. It often takes years of working at level 1 and 2 nurseries before working with the sickest newborns. Training and experience are the way to work up to this level of nursing.