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What is Neonatal Nursing?
Neonatal nursing focuses primarily on the care of newborn infants during the first month of life. These infants may have a variety of conditions requiring care, including prematurity, birth defects, and heart malfunctions. Typically, neonatal nurses care for infants from birth until they leave the hospital. Infants who are very sick from birth may need neonatal nursing care up to age 2.
According to the National Association of Neonatal Nurses (NANN), the daily tasks performed by neonatal nurses vary by position and patient. These nurses often work in Neonatal Intensive Care Units (NICUs) caring for critically ill newborn infants. Some of the tasks they perform include monitoring vital signs, working to stabilize infants' conditions, and administering IV medications. Neonatal nurses may also be present for deliveries that are considered to be high-risk. Other typical tasks include changing diapers, helping new mothers with breastfeeding, holding and comforting infants, and tracking each infant's recovery. Neonatal nurses also care for newborns who are suffering from only mild illnesses.
What is the Work Environment of a Neonatal Nurse?
Neonatal nurses often work in neonatal intensive care units and labor and delivery, but they can also work in other settings.
What are the Education and Certification Requirements?
In order to become a neonatal nurse, one must be a registered nurse. This requires completing a diploma, associate's degree, or bachelor's degree in nursing, which typically takes 2-4 years. After graduating, one is eligible to take the NCLEX-RN and apply for a registered nursing license. Those who are interested in neonatal nursing can apply for positions that will allow them to gain experience in these settings. Those who wish to specialize in neonatal intensive care nursing can take an examination and gain Critical Care Registered Nurse (CCRN) certification.
Neonatal nurses can also return to school to earn an advanced degree, like an MSN or DNP. One can then fulfill a more advanced role in neonatal nursing, such as a neonatal nurse practitioner, clinical nurse specialist, nurse manager. In these roles, nursing professionals might take on responsibilities such as leading a team of nurses, providing nursing education, or managing a neonatal unit.
What is the Average Salary of a Neonatal Nurse?
According to the
US Bureau of Labor and Statistics (BLS), the median salary for registered nurses in 2010 was $64,690, regardless of specialization. Those who return to school to earn a more advanced degree and certification have a higher salary potential.
What is the Job Outlook?
Though the employment outlook specifically for neonatal nursing is unclear, the outlook for registered nursing is excellent. The BLS predicted job growth for registered nursing to be 26% between 2010-2020.