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NICU RN: Job Description, Requirements and Duties

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become a NICU RN. Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about degree programs, job duties and licensure to find out if this is the career for you.

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Essential Information

Neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) registered nurses (RNs) take care of newborns that are sick or premature. They work with a team of other healthcare professionals to provide the necessary medical care to infants. These critical care specialists are state licensed and hold a minimum of a bachelor's degree in nursing. NICU RNs typically work in hospitals.

Required Education Bachelor's degree
Other Requirements Nursing license, voluntary certification
Projected Job Growth (2012-2022)* 19% for all registered nurses
Median Salary (2014)** $59,665

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **

Job Description Overview for a NICU RN

Neonatal intensive care unit registered nurses provide critical care to premature and sick newborns. In addition to providing around-the-clock care to these patients, NICU RNs offer support to the parents. This parental support can range from emotional encouragement to advising parents on how to take care of an infant when they return home. NICU RNs work as a team member with other nurse practitioners and physicians. Their prime responsibility is to ensure that a newborn's critical care treatment is secure.

Education Requirements

NICU RNs must hold a minimum of a Bachelor of Science in Nursing. While there is no undergraduate specialization in neonatal intensive care, some programs might include clinical experience coursework or provide internship opportunities within the NICU of a hospital. Graduates with a bachelor's degree might need to acquire a year of emergency or adult critical care before being accepted into a neonatal or NICU department--but this requirement depends upon the hospital or healthcare facility.

Graduate degree programs in neonatal intensive care also exist. Most require a couple of years of real-life work experience in a NICU for admission to the program. In addition to holding a bachelor's degree, all nurses must take the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) to become licensed registered nurses. NICU RNs should also be certified in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR).

Job Duties

NICU RNs perform life-sustaining care. Their duties include administering medications, monitoring vital signs and providing vital nutrients to newborns. Because most premature and sick newborns' lungs are not fully developed, NICU RNs must ensure that infants are breathing and maturing properly. These specialized nurses work with upper-level nurses and physicians and assist in treatment plans and examinations. They keep, maintain and update records of the patient's care. In addition to medical care, NICU RNs communicate with and educate parents on day-to-day operations as well as home-care procedures.

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

Faster-than-average job growth of 19% is expected for registered nurses in general from 2012-2022, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics ( reported in November 2014 that neonatal RNs earned salaries of $39,402-$91,572. The same source reported that NICU RNs earned a median annual salary of $59,665.

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