Required Education to Be a Nurse in a Newborn Nursery

Nov 12, 2019

Nurses who work with newborn babies need to meet all the usual requirements for a nurse and have an extraordinary amount of care and compassion. Find out what education you need, how to become a baby nurse, your career options, and more.

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What Is a Newborn Nursery Nurse?

Nurses working in newborn nurseries, more properly known as neonatal nurses, are medical professionals who assist in the care of babies who are less than one month old. They typically work in a hospital department referred to as the NICU, or Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, where babies born with all manner of difficulties and illnesses are kept for treatment.

Neonatal Nurse Quick Facts

Career Neonatal Nurse
Education Requirements In-hospital training program, associate's degree or bachelor's degree in nursing
Licensure/Certification Requirements RN licensure; optional certification
Projected Job Growth (2018-2028)* 12% for all registered nurses
Median Salary (2018)* $71,730 for all registered nurses

Source: *US Bureau of Labor Statistics

How to Become a Nursery Nurse

Neonatal Nurse Education

Like all Registered Nurses (RN), neonatal nurses are required to complete a nursing education and training program at a college or university. Nursing degrees are commonly available as both associate's degrees and bachelor's degrees; associate's degrees take about 2 years on average to complete but can be limiting to your career, while bachelor's degrees take 4 years to complete, but leave the door open for additional education and may see better compensation. Associate's degree programs typically focus primarily on clinical skills, while bachelor's dive into leadership, research and management. Bachelor's degree programs typically offer courses like:

  • Pathophysiology
  • Pharmacology
  • Maternal/Newborn Nursing
  • Anatomy
  • Microbiology
  • Family-Centered Genomic Health Care
  • Leadership in Health Care Organizations

Most nursing programs also include some sort of hands-on clinical experience in a hospital or healthcare facility.

Nursery Nurse Programs and Licensure

Programs specifically for nursery nurse schooling are rare, but such a focus is often unnecessary, as hospitals commonly feature orientation programs to familiarize new hires with the NICU. A general pediatrics focus can be beneficial, and some employers may prefer that nurses have work experience with other very young children or healthy babies in a level I nursery, before moving into the NICU.

Nurses must also be licensed by the state, which usually requires passage of the NCLEX licensing exam and registration with the state in which you plan to practice, although some states may have additional requirements. Always consult the nursing board in your state for the most accurate and relevant laws for your situation.

Certification for Newborn Nurses

Certification is an optional practice for nurses but can stand as a testament to one's competence and dedication to the field. Certified individuals may receive greater pay and more responsibilities as a result. For neonatal nurses, certification is handled primarily through the National Certification Corporation, which offers certification in Maternal Newborn Nursing (RNC-MNN), Low Risk Neonatal Intensive Care Nursing (RNC-LRN), and Neonatal Intensive Care Nursing (RNC-NIC). To be eligible for certification, an individual needs to be a licensed nurse, have 24 months and 2000 hours of experience in the specialty they plan to test in, have been employed in that specialty at some point during those 24 months, and pass a certification exam. To maintain certification, nurses must complete continuing education every 3 years.

Newborn Nurse Career Info and Advancement

While data on neonatal nurses are not provided by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the BLS indicates that RNs made a median salary of $71,730 in 2018. Employment of RNs was expected to grow by 12% over the period from 2018 to 2028, much faster than the national average.

Neonatal nurses who would like to advance their careers may want to consider becoming nurse practitioners. Nurse practitioner positions generally require a master's degree in nursing, although bridge programs do exist to help RNs acquire the additional education and facilitate the transition. Nurse practitioners have many more responsibilities and more power in the workplace than RNs, and typically work with special populations. Neonatal nurse practitioner certification is also an option to help cement this specialty. As a result of these added responsibilities and specialized knowledge, nurse practitioners see an average annual salary of $107,030.

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