Neonatal Nurse Video: Educational Requirements for a Career in Neonatal Nursing

Neonatal Nurse Video: Educational Requirements for a Career in Neonatal Nursing Transcript

All life is precious but none is as fragile as that of a newborn baby. Neonatal nursing professionals help to care for new infants. Prematurely born children may have compromised cardiovascular, respiratory and immune systems that require specialized treatment. A neonatal intensive care unit, also known as an NICU, provides dedicated care to newborns in need of round the clock care. Most NICU positions are reserved for those who have a neonatal nurse practitioner or neonatal clinical nursing specialist certification. Other positions may be available to those with a bachelor's degree in Nursing and a registered nursing certification.


Quite often, the miracle of birth is unfortunately not without complications. Neonatal nurses care for infants from the moment they are born until they are ready to be discharged from the hospital. Most hospitals operate a neonatal intensive care unit dedicated to treating these young patients. Neonatal nurses monitor patients, provide medications and assist doctors during treatment and procedures. Neonatal nurses must complete all requirements required for a registered nursing career, including an associate's or bachelor's degree and successful completion of the NCLEX-RN licensing examination. An additional nurse practitioner or CNS certification is also required for most positions.

Job Duties and Skills

Neonatal nurses perform the same general functions as registered nurses and nurse practitioners. They assist doctors during procedures, administer medications, take medical histories and provide support to patients and their families.

Neonatal nurses are divided into three levels. Level I nurses treat healthy babies and their mothers in the first 24 hours after birth. Level II nurses care for prematurely born babies or those with complications that require constant attention. They also may provide oxygen to improve respiration or intravenous drugs as prescribed by a doctor. Level III nurses treat critically ill newborns in the Neonatal intensive Care Unit, or NICU. NICU patients are those who are extremely premature, have compromised immune systems or who otherwise can't be treated in any other hospital department. They monitor their patients very closely, reporting any changes to the attending physician.

The treatment of neonatal patients requires a unique set of skills. Different techniques are needed to perform procedures on newborn patients. For example, newborns normally have blood drawn from the heel of their foot, rather than the arm. CPR techniques also differ, requiring a gentler touch. Many instruments and devices are scaled down to accommodate pint-sized patients. Nurses must be able to adjust to these differences in order to succeed in treating neonatal patients.

Training Required

Neonatal nurses must possess a registered nursing (RN) certification earned by completing an associate's or bachelor's degree program in Nursing. These programs include general coursework on biology, anatomy, medical terminology, professional ethics and patient care techniques. Graduates are prepared to pass the NCLEX-RN licensing exam.

Many NICUs, require their neonatal nurses to have either a clinical nurse specialist (CNS) or nurse practitioner certification. Earning these certifications requires completion of a master's or doctoral degree program. In a Nurse Practitioner or CNS program, students can choose to focus their studies on a variety of specialized nursing fields, including neonatal nursing. Students will learn how to best treat these fragile patients with courses focusing on neonatal CPR, pharmacology, infection prevention and more.

Career Options

Neonatal nurses who lack a CNS or nurse practitioner's license will be limited to working outside of the NICU. These professionals will work mainly in maternity wards, assisting in labor and delivery. Nurses who have completed the training and education necessary to become a CNS or nurse practitioner may work in a neonatal intensive care unit. These departments treat newborns with serious illnesses or prematurely born infants with compromised organ and immune systems. NICUs offer neonatal nurses the opportunity to work on more challenging cases and to have increased responsibilities.

Depending on state laws, neonatal nurse practitioners may be able to work without the supervision of a physician, allowing them increased freedom in treating patients. Some states allow nurse practitioners to assist midwives in performing home and natural births. Nurse practitioners and clinical nurse specialists will also have increased opportunities for nursing administration positions.


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