Neonatal Nurse

What do they do!

Neonatal nursing is a subspecialty of nursing that works with newborn infants born with a variety of problems ranging from prematurity, birth defects, infection, cardiac malformations, and surgical problems. The neonatal period is defined as the first month of life; however, these newborns are often sick for months. Neonatal nursing generally encompasses those infants who experience problems shortly after birth, but it also encompasses care for infants who experience long-term problems related to their prematurity or illness after birth. A few neonatal nurses may care for infants up to about 2 years of age. Most neonatal nurses care for infants from the time of birth until they are discharged from the hospital.

Job Description

The first step is enrollment in an accredited school of nursing. Basic nursing education can be achieved through three routes. The baccalaureate degree is earned through a college or university and generally takes 4 years to obtain. This route permits the greatest amount of flexibility in your career path. An associate degree can be obtained in 2-3 years at a junior or community college. A diploma degree can be obtained through a hospital-based school of nursing. However, diploma programs are being phased out in most areas of the country. The remaining programs are often affiliated with a community college and provide students with more flexibility for continuing toward a bachelor's degree.

If you have a degree in another field, you may be eligible for an accelerated program through which you can obtain a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) or master of science in nursing (MSN) in 1-2 years. If you want to pursue work in advanced practice nursing, you will need a master's or doctoral.

In the near future, a doctor of nursing practice (DNP) degree will be required to work as an advanced practice nurse. Entrance into this practice-focused doctoral program requires a bachelor's degree. Some nurses who have a master's degree choose to pursue a PhD, a research-focused doctorate.

When you become a registered nurse, you will want to work in a hospital with a NICU. Some NICUs require prior experience in infant care such as work in pediatrics or in a well-newborn nursery. However, most NICUs will hire new graduate nurses with a strong interest in neonatal intensive care and have orientation programs that teach you how to care for sick infants. A variety of educational programs provide introductory information about neonatal care. If you plan to go on to become an NNP, you should practice in a Level III NICU as a staff nurse before applying to graduate school. These units provide the most highly skilled care to the sickest of infants.


"What Is Neonatal Nursing?" Neonatal Nursing Career Info. N.p., n.d. Web. 08 Jan. 2014.


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