Neonatal Nurse: Career Summary, Job Outlook, and Education Requirements

Neonatal nurses are registered nurses who specialize in the care of premature or sick newborn babies. Find out about the education and certification requirements for this career, as well as the salary potential and job outlook. Schools offering Nursing degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Will I Do as a Neonatal Nurse?

Neonatal nurses work with pediatricians and physicians to provide care to newborn babies. As a neonatal nurse, you'll monitor vital signs, order diagnostic tests and make initial readings of those results. You'll introduce new mothers to caring for their newborns, and you may give additional care to mothers and infants who've undergone cesarean section procedures. Generally, neonatal nurses work with preterm babies and infants up to the age of two.

What Is the Job Outlook?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, nursing employment across the board was expected to increase by 22% from 2008-2018 (www.bls.gov). Neonatal nurses, also called neonatal nurse practitioners (NNPs), can work in clinics, in hospitals or as consultants. Salary.com reports that the median salary for neonatal nurses is about $100,000, with middle-half salaries falling roughly between $92,000-$109,000, as of 2011.

What Education Requirements Do I Need?

You must complete both undergraduate and graduate degree programs in nursing. Associate degrees in nursing (ADN) prepare you for a career in nursing with courses in communication, pharmacology, anatomy, patient care and nursing principles. You'll work with patients and family members to practice the skills learned in the classroom. The programs generally qualify you for registered nurse (RN) certification. The bachelor's degree programs are often geared toward working nurses. These programs usually include coursework subjects like physiology, critical care, health assessment, nutrition and microbiology.

To become a neonatal nurse, you must continue your education with a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree in a neonatal nurse practitioner program. These programs are sometimes offered online, with clinical experience completed at a local neonatal care unit. You'll study this subspecialty with courses in pediatric pharmacology, neonatal care, fetus physiology and healthcare system basics.

Some states require neonatal nurses to continue their education after being certified. The National Association of Neonatal Nurses (NANN) provides such education opportunities online and through conferences (www.nann.org). NANN also provides information on scholarships and grants given to nurses going into the neonatal profession.

How Do I Obtain Certification?

Before initially becoming a nurse, you'll need to take the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) provided by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (www.ncsbn.org). The Council offers two exams; the NCLEX-RN is for registered nurses and the NCLEX-PN is for licensed practical nurses. The American Nurses Credentialing Center offers a pediatric nursing practitioner certification, but they don't offer one specifically in neonatal care (www.nursecredentialing.org).

Finally, the National Certification Corporation provides a neonatal nurse practitioner certification (www.nccwebsite.org). This exam can be taken in person or via the Web. Application and exam fees differ depending on the examination method. You must be a registered nurse and have completed a master's degree in neonatal nursing to be eligible for the exam.

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