What Is Neonatal Nursing?
Does helping some of the most vulnerable patients in medicine - newborn infants - sound like your calling? Then you may be considering a career in neonatal nursing. This article discusses careers in neonatal nursing, including job responsibilities and education requirements. Schools offering Nursing degrees can also be found in these popular choices.
Neonatal Nursing Definition
Neonatal nursing is a specialty focusing on newborn infants through their first several months of life. Neonatal nursing deals with premature infants or infants who have birth defects and infections or who had a low birth weight. Most often, your work is done in the Newborn Intensive Care Unit (NICU). The March of Dimes, an organization dedicated to research in neonatal care, states one out of ten babies born in the United States has a medical condition requiring care in the NICU (www.marchofdimes.com). Some infants remain in a neonatal nurse's care for more than a year.
Neonatal Nursing Responsibilities
As a neonatal nurse, you will generally care for 1-4 patients at a time in the NICU. You will also help deliver premature infants, operate high-tech neonatal machines and oversee the administration of intravenous (IV) medications. You may also help with the developmental areas of growth, social and emotional health and well-being. Providing education to families on how to prevent further illness and manage ongoing health conditions will be a large part of your job. You will also help transition babies to go home, sometimes with further in-home medical assistance.
Education for Neonatal Nursing
Neonatal nursing and neonatal nurse certification require advanced practice education and at least a master's degree, like the Master of Science in Nursing. Before entering a master's program, you may need a bachelor's degree, such as a Bachelor of Science (B.S.) in Nursing. You also need to be working as a licensed registered nurse (RN).
To prove your skills and knowledge in neonatal nursing, you may consider earning certification after earning your master's degree. The National Certification Corporation offers the low risk neonatal nursing certification and the neonatal intensive care nursing certification. To qualify for both certifications you must meet experience requirements and be a licensed RN.
Careers in Neonatal Nursing
The majority of neonatal nurses work in hospitals, although a few specialize in providing home care to high-risk or recovering infants. Neonatal nurse practitioners may develop a specialty in procedures such as lumbar punctures or intubations. As you gain more experience, you may choose to work in neonatal transport, stabilization or extracorporeal membrane oxygenation, which involves using specialized machines to help bypass the heart and lungs of a seriously ill baby. Other options working with special-care babies include respiratory or occupational therapy.
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