Study Note: Neonatal Nursing
Neonatal nursing is a specialty in nursing that focuses on the care of infants born with various medical complications including prematurity, congenital disabilities, heart conditions, surgical complications, malformations, infections, and a wide range of medical conditions that require them to spend some time in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). Usually, the neonatal period falls within the first month after birth, but it often extends to a couple of months until a child stabilizes and eventually discharged. Thus, neonatal nursing can be described as care accorded to infants born with medical conditions in the period after birth. However, neonatal nursing can also, albeit seldomly provide care for infants with long term medical conditions resulting from their prematurity and birth complications.
Who is a Neonatal Nurse?
A neonatal nurse is a registered nurse practitioner specially educated and trained to deal with newborn infants born prematurely and with a wide range of medical conditions and complications. A neonatal nurse works closely with the parents of the infant, helping them care for their child. A neonatal nurse typically works in hospitals and clinics in the neonatal intensive care units. However, a neonatal nurse can also work in a community-based setting where they offer follow up care to high-risk infants requiring close and more personalized monitoring after being discharged from the hospital.
Among the duties and responsibilities of a neonatal nurse entails teaching the parents how to hold, bathe, feed, and care for their delicate infant. Premature infants often suffer from a wide range of complications, such as respiratory difficulties, which can be life-threatening. Because of their high-level of dependency, a neonatal nurse is often involved in providing acute care round the clock. Some of a neonatal nurse’s primary tasks include creating and implementing treatment plans, monitoring signs and responding appropriately, performing diagnostic tests, operating medical equipment like ventilators and incubators, maintaining health records, and providing support to the parents and family of the infant.
Becoming a neonatal nurse
To become a neonatal nurse, first, you need to become a registered nurse by obtaining either an Associate’s degree or a Bachelor’s degree in nursing and proceeding to pass the NCLEX-RN certification exams. However, it is important to note that the BSN is often preferred over the Associate’s program as preparation for neonatal nursing. After gaining your degree and licensure, you can decide to seek a neonatal nursing role directly. However, it is advisable to first seek a nursing role in faculty with NICU where you get the opportunity to gain experience in neonatal care and build your confidence before officially seeking a NICU position. Caring for premature infants can be difficult and scary at first. Gradually gaining experience ensures that you acquire the necessary confidence and transition smoothly into a neonatal nurse.
Kenner, C., 2019. Comprehensive neonatal nursing care. Springer Publishing Company.
Sheldon, R.E., Bissinger, R., Kenner, C. and Staebler, S., 2017. The status of us neonatal nurse practitioner education in 2015–2016. NeoReviews, 18(1), pp.e3-e21.
Verklan, M.T., Walden, M. and Forest, S. eds., 2020. Core curriculum for neonatal intensive care nursing e-book. Elsevier Health Sciences.