What Does a Neonatal Intensive Care Nurse Do?
Neonatal intensive care nurses are specially trained to work with premature and critically ill newborns in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) of a hospital. These newborns are often born needing immediate medical attention and must be connected to special technology that assists with their breathing and allows them to be fed intravenously to help them gain weight. Neonatal ICU nurses work under the direction of one or more physicians, and they are responsible for managing and carrying out an at-risk newborn’s plan of care, monitoring the newborn’s condition, administering any necessary medications and recording the progress of the newborn’s development and recovery. Neonatal ICU nurses also play a major role in educating new mothers about the importance of breastfeeding as well as how to care for the baby once it is discharged from the hospital. They also provide vaccinations for newborns, change diapers and hold and comfort babies in distress.
How Can I Become a Neonatal Intensive Care Nurse?
The first step toward becoming a neonatal intensive care nurse is to complete an approved nursing education program. The most common way of doing this is to earn a degree in nursing. Most nurses have earned either an Associate of Science in Nursing (ASN) or a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) from an accredited college or university. Less common is earning a nursing diploma, a program typically offered through hospitals. During your nursing education, it is helpful to take elective courses in neonatal nursing or to specialize in neonatology. After completing a nursing program, all future nurses go on to take an exam called the NCLEX (National Council Licensure Examination) so they can become licensed to practice nursing in their state. After accumulating significant clinical experience working with neonatal patients, you can proceed to become certified as a critical care neonatal nurse through the American Association of Critical Care Nursing.
What Is the Career and Salary Outlook for a Neonatal Intensive Care Nurse?
The career outlook for registered nurses overall is excellent, and those who specialize in a particular area of health care, such as neonatal intensive care nursing, are often highly sought-after. However, because neonatal ICU nursing is a very popular field of nursing, it may be difficult to find positions in the field, as you can expect lots of competition for jobs. The overall employment of registered nurses is projected to grow by 22 percent between 2008 and 2018, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The average annual salary for a neonatal intensive care nurse is $55,000, according to SimplyHired.com, a site that calculates average salaries based on what is listed in the job postings it receives. Online compensation site Payscale.com put the salary of an RN working the neonatal ICU at $51,134. A number of factors can affect your salary as a neonatal ICU nurse, including how many years of experience you have, what certifications you have, what region of the U.S. you live in, and whether you are working in a metropolitan or rural area.