While some people may think that all nurses are the same, that’s not the whole truth. Yes, every nurse does have the same foundation regarding medical practice and how to treat and care for patients. However, there are many nurses who decide to specialize in a specific field of nursing. These nurses put in the extra time and effort to acquire the skills they need to be experts in a specific area of nursing – for example, neonatal nursing.
Neonatal nurses play a vital role when it comes to the health of newborn babies. Some newborn babies are not born healthy and suffer from a number of complications such as cardiac malformations, birth defects, surgical problems, infections, and premature births; this is where neonatal nurses come in. They ensure that newborns facing complications always receive the high-quality care they need. Neonatal nurses must not only be knowledgeable in their field, but also be mentally and emotionally strong to be able to deal with the ups and downs of their jobs. At times the job may be emotionally taxing, as well as physically exhausting. As a neonatal nurse, you may find yourself working evenings, weekends, and overnight shifts in the NICU (neonatal intensive care unit).
Before becoming a practicing neonatal nurse in the intensive care unit, you will need to complete several requirements regarding education, training, and certification. To become a neonatal nurse, you must not only have an active registered nurse license, but you must also go through a master’s program and become an advanced practice registered nurse (APRN).
Neonatal nurse practitioners assist in the delivery and treatment of newborn infants. Supervised by a neonatologist, neonatal NPs work in acute and nonacute settings and should be ready to address any health issues that arise from complications such as HIV infections, drug addictions, premature births, genetic disorders, and others.
Newborn infants may be treated by registered nurses in a majority of Level I nurseries. They attend to births and treat newborns if possible. NNPs (neonatal nurse practitioners) go through more extensive training than their RN counterparts and are better equipped to deal with complex health issues. They may also receive more responsibilities such as prescribing medications, planning treatment, and diagnosing when needed, depending on the rules nd regulations set by their state.
Neonatal nurse practitioners strive to decrease the mortality rates of newborns. Depending on the newborn infant’s specific condition, duties will vary between neonatal nurses and neonatal nurse practitioners. The following are the four levels of neonatal care:
Neonatal nurse practitioners can expect to be responsible for the following duties across a number of healthcare settings:
Newborn infants need special care when faced with health complications. Healthy newborns can grow into healthy adults, and everything must be done to secure the health of babies. Without neonatal nurses caring for newborns, the mortality rate of newborns may increase significantly, not to mention any health complications faced later in life due to poor care at the time of birth. Neonatal nurses make sure that newborn infants receive the treatment they need to grow into healthy adults.
Before becoming an advanced practice registered nurse, prospective neonatal nurses must go through basic training. Prospective neonatal nurses have two options: obtain an associate’s or a bachelor’s degree in nursing. From there, they must pass their NCLEX-RN license exam. Once they become registered nurses, they must have two years of experience and practice. Afterwards, they can apply to graduate programs and obtain a graduate degree (like a Master of Science in Nursing) and become an advanced practice registered nurse.
Nurses in a graduate program will gain experience in pediatric pharmacology, transitions to advanced nursing, and neonatal health assessment. They gain hands-on experience, work alongside other practical nurses in facilities designated for neonatal care, and complete a thesis.
Nurses looking to become neonatal nurse practitioners must go through and complete a graduate program as well as become an advanced practice registered nurse. Entry-level nurse practitioner positions are commonly available for nurses who graduated with a master’s degree. While a doctorate degree may be the highest degree in the field, it is not necessary to start working as a neonatal nurse. One of the concentrations in master’s programs is neonatal nursing; others include anesthesiology, gerontology, and midwifery.
The following explains what you can expect from a master’s program with a concentration in neonatal nursing. Keep in mind that the information may differ, depending on the school.
In order to be admitted to a nursing practitioner master’s program, you will have to complete several educational requirements and submit extensive documentation. Whether it’s in nursing or not, you must have a bachelor’s degree before applying to a master’s program. Depending on the school, you may only be allowed to apply if you have a bachelor’s in nursing, while other school may not care what you graduated in as long as you have a bachelor’s degree and meet every other requirement.
To apply to a nursing practitioner master’s program, you must:
Depending on the school, you may see additional requirements such as proof of malpractice insurance, a background check, and specific course prerequisites. Generally, nurse practitioner master’s programs won’t require GRE test scores. Some common prerequisites you may be asked to complete include a health assessment class and a class in statistics, both three credit hour classes.
The following are some sample courses you may have to complete in master’s program with a concentration in neonatal nursing:
As with any degree, time to completion will depend on the specific course requirements of the program you’re a part of and your type of enrollment. Full-time students will generally take about two years to graduate from their Master’s program, while students who attend part-time will generally take anywhere between three and five years to graduate from their program.
To complete a neonatal nursing practitioner program, you will generally have to complete between 54-65 credits of nursing core courses, clinical experience courses, and neonatal-focused classes. The good news is that if you decide to specialize in any area – whether it’d be neonatal nursing, anesthesiology, or gerontology – you won’t take any extra time as your specialization courses are built into your course curriculum through electives.
Certain factors may affect your graduation timeline. For example, many programs require their students to have between one to two years of work experience in the neonatal intensive care unit. Those who don’t meet these requirements may face some delays in their graduation timelines and may be barred from participating in clinical courses until these prerequisites are met. On the flip side, those who have previous graduate education experience may graduate sooner than their peers by transferring their credits where allowed.
The National Association of Neonatal Nurses has set the following educational and curriculum guidelines for neonatal nurse practitioner programs: each student must complete a clinical component, which has to be a minimum of 600 clock hours, working in either a delivery room, a pediatric intensive care unit (ICU), or a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). The guidelines suggest that most of the clinical components take part in Level III and Level IV neonatal intensive care units. Observational experience does not count as part of this requirement.
Before practicing, neonatal nurses must obtain their certification once they complete their master’s program. Obtaining the certification from the National Certification Corporation (NCC) is a popular choice among graduates However, each state has their own list of approved certifications, so check with your state board of nursing before taking the exam to see if your state accepts NCC certification.
Sometimes studying on-campus can be hard, especially for busy adults and working professionals. Fortunately, there is an increasing number of neonatal nurse practitioner programs available online, allowing busy adults who can’t go to school full time achieve their dreams at their own pace. Like their on-campus counterparts, online programs offer both part-time and full-time options, so you can set your own pace.
The program options and formats differ between schools, so make sure you research each school to find the one that best fits your criteria. Some programs offer synchronous and asynchronous classes, while some schools may require students to visit campus and other approved facilities from time to time. Clinical hours are still required, and online students will generally go to a nearby healthcare facility that’s been approved by the program to complete their required hours.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs), of which neonatal nurses are a part of, should expect a career growth rate of 31% between 2016 and 2026. Areas that are underserved, such as remote areas and inner cities, could expect an even higher growth rate. According to PayScale, neonatal nurse practitioners should expect an average annual salary of around $97,000.
Neonatal nurses are not always confined to a NICU. In some cases, NNP’s will be part of on flight and/or ground transport teams as they treat newborns on their way to facilities better equipped to care for their medical needs. Serving as part of a critical care transport team can be done from time to time or may be a primary duty for some neonatal nurses. Flight nurses are not restricted to treating newborns; they may also treat older children.
Some neonatal nurses can look at developmental care as an area where they can advance their careers. Neonatal nurses who not only want to contribute their skills to their career but also their ideas can aim to become part of a parent advisory committee or developmental care committee. These groups are usually available at major healthcare facilities.
Neonatal nurses can complete a master’s program and become advanced practice registered nurses and execute their role as neonatal nurse practitioners. Nurses who go through this process usually receive training at the doctoral level.
According to the National Association of Neonatal Nurses, survival rates for low birth-weight babies has increased tenfold in just 15 years. This miraculous change in the neonatal ward is thanks to effective medical breakthroughs.
These advances come in many forms, including the use of high technology. MedStar Georgetown University Hospital, one of the oldest academic teaching hospitals in the nation, uses the following high-tech therapies to treat their newborn infants:
Some neonatal care units have started applying old-fashioned practices such as physical contact, nurturing, and baby cuddlers. Newborns who suffer from neonatal abstinence syndrome may be treated with massages.
Among neonatal nurses with RN credentials, the ones with the highest earning power make an annual salary of about $92,000. Neonatal nurses in the median range earn about $58,500 a year and the ones who earn the lowest make about $40,000 a year, according to PayScale.
Based on a report by the National Association of Neonatal Nurses (NANN), there are around 40,000 infants born with low weight annually. Due to the use of high technology and medical advances, the survival rate has increased tenfold over the past 15 years. To keep this rate going up, lowering the mortality rates of newborn babies, neonatal nurses are in high demand.
Neonatal nurses are registered nurses who focus on the care and treatment of newborns and infants. These sub-specialty nurses can progress through their careers in three different levels:
Although neonatal nursing is in itself a sub-specialty, neonatal nurses can plan to move into any of the following related specialties:
What are some of the responsibilities and duties of neonatal nurses?
Specific duties and responsibilities will vary by setting and location. However, as a neonatal nurse you should be ready to do any of the following:
What is the work environment like for neonatal nurses?
Neonatal nurses have several settings to choose from when it comes to work. You can find neonatal nurses in:
What are some jobs related to neonatal nursing?
If you’re interested in delving into a neonatal nursing specialty or a related field, you can try becoming a transitional care nursery nurse, labor and delivery staff nurse, neonatal nurse practitioner (NNP), travel NICU nurse, or a neonatal ICU nurse.
How much do neonatal nurses earn a year?
Experience and training affect much of your salary, as well as any specialties. For example, neonatal nurses without a master’s degree can expect to earn about $40,00 a year at the start of their careers. Neonatal Nurse Practitioners (NNPs) on the other hand can expect to start earning $90,000 a year at the start of their careers. Geographical location and workplace setting also affects this figure.
What are the top paying states for neonatal nurse practitioners?
The state with the highest paying salary for NNPs is California ($126,770 annual mean wage), followed by Alaska ($125,140), Hawaii ($122,580), Massachusetts ($120,140), and Connecticut ($118,500).
The following organizations and agencies offer several resources for people wanting to enter the neonatal nursing field and registered nurses currently working as neonatal nurses. They each offer unique help, so click on each one to see how they can help your career move forward.
Ready for a fulfilling career in the world of healthcare? Then what are you waiting for? Enroll today in a Neonatal Nurse program near you and start making a difference in your life and the world around you.