Neonatal nurses are trained in the care of newborn babies and often work in hospitals and clinics to provide care in the initial hours and days following birth. They may also teach parents skills about how to care for their newborns. Many nursing schools have the basics of newborn care as part of their programs, with clinical practice in this particular area.
Neonatal nurses understand the specific needs of newborns. They may attend a baby’s delivery or cesarean section and then tend the baby immediately after it is born, checking the rate of breathing, administering initial medications, and helping a new mother to breastfeed. During the mother and baby’s stay in the hospital, the neonatal nurses help to care for the baby to ensure that it is getting enough to eat and is staying healthy. They change diapers, give baths, feed babies, and check their weights. They also assist physicians who check on the newborns and give updates about potential illnesses.
Most neonatal nurses have certification in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) that is specifically devised for babies. If a baby is born during a difficult delivery or needs assistance with breathing, neonatal nurses often stand by in case they need to use these skills.
Some neonatal nurses work in a critical care environment for babies, known as a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). These nurses have advanced training to care for babies who are born prematurely or who have illness. They may work with babies who breathe with ventilators, administer medications, or help doctors perform procedures. Some of these nurses work to transport very sick babies born in a facility without a NICU to a hospital that can provide higher levels of care.
Some hospitals expect NICU nurses to have work experience before beginning in this type of critical care environment. Working as a neonatal nurse or gaining experience in pediatrics can help to prepare for working in a NICU.
Nurses who wish to work in an advanced role in the neonatal care units may achieve a master’s degree in nursing to become a neonatal nurse practitioner (NNP). These nurses work alongside physicians to prescribe medications and treatments for preterm babies. NNPs may also see babies following discharge from the hospital to ensure growth and overall development.
Neonatal nurses are people who enjoy seeing babies come into the world and who want to help each baby grow and thrive.