How Do You Become a Neonatal Nurse?

When you become a neonatal nurse, you will enter a special part of the healthcare field that involves helping to provide care to infants that were born prematurely or with health problems such as infections, birth defects or heart abnormalities. A typical neonatal nurse works in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at a hospital, and they often play an important role in educating parents about their child’s special care needs. Since neonatal nurses work with the most vulnerable patients, it does require a combination of education, experience and meeting licensing requirements to start a career.

Characteristics of a Neonatal Nurse

According to the U.S. Library of Medicine, approximately one out of every ten babies is born premature. For this reason, neonatal units can be extremely busy, and you will be working with a medical team to provide care to newborns with serious health conditions. Due to the work environment, it is important to be able to work well under pressure. Ideal neonatal nurse candidates should also be organized, compassionate and have strong communication skills.

Educational Requirements

There are several routes that can be taken to become a neonatal nurse. Some people find it easier to begin with an associate degree in nursing before working their way up to a graduate level degree. Others are able to find a hospital that will hire them with only a bachelor degree. However, it is important to note that obtaining a master degree in nursing will provide you with more employment opportunities and a higher pay scale. During your education, you will take courses such as fetus physiology, healthcare basics and neonatal care. You may also be asked to take part in hands-on learning experiences involving mock medical situations as well as real patients toward the end of your education. Today, many of these courses can be completed online to provide you with more time to participate in supervised work experiences.

Testing and Certification

Once you have completed your education, you will need to complete a certain amount of hours of supervised training. You will also be eligible to take your nursing exam and apply for your license. In most states and hospital settings, you will need to take the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) that is given by the American Nurses Credentialing Center. If you choose to become a neonatal nurse practitioner, then the National Certification Corporation can also certify you.

Employment Opportunities

Neonatal nurses primarily work in hospitals that may have very specific employment requirements. Many nurses also take additional classes that allow them to work within research fields or in teaching hospitals as a mentor to future nursing candidates. Once employed, you will be responsible for many aspects of a newborn’s care that can range from changing diapers to administering oxygen and intravenous infusions.

Related Resource: Become an ICU Nurse

Caring for the most vulnerable and tiniest patients is a huge responsibility for neonatal nurses. Yet, this is one career that comes with many rewards. Working with a medical team to save tiny lives and provide comfort to families is an amazing experience that cannot be found in any other type of career. As you begin to take the steps to become a neonatal nurse, you can be certain that this is one decision that will lead to a challenging yet satisfying career.