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Neonatal Nurse

Neonatal nursing is a rather new nursing speciality when compared with other fields of nursing that have been around for over a centure. The neonatal nursing speciality emerged during the late nineteen sixties. However, over the last fifty years it has experienced tremendous growth. Neonatal nursing is now a mainstream nursing specialty and jobs in this field are numerous for nurses interested in newborn and infant care. You can find neonatal nurses in just about every hospital and birthing center nationwide.

Newborn babies are classified in the neonatal develop phase during first 28 days after birth. Neonatal nurses specialize in providing medical care and treatments to neonatal babies and their mothers.

The Role of The Neonatal Nurse

As established by the Perinatal Regionalization Model, there are three designated care levels of infant nurseries where neonatal nurses can be employed. Levels I, II and III.
  • Level I nurseries house relatively healthy newborns and their mothers that require only a short period of hospitalization. In most cases, both mother and baby are allowed to stay in the same room.

  • Level II nurseries are for newborns that require a minimal amount of medical care. Level II nurseries usually house premature babies or newborns that are slightly sick and require oxygen therapy, intravenous injections, feeding tubes, or other therapies.

  • Level III nurseries or intensive care units (NICUs) house newborns in the neonatal stage of development that require serious medical attention. Babies in Level III nurseries/facilities may be suffering from abnormally low birth weights, require 24 monitoring, be extremely premature, require ventilators or some other life support type therapies. These facilities are generally found in children's hospitals and birthing centers.

While there are no set criteria that healthcare organizations must follow, most employers will test neonatal nurses for competency in administering medications, performing cardiopulmonary resuscitation, administering intravenous lines and other neonatal procedures. In addition, each healthcare organization may have its own requirements for neonatal nursing positions. Some organizations require no less than 1 year of qualified nursing experience, while others will only hire registered nurses who have a college degree. Some hiring organizations do not have any experience requirements at all.

Neonatal nurses are required to complete continuing education requirements on an ongoing basis to keep their skills current. Continuing education requirements are determined by each state's board of nursing. In order to keep their license current, most state boards require neonatal nurses to complete a certain amount of continuing education hours at least every 4 years. In most states continuing education must be completed at least every two years.

Work Settings

The majority of neonatal nurses work in the neonatal intensive care units at hospitals and birthing centers. Neonatal nurses can choose to work with NICU house neborns, healthy newborns, premature newborns, or new mothers.

Education and Training

The educational requirements for becoming a neonatal nurse are the same as those for becoming a registered nurse. While some organizations will employ neonatal nurses that do not have the registered nurse designation, more and more employers are requiring that their neonatal nurses be licensed registered nurses. After earning an associate's (ASN) or bachelor's of science in nursing (BSN), graduates must pass a state test to receive licensure as a registered nurse. Neonatal nursing degrees are not typically available at the undergraduate level, but most graduate programs offer programs that focus on neonatal nursing.

Experience is also essential to becoming a neonatal nurse. Apsiring neonatal nurses should try to find a nursing position within a neonatal intensive care unit before applying to neonatal graduate program. Nurses with graduate degrees can become neonatal nurse practitioners.


Salaries for neonatal nurses are influenced by a number of factors including experienced, education, location, and employer. The salary and benefits for neonatal nurses are comparable to those for registered nurses.

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