Practice Areas for Neonatal Nurses
There are three different areas, or ''levels,'' in which a neonatal nurse can practice. The level a nurse practices in directly corresponds to the level of care a particular infant needs.
Level I: Neonatal nurses who practice in this area look after infants who are healthy and do not require any special medical treatment. Nursing jobs in this area are quickly becoming scarce due to the fact that insurance companies have drastically cut the time a healthy mother and baby are able to stay at the hospital after birth.
Level II: Nurses who practice in this level typically care for newborns that were either born prematurely or are in need of intermediate medical care. Responsibilities in this position may range from giving a newborn specialized feedings to providing intravenous therapy.
Level III: In this level, nurses care for newborns who have been born with serious and life-threatening health problems. These neonatal nurses work in Neonatal Intensive Care Units (NICUs). Typically, job duties are varied and range from ensuring that the ventilators and incubators are working properly to frequently checking a child to ensure that its vitals are constant.
Qualifications and Education Required for a Career as a Neonatal Nurse
The qualifications for a position as a neonatal nurse vary depending on the hospital in which the nurse is employed, but typically neonatal nurses are required to complete a registered nursing program in addition to obtaining a Bachelor of Science in Nursing or Masters of Science in Nursing degree. Additionally, experience working in a neonatal intensive care unit is often recommended, with one year being a typical benchmark and two years being preferred. Licensure is also highly recommended and can be obtained, for example, by taking the NCLEX.
Often, it is required that nurses complete a specific number of continuing education hours in order to keep their licenses. The requirements for this vary, and an exam may be required in order to substantiate a nurse’s knowledge of the neonatal field. Moreover, most NICUs require that nurses be certified as Neonatal Resuscitation Providers and Neonatal Nurse Practitioners.
Skills Required for a Career as a Neonatal Nurse
It is vital that neonatal nurses be diligent, because one mistake or oversight can be the difference between life and death. Additionally, these nurses often work with neonatologists and neonatal nurse practitioners, and therefore must work well in groups in order to ensure the proper care of a newborn. Moreover, because of the importance of their work, neonatal nurses must work well under pressure and be willing to work erratic schedules. Superior communication skills are also vital, not only because neonatal nurses must interact with other healthcare professionals but also because they must often interact with the parents of ill children.
Compensation for Neonatal Nurses
The typical salary of a neonatal nurse varies greatly and is dependent upon the location of employment, training, and years of experience. When first starting out in the field, neonatal nurses earn between $30,000 and $48,000 per year. Once a nurse attends graduate school and becomes a neonatal nurse practitioner, the salary will typically increase significantly, and nurses can earn up to $190,000 per year. Nurses can also receive bonuses of up to $5,000 yearly.