Neonatal Nursing – What to Expect

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Neonatal nursing is a highly specialized career path. Over forty thousand babies are currently born with health issues or low birth weight, and the demand for nurses who have the specialist skills and knowledge needed to help the most vulnerable of patients is high. Neonatal nurses can make all the difference to a baby’s start in life, so it’s no surprise that working as a neonatal nurse can be a very rewarding role. This career has several benefits including options for career progression and further specialization into conditions and diseases that typically affect newborn babies. Keep reading to find out more about what working as a neonatal nurse is like. 

Career Outlook

Nursing is a career path that has always had quite a positive career outlook, and this is true for NICU nurses. The US is currently experiencing a nationwide nursing shortage that has affected nurses in every specialty and department, which has caused the demand for good nurses to rise. Once you have qualified as a neonatal nurse and gained the required certification to work in this role, you can find work almost everywhere as there are three hundred thousand babies born in the world each day, with thousands of them in need of specialist care at the beginning of their lives. Along with the high demand for neonatal nurses, the role also offers a generous salary with an average wage of just over $125k per year. 

Career Advancement

Neonatal nursing is a highly specialist nursing field with a lot of career advancement opportunities on offer. When you work in this role, you will find several options to take your career to the next level and get involved in various specialist areas including treating infants who have been born with different conditions such as drug dependence. Within this career field there are various certification programs and advanced training programs that you can get to take your career further, such as the neonatal nurse practitioner programs from Baylor University. Neonatal nurse practitioners have even more responsibility in comparison with neonatal registered nurses, along with full practice authority in most states and a higher salary outlook. 

Career Satisfaction

While most nurses get into this role for the satisfaction that comes with being able to help their patients, it can be extremely rewarding to know that you have played a part in helping a baby get the best start in life. NICU nursing can be an emotional position to work in at times as you are going to be working with parents who will understandably be worried about their new baby. Along with this, babies are not often the easiest of patients to deal with as not only can they not speak to you and tell you what’s wrong, but they can also be very unpredictable. Being able to see the babies that are under your care get healthy and strong enough to go home with their parents can be one of the most rewarding parts of working in this role. 

How it Compares to Other Types of Nursing

Like any kind of nursing, neonatal nursing involves delivering the highest standards of care to your patients and being an expert in your field. However, in comparison with adult nursing, neonatal nursing can be less physically demanding since babies are much easier to move around as they are smaller and lighter. Nurses in the NICU spend less time moving, lifting, and transferring their patients, and more time carefully watching and observing patients and their vital signs. 

Are There Any Downsides to the Role?

While there’s no doubt that NICU nursing can be a very rewarding role with the opportunity to help people get the best start in life as newborn babies, it’s important to consider all the pros and cons of this role before you decide if it is the right choice for you. Some of the main things to consider include:

Very Demanding

Although NICU nursing may not be as physically demanding in comparison to many other nursing roles, it can be one of the most emotionally demanding types of nursing. This is because babies are often unpredictable to treat, and things can be more complicated when treating neonates as they are unable to communicate how they feel. Along with this, the role can take an emotional toll as you work with worried, scared and upset parents. 

Stress Levels

The NICU tends to be a stressful place, with parents of newborn babies who are facing possibly the toughest or worst time of their lives after bringing a new baby into the world. Along with this, as babies are some of the most unpredictable patients, NICU nurses need to be constantly aware of what is happening as it’s not uncommon for patients who appear to be getting better to suddenly take a turn for the worse. NICU nurses can sometimes find it stressful to deal with this and the impact that it has on family members and parents. 

Specialist Skill Requirement

Neonatal nursing is a type of nursing that requires a specialist skill set that may take some time for you to develop and improve on over time. Mostly, registered nurses with experience working in the field tend to be hired to work in the NICU after gaining the relevant qualification, since the role leaves no room for mistakes. When working with neonates, even the smallest difference in a dosage of medication, for example, can have a devastating impact. NICU nurses need to be highly effective at judging situations and much have a strong eye for detail. 

Ethical Issues

NICU nurses tend to face more nursing ethics compared to other types of nurses. In this role, nurses will often deal with more ethical dilemmas that are not always easy to solve and can be heartbreaking. If you are considering getting into this role, you will need to be realistic about some of the things that you can expect, including some very distressing situations. 

If you want to work in nursing and like the idea of helping newborn babies get the best start in life, neonatal nursing might be an ideal choice of role for you. 

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