How Do You Become a Neonatal Nurse?

If you wish to become a neonatal nurse, it’s important to understand not only the career options but the salary, job duties, and licensure information as well. Neonatal nurses work with babies, including those who need special care and those who are healthy. Neonatal nurses can either be Nurse Practitioners (NPs) or Registered Nurses (RNs) and must be able to communicate effectively with others, work well under pressure, and pay close attention to detail. They also often work closely with other individuals, including family members, doctors, and other nurses. As a neonatal nurse, you will review and evaluate test results, keep records of the patients’ conditions, update family members, regularly assess patients, administer medications, and assist in performing procedures. Neonatal nurses mainly work in hospital settings.

What is a Neonatal Nurse?

Newborns are divided into three levels. Neonatal nurses providing Level I care ensure that healthy babies are fed, content, and warm. Level II nurses work with babies who were born prematurely, are having breathing difficulties, or who need special feedings. Level III includes intensive care units with critically ill newborns who need high-tech treatment or who have had surgery.

Begin Nursing School

In order to become a neonatal nurse, the first step is to earn an associate’s degree or a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree from a school accredited by the National League for Nursing Accrediting Commission. These programs are available at community colleges and four-year schools. Coursework will include physiology, pharmacology, and pediatric nursing care. Although a diploma or associate’s degree is the minimum education required for a neonatal nurse career, a Bachelor of Science in Nursing is recommended for nursing practice. Most employers prefer to hire candidates with a bachelor’s degree, and a Bachelor of Science in Nursing is typically required for those seeking management roles in the neonatal nursing specialty.

Become an RN

Once you have earned a degree or diploma in nursing, you must then become licensed in the state in which you intend to work. Although requirements vary, all states require aspiring registered nurses to pass the NCLEX-RN exam.

Seek Employment as a Neonatal Nurse

The National Association of Neonatal Nurses indicates that although most neonatal nurses seek employment in hospitals, they may also work in a specialty healthcare center, home care center, pediatric office, or clinic. Some employers require applicants to have one to two years of experience as a nurse in a Level I neonatal unit or in pediatrics before working with babies who require critical or special care.

Gain Certification

There are a number of certifications offered by the National Certification Corporation that you may earn in the field of neonatal nursing. For instance, the Neonatal Pediatric Transport is a subspecialty certification that could be beneficial if you will be working in the emergency transport of critically ill newborns. If you have more than 2,000 hours of intensive care nursing practice, the Neonatal Intensive Care Nursing certification could be for you. Finally, the Low Risk Neonatal Nursing certification requires nurses to hold a valid RN license and have more than 2,000 hours of general neonatal nursing experience.

Related Resource: What is a Geriatric Nurse?

Those who wish to become a neonatal nurse practitioner (NNP) may do so after one to two years as a neonatal RN. You may do this by pursuing a Master of Science in Nursing degree with a postgraduate certificate in neonatal nursing or a concentration in neonatal nursing. However, an advanced practice degree is not required to become a neonatal nurse, so you should choose the education path that best meets your needs and your career goals.