How to Become a Neonatal Nurse


Neonatal nursing is specialized nursing care given specifically to new born infants up till the age of 28 days. This specialty splits into 3 distinct levels depending on the degree of medical care and attention needed by the new born infant. The neonatal care team must ensure that the infant remains healthy. At times due to birth defects, complications, accidents, surgical problems or infections, the newborn must be provided with intense care and attention.

The work of a neonatal nurse is extremely important and demanding as the first few days after a child is born are extremely crucial. Protecting the infant from illness, sickness and any disease is of prime importance. Therefore if you love challenges, attention to detail and care for the growth and nourishment of infants, this is the right line for work for you.

Education Requirements

Education is given prime importance by potential employers when it comes to medical careers. This is because when dealing with delicate human lives, utmost care and precision must be exercised – there is little to no margin of error.

One can enter the field of neonatal nursing with a diploma or an associate’s degree which usually lasts 2 to 3 years. However, these options may only get you an entry level position that revolves around assisting. Keep in mind that neonatal nurses are registered nurses (RN). It is recommended that you successfully complete a bachelor’s of science in nursing (BSN) as this will give you a well-rounded foundation.

A master’s of science in nursing (MSN) is also an option for nurses who are looking to gain a competitive advantage and climb the ranks. In both cases, it is important for candidates to specialize in neonatal nursing towards the end of their program as that determines their focus and direction.

After completing a nursing program, candidates must clear the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN). Be sure to look up the licensing requirements as they vary state to state. The American Nurses Association (ANA) and the American Nurses Credentialing Centre (ANCC) are two comprehensive resources you should visit to learn about certification needs.

Job Duties

The job duties of a neonatal nurse greatly vary depending on the level of care and demand needed by the infant. As mentioned before, there are 3 levels of neonatal nursing. Level 1 is providing care for normal and healthy newborns. Level 2 is immediate care given to newborns that are ill or premature. Level 3 neonatal caring is the most intensive care for newborns that need vital life support. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has included a 4th level where infants that need intricate surgical procedures with complex complications are categorized.

The job duties also vary depending on where you work such as hospitals, clinics, private practices and the like. The common job duties that you can come to expect during your career as a neonatal nurse are listed below. Generally all job duties will revolve around giving care to the infant and assisting the rest of your team for the sake of the bigger picture which is to ensure the health and safety of the infant.

  1. Provide basic, critical and intensive care to newborn infants who may be sick, premature or unwell.
  2. Work as an active member of the neonatal team and provide support and input to the team structure.
  3. Give basic warmth and hygiene care to infants and keep a close eye on their progress and development.
  4. Provide support, care and counseling to new parents on their child’s health. Educate new parents on certain procedures and processes to ensure they are emotionally stable.
  5. Constantly monitor the health, recovery and development of babies. Ensure that the prescribed medicine or course of action is taking positive effect.
  6. Monitor the infant’s vital signs to ensure they are within the normal operating range. Also keep a close watch on the infant’s body.
  7. Assist the neonatal team in the case of problematic or difficult cases. Assist the mother with breastfeeding her child.
  8. Ensure that the newborn infant is breathing and physically developing normally through the course of the days.
  9. Document all progress, procedures and medical services provided to the infant. Ensure that patient’s documents are well archived and protected.

Career Outlook

As the awareness and importance of preventative medicine and healthcare have been steadily increasing among societies, so has the demand for healthcare services such as neonatal care. According to the U.S Department of Labor, the nursing profession will experience an expansion of 26% up to the year 2020.

Salary Prospects

According to, the average annual salary for neonatal nurses is $54,000. Salary growth depends on factors such as type of industry (public or private), level of experience and your level of qualification.

Related Reading

Further Reading

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