Neonatal nursing was developed in the 1960s, and the nurses who are involved in this specialty take care of babies during the first 28 days of life.

Duties of a Neonatal Nurse

Neonatal nurses usually work in one of three levels of care within a nursery. These levels were set forth by the Perinatal Regionalization Model, and they are divided by levels of care needed. A Level I nurse would be employed in a healthy newborn nursery, which now is relatively nonextistant because mothers and babies often share the same room and experience a very short hospital stay. Level II is intermediate care for premature babies or sick babies who need supplemental oxygen, intravenous therapy, specialized feedings, or more time to mature before discharge. The Level III neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) admits all neonates who cannot be treated in either of the other two nursery levels. The Level III units may be in a large general hospital or part of a children’s hospital. Neonatal nurses provide the direct patient care to these infants.

Related Types of Nurses

Neonatal nurses also may choose careers as an OB nurse, a CNM (Certified Nurse Midwife), or a nurse in women’s health nursing. The CNM is an individual who actually conducts deliveries and maintains a patient roster much as an Ob-Gyn would. The CNM is also an advanced nurse practitioner with an MSN and is a graduate of a two-year program for midwifery. Most programs now require that the nurse has two years of experience in labor and delivery before beginning a CNM program.

A woman’s health nurse is connected more to the areas of childbirth and reproductive issues, and this nurse also deals with those diseases that affect women differently from men, such as heart disease and stroke, diabetes, depression, violence and abuse, and the issues related to caregiving. Most women’s health care nurses must go through the same education as the OB nurse. The OB nurse assists with birthing in hospitals, free-standing birthing centers or in hospital birth center nurseries. Other similar possibilities include perinatal nursing, lactation consultation, nurse practitioner, pediatric nursing and pediatric nurse practitioner.

Neonatal Nursing Degrees

Neonatal nurses are required to carry an RN certification. Some hospital or medical centers may require one year of adult health or medical surgical nursing while other units hire RNs after graduation from an accredited school or college of nursing who have passed a state board of nursing (NCLEX) exam for licensure. Many institutions require no previous experience. Requirements for neonatal nurses are established by the institution which uses a list of practice skills to assess nurses’ abilities in using medications, math calculations, intravenous lines, cardiopulmonary resuscitation, and other knowledge needed for direct patient care. Continuing education requirements are mandated by the state or a certifying body. As a staff or an advanced practice nurse, you may also hold national certification in an additional exam that demonstrates specialized knowledge in neonatal nursing.