Neonatal Nurse  What They Do

Just the Facts


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dotNeonatal nurses provide complete care for babies. They attend deliveries, weigh and measure infants, bathe them and monitor their health. They also teach new parents about newborn care and breastfeeding.

Neonatal nurses certainly have their work cut out for them. Newborns today face some challenges -- addiction, HIV infection, premature birth. And it's not just medical care these infants need. They need care and comfort to survive and thrive. Neonatal nurses give them the care and compassion they deserve.

"Some common health problems I see are drug-addicted babies, premature babies, HIV-positive babies and babies born with respiratory distress. We work as a team with the doctors to help the babies," says neonatal nurse Susan Early.

dotHospital work requires nurses to be composed, caring and in control every second of their shift. Although neonatal nurses witness the miracle of birth every day, they also view untimely infant deaths.

"My job is very stressful because I deal with life and the prevention of morbidity and mortality. I would say my career is more rewarding than fun. When I'm not working as a nurse, I engage in my hobbies or other activities that give me great pleasure," says Kathleen Baker, a neonatal nurse.

Intensive-care nursing demands sharp monitoring skills and special care immediately after birth. Typical duties include starting and maintaining IV lines, managing ventilators, assessing vital signs and drawing blood. New parents also require special care during this time, so neonatal nurses are in frequent contact with worried families.

dotNeonatal nurses work with needles, feeding pumps, incubators and ventilators. "We use thermometers, stethoscopes, baby warmers...and cardiac monitors for special care babies," says Early.

This means neonatal nurses must keep current with the latest instruments, procedures and research through continuing education and medical journals. As nurses take on increasing responsibilities previously restricted to physicians, a strong educational background is a must.

"Neonatal intensive care is continually challenged with new technologies that may reduce mortality for the most fragile and immature newborn," says Pat Johnson. Johnson is the operations manager for the National Association of Neonatal Nurses.

dotWorking hours depend on the facility. Some hospitals schedule a three-day week with 12-hour days. Other hospitals schedule eight-hour shifts. Expect to work some weekends, evenings and holidays.

"I usually work day shifts with occasional evening shifts. I don't work much overtime," says neonatal nurse Gary Berringer from Pennsylvania.

dotNeonatal nurses must be physically fit with adequate vision, hearing, dexterity and mobility.

At a Glance

Take care of newborn children

  • You must be comfortable with modern medical technology
  • Tools of the trade: needles, feeding pumps, incubators and ventilators
  • A four-year nursing degree is recommended