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Information on Degrees and Requirements needed to become a Neonatal Nurse

Higher Education Articles August 29, 2013

Neonatal care is a specialty in the nursing field. A healthcare professional choosing this area of study would dedicate their practice to the care of newborn infants. The requirements for a career in this challenging field differ from that of a basic floor nurse. The core standards for a neonatal nurse are more stringent then you find in most departments because the work is delicate. The exact requirements vary, but there are some consistent prerequisites.

About Neonatal Nurseries

A neonatal center has three levels of care established by the Prenatal Regionalization Model. A neonatal specialist might work in any one of them.

Level One – Care of healthy infants from birth to 28 days old. This is a limited field. In modern facilities, the mother provides some of the care if the baby is full-term and has no complications. In some hospitals, healthy newborn shares a room with the mother and goes home within 24-hours.

Level Two – The second care tier in the neonatal nursery deals with premature and sick babies. This is where most entry level neonatal nurses work.

Level Three – The intensive care section of the nursery known as NICU. The staff in the NICU consists primarily of nurses who deal with patients that require around the clock care. Babies at this level may be in incubators, or reliant on machines to sustain life.


Only Registered Nurses, RNs, work in the neonatal center. This means a nurse looking for a career in this industry must have at least an Associate of Science in Nursing degree, or ASN. Most institutions require the neonatal nurse to have a Bachelor degree. A RN working in the nursery requires certification in Neonatal Resuscitation.

With any area of nursing, the hiring facility and state laws set the standards for work experience and education, but it is not uncommon for facilities to put newly graduated RNs in the neonatal department. The work is different from other areas of the hospital. New graduates may be able to adjust to the specifics of neonatal care. Most institutions provide extensive training in care procedures.


The duties of a neonatal nurse include the care of healthy, premature and sick infants. They work as part of a multi disciplinary team to manage all aspects of care. The job includes handling high tech equipment such as ventilators and incubators. A nurse has to deal with special tube feedings, starting difficult IVs and administering proper doses of medication. Nurses in charge of intensive care patients require additional training that covers advanced intervention techniques such as extracorporeal membrane oxygenation and hypothermia therapy.

The neonatal specialist must work closely with family members, as well. Part of the nurse’s role is to prepare patients for discharge. In the neonatal unit, nurses must educate parents on caring for their newborn infants. This is especially challenging if the baby is born premature or ill. Family support is a key part of being a neonatal nurse. The role requires the nurse develop a relationship with both the baby and parents.

A neonatal nurse requires the ability to make critical decisions quickly. They must understand the intricacy of transport and home care for special needs infants. Nurses that work with the most critically ill patients will require additional training in care routines such as phototherapy and feeding tolerance. RNs that work in the NICU take annual tests to ensure they are up to date on procedures and equipment.

The first 28 days of life are critical, especially for babies born premature or with a medical problem. To work in the neonatal field requires a nursing professional that is dedicated to the care of some extremely tiny patients. Nurses hoping to obtain roles in this industry require additional training to manage the intricacies of the procedures and equipment. Job availability for nurses in on the rise, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, and the neonatal specialists are no exception.

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