If you have a soft spot for babies, then you should find out what a neonatal nurse does. Neonatology nurses, or neonatal nurses, are specialized registered nurses (R.N.s). Basically, what a neonatal nurse does is work in a hospital setting to provide nursing care to newborns.

The Job of a Neonatal Nurse

Neonatology is the nursing specialty dedicated to the care of newborn babies, the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported. Most R.N.s who specialize in neonatology work in hospitals. Much of what a neonatal nurse does is help babies who are suffering from serious medical conditions such as birth defects, premature birth, cardiac malformations, infections and surgical issues, according to the National Association of Neonatal Nurses (NANN).

A neonatal nurse will provide care for a baby from the time it is born to the time the infant is well enough to leave the hospital. Sometimes a neonatal nurse cares for an infant patient for only a short period of time, while the baby is recovering from a short-term problem. Other neonatal nurses provide care for the entire first month of life – the term that technically makes up the neonatal period. Some newborns have severe enough medical conditions that they will need long-term nursing care. For these babies, a neonatal nurse may play a critical role in the patient’s care for several months – and possibly up to two years, the NANN reported.

Levels of Neonatal Nursing

Much of what a neonatal nurse does depends on the level or stage in which the nurse works. Level I neonatal nurses provide basic are for healthy newborns.

The neonatal nurses who work in a Level II nurseries work with premature and ill infants. Like Level I nurses, they have responsibilities such as changing diapers, the Houston Chronicle reported. They also have to keep a closer eye on their patients’ conditions, including monitoring vital signs and handling any emergencies that arise.

Level III neonatology nurses work in an intensive care setting like a NICU. They provide constant care for the sickest newborns and often use medical equipment such as incubators and ventilators.

How You Can Become a Neonatal Nurse

Most aspiring R.N.s will earn either an associate’s degree in nursing or a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree. Either path can prepare you to earn your nursing license, according to the BLS, although many nurses who start out with an associate’s degree later go on to complete an R.N. to B.S.N. program.

There is no specialized undergraduate degree program for aspiring neonatal nurses, according to the Houston Chronicle. However, you can start building your education in this specialized field by taking elective courses in pediatric and neonatal nursing and searching for clinical experience opportunities in neonatal units.

Many neonatal nurses choose to earn a certification such as neonatal nurses should also get a certification in Neonatal Resuscitation (NRP) and/or Neonatal Intensive Care Nursing (RNC-NIC). Most neonatal nurses start working in Level I nurseries and advance to more complex roles as they gain experience.

If what a neonatal nurse does sounds like the career for you, pursuing your nursing education is the first step you should take.

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