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Neonatal Nurse

Neonatal Nurse: Salary, Job Description, Schools & Colleges

If you find yourself interested in the neonatal nurse career path, then there are many questions on your mind. For starters, you want to learn all about the full job description of neonatal nurse so you can discover the answers to questions like “what is a neonatal nurse,” and “what does a neonatal nurse do.” Of course, questions of education, skills, and how to become a neonatal nurse will follow.  Questions to job outlook and salary are equally important. Here you will find all the information you need to become confident as you embark on a neonatal career.

What Does a Neonatal Nurse Do?

A neonatal nurse might find she has a one of many job titles.  Some sample titles for the neonatal nurse position include Travel NICU Nurse, Neonatal Nurse Practitioner, Transitional Care Nursery Nurse, Labor and Delivery Staff Nurse, Neonatal ICU Nurse. A neonatal nurse focuses on the care of babies.  Often, then neonatal nurse will take care of ill and/or premature babies who require specialized care.  The neonatal nurse’s responsibilities include, but are not limited to handling testing or helping doctors perform tests, and documenting test results.  The neonatal nurse needs good people and communication skills as they will work with other medical staff in a collaborative effort to ensure the greatest care. They may also interact with the parents and relatives of the child during care.

A neonatal nurse will work with other medical professionals to help in determining the ideal course of medical care for the child.  The fact of whether the nurse is a nurse practitioner or registered nurses makes a difference in the types of responsibilities they can handle. The candidate qualifying as a neonatal nurse will work alongside pediatricians, physicians, and other nurses.  They are responsible for diagnostic testing, performing initial test readings, and monitoring the child’s vital signs.  They will also give immediate and appropriate care to infants who have been delivered via a caesarean section.  For the most part, the neonatal nurse works with children from preterm age to two years of age.

When working as a neonatal nurse the candidate is working in a highly specialized field. In addition to basic care like vital sign monitoring and recording and giving medicine to infants, the nurse offers basic care to the child. The neonatal nurse gives parents and relatives a basic education in relation to the care a child is receiving and why. They are also a source of emotional support for the patient’s family members. The types of conditions a neonatal nurse takes care of are those that babies are either born with or that they develop shortly after birth. Daily care is also part of the job description of the neonatal nurse who will ensure the child’s hygienic issues are addressed through daily bathing.  Dallying feedings are also often the task of the neonatal nurse.

Who is Neonatal Nurse?

A neonatal nurse is someone who undertakes years of study and completes specific certifications to work in the medical field. The individual works with preterm infants and toddlers up to the age of two. The skills the candidate develops during their education readies they for the fast-paced, physically demanding atmosphere in hospitals and intensive care unit settings.

The best candidate for neonatal nursing is one who demonstrates emotional strength and stability, as well as the ability to empathize with others. The neonatal nurse is attentive to detail, energetic, determined, and someone who handles high levels of stress with grace.  The position requires someone who has exceptional communication skills as well as superior and critical thinking skills. The best candidates for neonatal nursing careers are those who demonstrate leadership, confidence, and who are willing to engage in a lifetime of ongoing education. Continued education will help the nurse keep abreast of the latest technological advances and care methods.

The neonatal nurse is someone who will abide by the standards set forth in the medical industry and she must have a full understanding of such standards. Many candidates seeking a neonatal nurse position will need to follow education and certification with some work experience before entering the neonatal care position. Many hospitals demand a Master’s degree and certification before considering employing a candidate.

Neonatal Nurse Job Description

Neonatal Nurse Job Description

Premature and ill babies are the primary patient of the neonatal nurse. They will usually work in a hospital environment. The minimum of a bachelor’s degree is required, but often the Master’s degree is demanded by employers. Those children in a neonatal unit require 24 hours care around the clock so the neonatal nurse job can have long hours or unusual shifts.  The nurse not only cares for the child but provides much needed emotional support to relatives, whether that involves simple encouragement and hope or by providing them with educational material. It also involves showing parents any special care the child might call for upon its return home.

The neonatal position falls under the umbrella career category of nursing. It is a specialty in the field of nursing, but that doesn’t mean there’s not room for advancement.  The neonatal nurse will deal with children pre-surgery, post-surgery, and when there have been surgical complications. They will also deal with children who have cardiac issues, infections, birth defects, or who are born too early. The neonatal phase is usually the first month of the baby’s life but some disorders last far longer than that and can require months of treatment. The typical patient is cared for from birth until patient discharge.

The type of care a neonatal nurse administers is life-sustaining. They will often take care of preemies who have lungs that are underdeveloped or those children who will not suckling when born so special nutritional-sustaining treatments must be administered. They will monitor and care for preemies to ensure the get the oxygen necessary for survival and that the lungs mature the way they should. Record keeping is part of the neonatal nurse job description and an important part of the job.

Neonatal Nurse Duties and Tasks

The neonatal nurse position is one of high and intense responsibility.  There are many tasks the nurse will be responsible for each day. The regime or routine one has each day can change from moment to moment and the job proves challenging.  Some of the tasks a neonatal nurse is responsible for includes:

  • The administering of intravenous, inhalation, or local anesthetics when necessary.
  • The administering of prescribed medications and following up such administration to ensure appropriate treatment and/or the absence of undesirable side effects.
  • Patient assessment and an evaluation of the family’s needs at home so the child can receive proper treatment upon release and/or to prevent safety issues or a worsening of health conditions.
  • Performing necessary laboratory testing and assessing the findings of such tests.
  • Collaborative work with the hospital staff, other nurses, physicians, obstetricians, and other healthcare workers to diagnose a patient, and to develop a treatment plan.
  • Ongoing evaluation to ensure a treatment plan is working. If changes are required, the neonatal nurse will work with staff to develop changes in the treatment plan.
  • Ongoing monitoring of a patient from the moment of entry into neonatal care until patient release.
  • The neonatal nurse may be responsible for coordinating a program for infection control. They may also be responsible for providing advice and necessary consultations with any personnel involved with child’s care.
  • A neonatal nurse may teach other nurses new to the neonatal unit the necessary procedures of the care unit. They may supervise others in the neonatal care unit as well.
  • Some neonatal nurses might take part in research to further the field.
  • A neonatal nurse may help during operations where they hand necessary tools to the surgeon during a procedure.
  • A neonatal nurse may monitor a child while under anaesthesia and therefore notifies the physician of the child’s condition during the operation.
  • Offers instructive care to groups, families, and individuals in relation to childbirth, health improvement and education, and the prevention of diseases.
  • Correct, accurate, and timely record keeping is a must for the neonatal nurse.
  • The neonatal nurse observes those who visit with the patient to make sure the child is always getting the proper care.
  • The neonatal nurse might be assigned managerial and administrative tasks as well, including budget planning, and the responsibility of long term goals for the staff and hospital unit.
  • The neonatal nurse might perform initial or tentative diagnoses and establish a treatment plan for a child when they are en route to a medical facility.
  • The neonatal nurse will ready surgical areas by prepping equipment, sterilizing tools, and stocking necessary supplies.
  • The neonatal nurse can prescribe medications, medical devices, or recommend physical therapy when necessary. They can also recommend inhalation care and therapeutic care.
  • The nurse might provide a child with necessary immunizations, first aid care, and help with those in need of rehabilitation or convalescence care in hospitals, schools, or alternative locations.

 Skills Required

Since the neonatal nursing position is so demanding and diverse in terms of job responsibilities, only a highly skilled candidate can fill the position. The skills best serving a neonatal nurse are myriad. Below is just some of the skills a neonatal nurse will require for job success:

  • Per-Se Technologies software for scheduling and calendar event planning
  • Procedural and diagnostic software use
  • Microsoft Access and alternative database use
  • Microsoft Outlook, IBM Notes, and other electronic mail software use
  • Human Resources Management Software (HRMS)
  • Drug Guide Software Use
  • The Use of Epic Systems like Sienet Sky, Siemens, PointClickCare, and alternatives like MEDITECH software.
  • Microsoft Office Suite
  • Microsoft Office PowerPoint Presentation Software
  • Microsoft SharePoint Project Management Software
  • Kronos Workforce Timekeeper Accounting Software Use
  • Microsoft Word Processing Software
  • Hot Technology Use
  • Communication Skills
  • Exceptional writing skills
  • A keen attention to detail
  • Empathic and understanding personality
  • An interest and passion for caring for children
  • A solid understanding of the psychological and physiological needs of children
  • The ability to work well with others

Working Conditions

Neonatal Nurse Working Conditions

The neonatal nurse position is one that involves shift work because those patients in intensive care require round the clock care daily. The neonatal nursing position requires the skill to care for special and high care patients.  Much work is in an intensive care unit in a hospital, but some nurses work in the community or in the homes of people who have just brought a patient home from the hospital after release from intensive care.  You’ll work with a variety of healthcare professionals in the field including nurses, midwives, dieticians, and pediatricians.

The work you will do will allow you to experience much reward every time you help patients and their families.  You may find you work in a nursery with those who not quite as ill as those in intensive care as well. You might deal with several patients at one time too, so this ensures your schedule will be quite busy.  The ratio of patients to nurses is a number dependent on the severity of the patients’ conditions at the time.  You will have to work on holidays and weekends, with some shifts lasting up to 12 hours or more.  The typical shift runs from 8 to 10 hours a day.

Neonatal Nurse Salary

Neonatal Nurse Salary

The question of neonatal nurse salary has an answer based on diverse factors.  Where someone works, whether inside a hospital facility or outside in the community has an influence on pay scale.  The actual location of the job and the demand for nurses in the neonatal field also influences what a nurse will make.  A nurse’s experience in the field and the number of years in the field determines the answer to the question of “how much do neonatal nurses make.”  Additional certifications and education level will also prove a heavy influence on the pay one receives while working as a neonatal nurse.

The national average salary neonatal nurses make is about $61,000.  The entry level pay for neonatal nursing often falls well below that at $54,000.  That entry level pay applies to those nurses with zero to five years of experience in the field. For those entering the mid-level stage of their career with five to ten years of experience, the yearly wage is about $1,000 over the national average at $65,000.  Those who have ten to twenty years of experience in the neonatal nursing field bring home about $62,000 a year.  Anyone with over 20 years of neonatal work experience, brings home about $64,000 a year.

Those employed in the neonatal field of work are mostly women.  The average pay is about $28.79 an hour. Many neonatal nurses claim complete job satisfaction and enjoy the pay and rewarding work.  Many neonatal nurses also get the benefits of insurance coverage to supplement the yearly salary.


Neonatal Nurse Employment

Neonatal Nurse Employment

Please note the figures shared below are broad and based on registered nursing positions, which the categorization or specialization of neonatal nursing falls.  Currently, there are no separate figures for neonatal nursing care, but the figures below give you a good sense of the high demand for nurses. It also demonstrates the relative steadiness in nursing sector in general.


From 2010 to 2016 the growth of jobs positions went from 2,724,570 to 2,687,310 equalling an increase in positions of 37,260 in a five-year period. From 2010 to 2011, no change in the number of jobs appears as the figures remain steady at 2,724,570 positions. From 2011 to 2012, a significant decrease is noted from 2,724,570 to 2,633,980 which is a decrease of 90,590 positions. The following year saw an increase from 2,633,980 to 2,661,890 which means 27,910 positions available in 2013.  In 2014, there was another increase in positions from 2,661,890 to 2,687,310, meaning another 25,420 positions available in 2014.

The entry level salary begins about eight percent below the national average of $61,000.  Those with experience between five and ten years will not a three percent higher than national average yearly salary.  Those in the mid-career stage with ten to twenty years of experience will see a yearly pay that’s about seven percent higher than the national average. Late career neonatal nurses with more than 20-years of experience have a pay rate between 6 and 8 percent higher based on experience and time in the field.

Those neonatal nurses in the field today include about 13 percent of the group having less than a year’s experience.  Most neonatal nurses, a full 55 percent, have between one and four years of work experience.  Another 14 percent have five to nine years of experience.  The remaining 9 percent have 20 years of experience or more.

Up to 93 percent of all neonatal nurses have medical benefits. Of those working, up to 68 percent of nurses have dental coverage.  The same number of nurses have vision coverage. Roughly 7 percent of all neonatal nurses have no health coverage.

Gender Distribution

There is a clear gender bias in the nursing industry and in the neonatal nursing industry. Some 95 percent of all neonatal nursing position are filled by females with the remaining five percent filled by males.  These statistics fly in the face of the fact that most male nurses are paid considerably higher than female nurses.  Males are also more likely to earn their way into senior posts when compared to their female nursing colleagues.

Some surveys demonstrate that one in ten nurses are men. There’s been a steady increase in male nursing positions over the past few decades, but in the last four years the one in ten ratios of men to women remains at a standstill.  One reason for the slow change in the huge gender gap is public and personal perceptions. The nursing field is still seen as one that is made for women.  This can make it more difficult for men to enter the field, not just from an employer’s stance, but from a male stance as well.  Entering a job that is seen as more womanly may have a negative effect on the male self-image.


How to Become Neonatal Nurse?

How to Become Neonatal Nurse

The answer to how to become a neonatal nurse is information intense. There are many steps the individual must fulfil on the road to the successful nursing career.  First, the individual must go through learning and becoming an Advanced Practical Nurse.  To do so, the candidate must complete the studies for becoming a registered nurse. An Associate level and Bachelor level degrees in nursing are required. The time in school gets followed by two years of practice in nursing. With the completion of two years of practice, the individual goes on to get a Masters in Science in nursing. While studying for the degree, the individual will have to take and pass the NCLEX-RN license examination for the candidate to become eligible to work in the United States. Some states might demand more licensing.

Neonatal Nurse Education Requirements

The neonatal nursing career includes the associates, bachelor’s and onward to the Master’s degree.  Two years of study come in between the bachelors and Master’s degree pursuits. The passing of the NCLEX-RN license examination must occur while one studies for the Master’s. The completion of any additional licensing or certification follows.  The National Certification Corporation has certifications in neonatal nursing.  To become certified, you will have to register for the online course, pay for the examination fees, and have a Master’s in neonatal nursing to qualify for the exam.  The student will have to complete all tests imposed by the state in which they plan to work and/or reside.

Neonatal Nurse Colleges

There are many neonatal nurse colleges with exceptional programs in the United States.  The schools listed below are the top ten in the nation.  Each school offers different programs and types of degrees that can serve as a stepping stone on your path to a wonderful career in nursing and neonatal care.  The top ten schools are:

  1. University of Pennsylvania
  2. Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tennessee
  3. Arizona State University
  4. Duke University in Durham, North Carolina
  5. East Carolina University, Greenville, North Carolina
  6. Northeast University, Boston, Massachusetts
  7. University of California, San Francisco, California
  8. University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida
  9. University of Texas, Austin, Texas
  10. University of Missouri, Kansas City

Major Subjects

When you are in high school you can take courses to ready yourself for the neonatal nursing career path. It’s a good to take four years of English, three to four years of mathematics, and two to four years of science classes.  Coursework before college should include chemistry, biology, physics, computer science, geometry, and algebra.

In a college setting, you can expect to study community health, nursing and research, clinical pharmacology, statistical methodology, and epidemiology. Specialized coursework necessary for the neonatal field includes Neonatal pharmacology, Health Assessment of the Infant and Neonate, Embryology and Development Physiology, and neonatal nursing management.  You’ll also complete and nursing residency.

Neonatal Nurse Specializations

Neonatal Nurse Specializations

The neonatal nurse is an RN or registered nurse working in the subfield of neonatal nursing. There are three levels of education the nurse can gain for career advancement.  The first level readies the nurse to care for infants that have short hospital stays or that are healthy when born. The second level readies a nurse for dealing with premature babies or for infants who are born with an illness. The level three nurse is readied for working in the NICU or neonatal intensive care unit. They learn how to use ventilators and other specialized equipment for the appropriate care of infants in need of round the clock, intensive care.

Neonatal nurses can later advance into other parts of nursing like nursing management or education.  The different areas of specialization can help you get a job as a staff nurse, nurse manager, clinical nurse specialist, development care specialists, and neonatal nurse practitioners. Some of the latter positions require special certifications.


Professional Associations of Neonatal Nurses

There are several Association of Neonatal Nurses, but one of the most well-known associations is the National Association of Neonatal Nurses or NANN.  The National Association of Neonatal Nurses was established in 1984 and is headed up by a board of directors consisting of Charles Rait, Linda McCollum, Donna Lee Loper, Tracey Karp, Patricia J. Johnson, and Linda Bellig. The organization was incorporated in the state of California.  The organization has grown immensely since its inception and in 2014 celebrated 30 years of existence with 8200 members and 35 chapters.

NANN is committed to delivering tools and developing connections one needs for career advancement in the neonatal field.  The organization is a community made of professionals and registered nurses in different stages of their nursing careers. The organization seeks to be a voice in the field that instigates positive change by ensuring excellence in professional development, research, education, and practice. They offer individual excellence awards, research awards, and chapter awards to encourage ongoing excellence and education in the industry.

Famous Neonatal Nurses

Mary Breckinridge (1881 to 1965) is the founder of the New Model of Rural Health Care and Frontier Nursing Service.  She had two children that did not survive through their childhood. The traumatic and sad loss led her to become someone who dedicated her life to the health of women and children: Particularly poorer families in rural America.  In 1910, Breckinridge became a registered nurse in New York.  She also worked in the nursing field in Boston and Washington D.C. During the first World War she worked with the Red Cross and continued nursing studies at Columbia University. She later put her attentions to poorer regions of Kentucky.

She discovered a higher maternal mortality rate due to a lack of adequate prenatal care.  The discovery of many births in one area and the lack of qualified midwifes led her to go to London where she took on the role of nurse midwife. She then when to Scotland to learn about the effective midwifery community there to develop a system for poor people. In the mid-1920s, she started a new system of rural health care.  At the same time that year, she started up the Frontier Nursing Service, which gave services at a low cost to the poor. The areas covered saw a huge drop in maternal and neonatal deaths as a result.

Neonatal Nurses FAQ

 What are the pros and cons of being a neonatal nurse?

There are several advantages to the neonatal nursing career’s First, you can expect some serious job growth over the course of the decade.  The profession has an excellent salary and plenty of growth potential. There’s means of job advancement, so you don’t grow stagnant in the career choice. The education you pursue opens you up for other opportunities as well. Additional certifications give you an edge on the competition.  The disadvantages include that males make more than female.  Extensive study, expensive schooling, and state licensure are required.  The job can be emotionally rewarding and draining simultaneously.  Long shifts and odd hours are required.

What is the job outlook for the neonatal nurse?

Studies reveal that a sixteen percent growth rate in the nursing sector is due between 2014 to 2024.  The employment for all nursing positions has an expected growth rate of as much as 35 percent. Thus, there is high and ever-increasing demand for professionals looking to enter the field of neonatal medicine and care.

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