Nurse Specialties: Neonatal Nursing

Neonatal nursing is the perfect career choice for Registered Nurses who enjoy working with newborns. The career opportunities for this specialty are plentiful, with nurses making up a large portion of neonatal staff in hospitals. Some specialty training and experience is required to become a neonatal nurse, but it is a promising career for those with a long-term career plan in critical care.

What is Neonatal Nursing?

Neonatal nursing is a subspecialty that is dedicated to the care and treatment of newborn babies, usually up to 28 days old. In most neonatal departments, nurses make up a large majority of staff – up to 90% in many units. Nurses in this specialty work with newborns who are healthy and those who are born with a life-threatening issue. There are three general levels of neonatal nursing – healthy care, intermediate care, and intensive care.

Those in the neonatal nursing subspecialty are supported by several national organizations, many of which have locally chartered chapters in major cities. The National Association of Neonatal Nurses is an organization that provides resources and “supports the professional needs of neonatal nurses throughout their careers”. Alternatively, the Academy of Neonatal Nursing is a valuable resource for education information and financial aid for those who desire further training in the specialty.

Nursing School Curriculum for Neonatal Nursing

To become a neonatal nurse, a nurse must first obtain certification and licensure as a Registered Nurse. Most nurses who pursue a career in neonatal nursing obtain an Association of Science in Nursing (ASN degree) or a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN degree).

The American Association of Critical-Care Nurses (AACN) provides numerous resources to existing RNs who desire to become neonatal nurses in the United States. Among them are the certification requirements and study guides for pursuing licensure in this and other sub-specialties.

General requirements to attempt the AACN critical-care and neonatal nursing certification exams are:

  • Candidate must a licensed RN or APRN
  • 1,750 hours of critical care practice in the last 2 years

Similar to other specialty nursing careers, neonatal nurses must continue their education throughout the course of their career by attending training seminars and classes. Depending on the state of certification, a minimum number of credit-hours must be earned each licensing period in order to qualify for renewal.

Careers for Nursing School Graduates with Neonatal Nursing Specialty

Neonatal nurses are fortunate to have many career options. While most newly certified neonatal nurses provide care for critical patients, many choose to work with newborns of average health. Hospitals and specialty hospitals are the primary place of employment for this sub-specialty, but most medical facilities hire many neonatal nurses. This results in a loose job-market, with plenty of employment and residency opportunities.

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