How Do I Specialize In Neonatal Nursing
All registered professional nurses undergo general nursing education, the dictates of which are determined by accrediting authorities for all nursing curriculum. Although there are required foundational clinical practicum with all patient populations, many nursing schools allow students to request specialization for a portion of their training. If the nursing student establishes a good rapport with an employer during clinical training, this may foster options for employment upon graduation. Work experience is the main source of specialization in neonatal care, often with the aid of continuing education credits. However, some colleges and universities offer nursing programs with an emphasis on neonatal care. Where available, these programs are the best way for candidates to prepare for a career in the field.
Career And Salary Outlook For Neonatal Nurses
Like other healthcare careers, neonatal nursing can provide a lucrative salary. According to PayScale, neonatal nurses earn an average annual salary of $68,760 as of July 2021. Many factors can influence the salary of a NICU nurse or neonatal nurse, including experience and education.
Nurses who pursue additional training to become nurse practitioners or nurse midwives earn a median annual salary of $117,670 as of May 2020, according to the BLS. Neonatal nurses who serve in urban settings can earn higher wages than those working in rural areas.
Career Development And Advancement
Neonatal nurses at some facilities participate on flight or ground transport teams. They care for infants who are en route to facilities that have NICUs at the appropriate level. Some experienced nurses have, as their primary duty, critical care transport. Flight nurses may also care for older infants and children.
Some neonatal nurses contribute to the profession through their ideas. Major facilities may have committees such as parent advisory and developmental care. Developmental care is a potential area for career advancement.
Some neonatal nurses go on to become neonatal nurse practitioners, an advanced practice role. Advanced practice requires at least a masters degree. Training often takes place at the doctoral level.
Life on the neonatal ward is changing. The National Association of Neonatal Nurses reports that medical breakthroughs have increased the survival rate for vulnerable low birth-weight babies by 10 times in just 15 years .
Some neonatal advances are high tech. MedStar Georgetown cites the following among the therapies they are equipped to utilize: extracorporeal membrane oxygenation , high frequency oscillator ventilation, and bedside patent ductus arteriosus ligation.
Neonatal units are also seeing a return to good old-fashioned care, including the importance of physical contact and nurturing. They may utilize baby cuddlers. One may find infants with neonatal abstinence syndrome being treated with massage.
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Seven What Are The Continuing Education Requirements For Neonatal Nurses
As mentioned above, the two major certifying organizations for NICU Nurses are the American Association of Critical Care Nursing and the National Certification Corporation .
As with most certifications, there are continuing education requirements in order to maintain your status.
For the RNC-NIC, you must obtain hours of continuing nursing education through accredited providers such as NANN. Details can be found via the NCCs Maintenance Requirements document.
To maintain a CCRN certification, you have to complete 100 Continuing Education Recognition Points (CERPs. The CCRN Renewal Handbook breaks down CERP learning topics and activities.
What Is A Neonatal Intensive Care Nurse
Neonatal Intensive Care Nurses care for children during the most vulnerable phase of their lives, with a special focus on ill or premature infants. They monitor the infants conditions, check for signs of distress, and administer medication, along with other forms of basic care, like changing diapers and feeding.
Additionally, they act as a support system for parents and families of critically ill children, premature babies , and newborns, which can be extremely demanding from an emotional standpoint. They deal with a variety of problems including prematurity, birth defects, infection, cardiac malformation, and surgical problems.
Labor and Delivery Nurses, Neonatal Nurses, and Pediatric Nurses also work with babies and small children, at times very ill ones, but the work of the NICU Nurse stands apart for obvious reasons. The intensive care component of to the job title denotes the high-risk nature of their patient group, as well as the pressure involved in caring for them.
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Neonatal Nurse Scope Of Practice
Like other RNs, NICU nurses work under a Scope of Practice, a set of state laws that define your rights and responsibilities as a nurse, and authorize you on how to function when providing various aspects of medical care.
You can find your states Nurse Practice Act via the National Council of State Boards of Nursing.
Nicu Nurse Salary & Employment
According to Payscale, RNs that work in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit make an average annual salary of $60,375, while Neonatal Nurse Practitioners make an average annual salary of $93,122. Individuals should be aware that salaries of NICU nurses and nurse practitioners can vary extensively depending on a wide variety of factors.
The demand for RNs is robust. The Bureau of Labor Statistics cites that RNs holding at least a Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing are more inclined to have better job prospects than those with an Associate’s Degree in Nursing . Between 2012-2022, job growth for RNs in general is expected to grow by 19%.
What Will Your Workdays Be Like As A Neonatal Nurse
Because of the fragile systems and round-the-clock needs your patients in the NICU will require, most neonatal nurses can expect to work 8 to 12-hour shifts. Weekends and holidays will also factor into your work schedule.
A typical day will have you providing highly specialized care for premature babies and very ill newborns. They may require anything from respiratory care to being fed through an IV to ensure their bodies become strong enough to sustain themselves and increase their chances of survival. On any given day, you may also be tasked with:
- Keeping infants clean, warm and comfortable.
- Monitoring vital signs like respiration and body temperature.
- Weighing and measuring infants until they are discharged to go home.
- Formulating neonatal nursing care plans with other healthcare providers on your team, including neonatologists and doctors.
- Assessing, planning and implementing treatment.
- Administering medication.
- Working with modern, lifesaving technology and performing complex procedures.
- Providing comfort, education and reassurance to concerned parents and family members.
- Performing CPR and basic life support should it become necessary.
Neonatal Nurse Specialist Career Outlook
As with most nursing careers, the demand for neonatal nurses and neonatal nurse practitioners is expected to increase significantly over the next 10 years, says Morgan even in rural or suburban areas.
Everyones still having babies, Morgan notes, and about 10% of them will always need extra care.
The job is not only in demand, but also an enjoyable one.
develop a wonderful rapport with each family, says Joan E. Edwards, a tenured professor at Texas Womans University in Houston and director of its Center for Global Nursing. Its not just a science, its also an art. Theres a lot of caring behind what we do.
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Become Certified By A National Certification Agency
After working as nurse for a period of time, you can now apply for certification to formally become a NICU nurse.
Aspiring neonatal nurses can obtain this certification from national certifying bodies such as the American Nurses Credentialing Center or National Certification Corporation.
Take note that you need to actively work as a NICU nurse and accrue continuing education credits in order to maintain your certification.
Required Credentials For Neonatal Nurses
All registered nurses including neonatal nurses must hold licensure. Each state sets its own requirements for obtaining a nursing license. Once licensed, nurses can pursue certification in specialty areas. Neonatal nurses can obtain certification in critical care or intensive care to strengthen their skills in the NICU specialty.
How Much Can You Make As A Neonatal Nurse
According to 2020 data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics , the average wage for registered nurses was $80,010 per year .* Pay varies based on many factors such as years of experience, the type of healthcare facility, your specialty in nursing and the state in which you practice.
Registered nurses with specializations such as neonatal/NICU care require higher levels of training and experienceand have the potential to earn an above average salary.
Needed Skills To Acquire
Neonatal nursing is highly specialized, requiring working with the smallest and most fragile infants. Neonatal nurses in this specialization need to have several specific skills that will equip them to work every day with these infants:
- Interest in newborns
- Empathy and understanding for babys parents and family members
- Ability to work effectively as a member of a multidisciplinary team
- Good understanding of psychological and physiological needs of newborns
- Competence to work in a technical practice area
The six Cs that a neonatal nurse should have include:
Neonatal nurse practitioners should have a caring, tender, and competent bedside manner. They are expected to handle the tiny limbs of a newborn, insert IVs, and give injections. They may also have to insert gastro-nasal tubes so the babies can take in nutrition if they cant yet nurse or bottle-feed. Bedside manner also pertains to the parents they are often anxiously awaiting news and updates about their newest family members. And, given that an illness or prematurity were not anticipated, they are even more worried.
All of these require that the nurse have a soft, tender touch. They should also have steady hands so they can find veins and insert tubes on the first try.
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Earn A Bachelor Of Science In Nursing Degree
Its no secret that the more you know, the further you can go in almost any career, but this is especially true in the field of nursing. The Institute of Medicine has recommended that by 2020, 80% of all nurses should have bachelor’s degrees. Hospitals seeking Magnet status seek nurses who hold a bachelors degree.
Only experienced, qualified nurses are trusted to care for fragile newborns. To become a neonatal nurse, youll need to start by earning a CCNE-accredited Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree from a respected institution such as Herzing University.1
Regardless of where you currently find yourself on the nursing continuum, theres a path to follow to earn the credentials you need to pursue a career as a neonatal nurse. For example, Herzing University offers:
- An LPN to BSN program for licensed practical or vocational nurses or licensed paramedics that can be earned in 28-32 months.
- A Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree that can be earned in 3 years or less, based on transfer credit and applicable prior learning experience you may already have. Available both online and on-campus.
- An online RN to BSN program that can be completed in less than 12 months if you are already working as a licensed RN.
- An accelerated nursing program option that can be completed in as few as 20 months if you already have a non-nursing bachelors degree from a regionally-accredited college or university.
Pass The Nclex Examination
In order for any nurse to work in the US, one needs to pass the National Council Licensure Examination or NCLEX.
Requirements vary from one state to another but most include verification of your educational attainment. Passing the NCLEX will give you the license to practice your profession within a specific US state.
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Doctorate Degree In Nursing
There are four doctoral options for those interested in neonatal nursing. These include:
This is a practical degree offering nurses the opportunity to hone their skills to provide better care for NICU patients.
This degree is rooted in research, allowing students to gain the skills and knowledge necessary to move into positions at research universities and hospitals.
This degree is ideal for those who want to focus on a very specific point of nursing, such as specialist skills in neonatal care.
This degree has a strong focus on investigative and research skills, and is designed for those who want to work with or lead research teams.
Students who have already earned a masters degree and have several years of experience working in a neonatal unit may decide to pursue a doctoral program. Those who want to work as hands-on neonatal nurses can earn the DNP or the DN with an emphasis on neonatal care, preparing them to work in the best NICU units in the country.
Graduates of doctoral programs in nursing will have strong skills and deeply rooted knowledge, honed over years of experience and educational study. Some of the most common skills students can expect to master during a doctoral program are highlighted below.
Understanding of illness trajectory
The leadership and management skills of a doctoral graduate are finely tuned, giving them the excellent skills to work effectively with those in the highest levels of research and administration.
Q& a With A Neonatal Nurse
Megan is a level IV neonatal intensive care nurse who specializes in caring for infants with congenital heart defects. She graduated with her BSN in 2014 and holds certification in neonatal intensive care and lactation counseling. In early 2020, Megan used her NICU background and became a “nursepreneur” by launching Bright & Baby, which provides virtual resources and prenatal classes for expectant and new parents. Megan lives in Jersey City, New Jersey, with her partner, Patrick, and their son, Ryan.
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Choosing An Accredited Online College
University HQ recommends that students select and attend accredited schools of nursing. Students must be certain that the school has accreditation from a Department of Education approved agency. Accreditation affects that value and usefulness of your nursing degree and ensures wide acceptance of your academic achievements by employers, the medical community, and other educational institutions. Accreditation matters during and after college education. During undergraduate or grad study, the Department of Education financial assistance programs may only go to accredited schools.
The Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education and the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing are the leading accreditation agencies for nursing programs.
Prepare Your Resume And Cover Letter
Once you have completed your education and hold a license, the next step is to write your resume and cover letter and start your NICU nurse job search. The critical thing to remember is to align your resume and cover letter to suit the employer’s specifications. Each job application you make should be unique and well-crafted to increase the chances of being invited for an interview. Focus on relevant work experience and any special achievements that demonstrate you are an exceptional candidate.
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Salary For A Neonatal Nurse
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics , RNs earn a median annual salary of about $73,300. Over 3 million RNs worked in the U.S. in 2019, a number the BLS projects to increase by 7% from 2019-29.
Although the BLS does not provide specific figures for neonatal nurses, data compiled by PayScale estimates that these professionals earn an average salary of about $70,600. Salaries may range from $49,000-$106,000.
Salaries vary by location. Registered nurses in states like California, Hawaii, Washington, D.C., Massachusetts, and Oregon earn the highest salaries, with mean wages for RNs in these states ranging from $93,000-$113,000, according to the BLS.
Healthcare professionals working as neonatal nurse practitioners typically earn higher salaries. Along with other advanced practice nurses, nurse practitioners earn a median annual salary of about $115,800. The BLS also projects the number of advanced practice nurses to increase by 45% from 2019-29 to become one of the fastest growing professions in the United States.
How Much Does An Online Neonatal Nursing Degree Cost
The costs of a nursing degree can vary by the school and program. The average range for public four-year schools is about $30,000 for out of state tuition and living expenses and about $20,000 per year at in-state rates. The private college average is about $42,000 per year.
Many students choose to attend a community college for the first and second year of a four-year degree. Community college rates can be much lower than most four-year schools. The national average is in the range of $15,000 per year, and some students can qualify for low-cost in-district rates.
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What Is A Neonatal Nurse
Neonatal nurses work with infants born with critical health problems, giving them the specialized care they need to lead healthy lives. Infants might be born prematurely, or with congenital disorders or infections. According to the National Association of Neonatal Nurses , about 40,000 infants are born with below-healthy birth weights each year in the United States, thus potentially predisposing them to a number of health challenges during delivery or immediately after birth.
Although “neonatal” technically refers to infants up to one month old, neonatal nurses might work with young children up to two years old. If you want to learn more about the neonatal nursing profession as a whole, this guide will serve as a useful resource.
How Many Students Graduate On Time
Across the US, and across all majors, time frames are trending toward longer periods of attendance. On time graduation can mean 18 months to two full years to complete an online associate-level degree and four years for a BSN. Some recent studies based on the entering class of 2013 showed that about 34% completed their degrees after four years and that the six-year rate was 47%. The NCES data showed that in 2016, the six-year rate was 60% at four-year schools. The public-school rate was 59%, and the private school rate was 66%.
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