The neonatal stage specifically refers to the first twenty-eight days of life. Compared with adult health care, midwifery, or other areas, neonatal nurse is a relatively new sub-specialty of nursing that directly deals with newborn infants. It is primary meant to deal with those infants who experience medical conditions shortly after birth, such as birth defects, prematurity, infection, cardiac malformation, and surgical cases.
Neonatal nurse also provides care for infants who develop long-term ailments associated with their being prematurely born or other health condition after birth. It significantly puts emphasis on its commitment to provide an individualized, developmentally and culturally appropriate, family-centered care.
Neonatal Nurse Jobs
Moreover, the neonatal nurse is a registered nurse or midwife who works in varied areas and whose role covers clinical, managerial, educational, as well as research positions. Particularly, she may revolve in any one of the three levels of nursery, namely:
- Level I. This level, which is designated as a healthy newborn nursery, is practically not functional anymore because the present practice involves putting both the mother and baby in the same room; and since the newborn is healthy, it stays in the hospital for only a brief period.
- Level II. This nursery level is designed to provide immediate attention or special care to babies born prematurely or ill. These newborns usually need more time to mature before discharge, require supplemental oxygen, intravenous therapy, or specialized feeding.
- Level III. This is the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), which accommodates all newborns, who cannot be treated in either Level I or II due to some factors such as: too small for their age, premature, or term infants suffering from ailments and, therefore, require high technology medical attention. They usually need ventilators, special apparatus or incubators, or surgery. Most often, the Level III units are available in big general hospitals and/or part of a children’s hospital.
Furthermore, neonatal nursing offers several career options as it provides so much room for learning. Based on surveys, many staff nurses who started caring for the newborns find opportunities to grow professionally and expand their practice. They usually opt to take a national certification test to validate their knowledge in order to qualify in the neonatal transport team or in the extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) team, which provides heart-lung bypass for critically sick infants.
Other career advancement opportunities for a neonatal nurse include:
- Charge Nurse or Stabilization Nurse, where she may develop her skills in moderate or high-risk deliveries.
- Nurse Manager, where she takes on a leadership role for the staffing and administration of the NICU.
- Nurse Educator and Clinical Nurse Specialist. These involve advanced practice nursing that extend educational programs and support to both nursing staff and ancillary staff to equip the latter with appropriate knowledge and skills in providing utmost and up-to-date care. A Clinical Nurse Specialist may also extend direct patient care at the bedside and help the staff to acquire clinical skills.
- Developmental Care Specialist. This nurse provides direct care to patients and collaborates with her fellow medical professionals in meeting the developmental needs of the babies.
Neonatal Nurse Practitioner (NPP). This is an advanced practice of nursing, where the NPP works with doctors and nursing staff in providing comprehensive critical care to the infants in the NICU. To be an Neonatal Nurse Practionioner requires the individual to take additional studies in a master’s or doctoral program.