Do you love newborn babies? Are you eager to be part of the healthcare industry? Are you passionate about healing tiny humans? If you answered ‘yes’ to all the above questions, then becoming a neonatal nurse might be your dream career! A neonatal nurse’s job entails looking after newborn babies. Neonatal nurses can practice at various levels: caring for healthy babies, premature or ill babies, or seriously ill infants in a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). They play a crucial role in the healthcare of infants and new mothers. Thus, neonatal nurses need to undergo intensive education and training before they are qualified to practice professionally.
Aspiring neonatal nurses must first complete a four-year bachelor’s degree in nursing. Coursework typically covers general education along with psychology, anatomy, chemistry, physiology, and microbiology. Students will spend time in the classroom as well as the lab. Getting clinical experience is also vital; if possible, students should try and gain access to clinical hours in a NICU. However, if this proves impossible, there is no reason to lose hope – some employers do hire nurses with no experience and train them on the job instead. Before being able to practice professionally, you will also need to pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN), which is required by each of the states. Certification, on the other hand, is not generally necessary but can provide an edge in the competitive job market.
In addition, those who want to become neonatal nurse practitioners will need to complete a two-year Master of Science in Nursing degree – such a program often requires a few years of work experience to be gain admission. Neonatal nurse practitioners can find more opportunities and enjoy higher remuneration. Such master’s degree programs are commonly offered online, allowing nurses to complete them while working. This is an ideal opportunity for neonatal nurses to develop more advanced knowledge and skills without having to enroll in a traditional on-campus degree program. Part of such a course can be completed online – readings, lectures, and assignments can be done through the internet. Still, clinical hours do comprise a component – these can be completed at a healthcare facility near the student. Coursework covers nursing theory and practice, ethics, health policy, cultural diversity, and leadership. Graduates will need to be certified by the National Certification Corporation.
Although it comes with certain stresses and challenges, neonatal nursing is a solid career choice: job opportunities are expected to grow and the profession commands high salaries. The median annual wage of a neonatal nurse is USD 68,910. The top ten percent of nurses earns USD 96,320 while the bottom ten percent makes USD 45,630. Neonatal nurse practitioners, who perform more specialized procedures, make a significantly higher salary, with an annual median wage of USD 95,070. Top earners can make as much as USD 126,258 a year. The job outlook for neonatal nurses is very strong since the survival rate of newborn babies is increasing by the day thanks to advances in healthcare. The nursing employment growth rate is expected to grow by 19 percent from 2012 to 2022 according to data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. Thus, neonatal nurses can look forward to a generally bright and secure future. Aspirants should, however, be prepared for working long hours and working on weekends and during other holidays. This is also a difficult job because it requires dealing with sick infants and worried parents – the ability to deal with high-pressure situations, empathy, and good communication skills are definite advantages.