Nurses assigned to hospital maternity wards, nurseries, or neonatal intensive care units (NICU) for critically ill infants are known as neonatal nurses. Neonatal nursing is a specialized field that allows a registered nurse to train for the care of newborns during their first 28 days of life. A good number of major hospitals in the country, particularly hospitals that have NICUs, provide training programs in neonatal care for registered nurses who find their calling in the care of neonates, as these newborns are called.
Training for critically ill neonates is included in these training programs in hospitals with NICUs. Nurses who want to specialize in this area will also need considerable experience in acute care pediatrics, as well as in adult care nursing.
Neonatal nurses are healthcare professionals whose responsibilities include directly reporting to neonatologists and specialists in critically ill infant care, interacting with parents of these neonates, and make decisions as well as supervise the kind of neonate procedure and care to be undertaken at any given moment. A neonatal nurse’s supervisory capacity will depend on the NICU facility or hospital they work in.
To take on neonatal nursing, a registered nurse needs to complete a Master’s degree program, or take up continuing nursing education courses for this particular specialty. As a neonatal nurse practitioner or neonatal healthcare nurse, they will need to learn how to care for infants who are healthy, premature, have developmental problems, or are critically ill. They will also need to learn how to interact with families and how them the appropriate care for their newborns, as well as how best to deal with the situation of a critically ill or premature neonate.
Not only is the neonatal nurse supposed to care for her patients, it is given to her charge to help assuage the confusion, panic or grief of any stricken infant’s family. This spells the difference between doctors and neonatal nurses: the ability to care for infants, and spend time hearing their parents’ concerns.
Many family members often find that neonatal nurses are more approachable compared to other members of a hospital’s medical staff. Neonatal nurses, particularly in hospitals with NICUs, are always available to see and speak with parents about their concerns, particularly when their neonatologist has a high caseload and doesn’t have the time to deal with distraught family members. This is where the expertise of neonatal nursing lends a hand.