Neonatal Nurses


Education and Training Requirements

High School

In order to become a neonatal nurse, you must first train to be a registered nurse. To prepare for a career as a registered nurse, you should take high school mathematics and science courses, including biology, chemistry, and physics. Health courses will also be helpful. English and speech courses should not be neglected because you must be able to communicate well with patients.

Postsecondary Training

There is no special program for neonatal nursing in basic RN education; however, some nursing programs have an elective course in neonatal nursing. Entry-level requirements to become a neonatal nurse depend on the institution, its size, and the availability of nurses in that specialty and geographical region. Some institutions may require neonatal nurses to demonstrate their ability in administering medications, performing necessary math calculations, suctioning, cardiopulmonary resuscitation, ventilator care, and other newborn care skills. Nurses who wish to focus on caring for premature babies or sick newborns may choose to attend graduate school to become a neonatal nurse practitioner or clinical nurse specialist.

Certification, Licensing, and Special Requirements

Certification or Licensing

Neonatal nurses who work in critical care may become certified in neonatal critical care nursing by the AACN Certification Corporation, a subsidiary of the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses (AACN). Applicants must hold an unrestricted registered nurse license, have completed a graduate-level advanced practice program that includes a minimum of 500 supervised clinical hours, pay an application fee, and take and pass a three-and-one-half-hour exam.

Experience, Skills, and Personality Traits

Neonatal nurses have experience in providing specialty care for very ill newborns. Their skills must be well honed and they must be knowledgeable of the latest neonatal technologies in order to manage the minute-to-minute changes in their tiny patients’ lives. They assist new mothers with feeding and hygiene routines and with transferring critical care issues from hospital to the home environment.

Neonatal nurses should like working with mothers, newborns, and families. This is a very intense nursing field, especially when caring for high-risk infants, so the neonatal nurse should be compassionate, patient, and able to handle stress and make decisions. The nurse should also be able to communicate well with other medical staff and the patients' families. Families of an at-risk newborn are often frightened and very worried about their infant. Because of their fears, family members may be difficult to deal with, and the nurse must be able to communicate with the family and explain medical terminology and procedures to them so they understand what is being done for their baby and why.