Nurses, in general, are known for their passion for life and helping others. However, it takes special dedication to caring for those who can’t take care of themselves at all. This makes NICU nursing one of the most challenging specialties in the field.
As this requires you to work with the smallest and most delicate patients out there, it requires special skills, patience, and dedication to the job. The smallest achievements are very rewarding, though, so it’s definitely worth a shot.
If you’re keen on caring for infants, you can learn more about NICU nursing below.
What is a NICU Nurse?
Also known as a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit Nurse, NICU nurses work at the very section their name states. They handle newborns who need extra care so they can go home to their loving families healthy and ready to face the world.
The biggest part of the job is that it entails everything that comes with caring for an infant. They clean them up, make sure they’re getting fed, even if it’s only intravenously, and that they’re comfortable and safe.
The trickiest part of it is that they have to care for ailing newborns. Seeing little things suffer from being born too early, their mother’s drug dependence, or underdeveloped system on a daily basis can be tough on lots of people. They power through it all with their skills and dedication in helping others.
What They Do
NICU nurses perform a wide range of responsibilities but the first thing that they always have to do is to execute every task with lots of care and gentleness. As they’ll be handling the most delicate patients around, they have to be extra careful in whatever they do.
On most days, NICU nurses are tasked to monitor the condition of their patients, administer necessary medications, change their diapers, record their progress, operate medical machinery, as well as hold and comfort them when they’re in distress.
They also provide instructions to parents on how to care for their little ones after they get discharged. These infants usually require special care to keep them in top shape, so providing necessary information would be crucial to the infant’s full recovery.
Where They Work
NICU nurses, as the name suggests, work in the Neonatal Intensive Care Units of hospitals. They can work for public or private facilities. They can also work in different NICUs as these are also sectioned according to the kind of care that the patient will require.
Most NICUs are high-pressure and fast-paced environments, however. So wherever you might be put to work, you’ll have to know how to deal with the situations thrown at you.
How Much They Make
Experts say that NICU nurses have higher pay than their peers in other specialties. This line of work can let you earn about $45K to about $70K a year. Advanced practice nurses can also expect to earn more.
What Can You Expect in Being a NICU Nurse?
Just like in any other nursing fields, there are no typical days for NICU nurses. The only thing constant here is that you’ll always work with infants and distraught parents.
Emotional challenges can be some of the biggest undertakings NICU nurses face. As you’ll be handling seriously ill infants, it can crush your heart to see them suffer at such a young age. You’ll also work with vulnerable parents, so it can get emotionally draining. So if you’re eyeing this specialty, you have to be mentally and emotionally ready.
Working in the NICU can also be physically taxing. You will work long hours that it’s not uncommon to pull 12 to 14-hour shifts. You need stamina and mental clarity to perform your tasks as you always have to be careful, dexterous, and accurate with your movements and executions. Prepare to be physically active if you want to be a NICU nurse.
How to Become a NICU Nurse?
To become a NICU nurse, you first need to earn a degree and become a registered nurse with a license. You will then need to gain clinical experience in neonatal care. You can already opt to work with neonatal patients even without a certification but you will be assigned to the less critical cases.
It might take years of this experience before you can get a critical care neonatal nursing certification from the American Association of Critical Care Nursing, however. Once you passed the certification exam, you can already have your license updated with your specialty.
Taking additional courses or pursuing an MSN in this area can also be a good idea. It can help you become an advanced practitioner that can specialize further in neonatal care.
Nursing Organizations Associated with NICU Nurses
What organizations can you join to help you grow as a NICU nurse? Here are a few:
- National Association of Neonatal Nurses
- Association of Women’s Health, Obstetric and Neonatal Nurses
- Academy of Neonatal Nursing
What other careers can you pursue if you’re interested in NICU nursing?
- Neonatal Nurse Practitioner
- Labor and Delivery Nursing
- Lactation Consultant