How to become a neonatal nurse (2023)


9. August 2022

How to become a neonatal nurse (1)

How to become a neonatal nurse (2)

Von:Terri Heimann Oppenheimer

How to become a neonatal nurse (3)

How to become a neonatal nurse (4)Medically examined by: kathleen ganes MSN, RN, BA, CBC

Neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) nursing is a nursing specialty that deals with the care of sick or premature babies, as well as babies with birth defects. NICU nurses are registered nurses who have gained experience working with newborns and may also become certified in a related field. You may have an ADN or a BSN to work as a neonatal nurse.

It takes a special person to become a nurse, but that's even more true for those who become a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) nurse. These dedicated professionals take care of the most vulnerable patients there is: the sick and the premature. Additionally, they are at the forefront of helping terrified parents through an often traumatic experience.

Learn more about what it takes to become a NICU nurse and why those who choose this option are doing a special service to society.

There are many types of nursing specialties, some of which deal with a specific type of patient. Such is the case with nurses in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). His main patients are sick and/or premature babies or babies with various forms of birth defects. These patients need to be cared for and monitored, sometimes for weeks or months, until they are well and developed enough to go home.

How to become a neonatal nurse (5)

What I love about being a NICU nurse

“As a nurse in the NICU, I have always been acutely aware of how my actions deeply touch the experiences of mothers at a very vulnerable time in their lives. I strive every day to be a beacon of confidence, knowledge and hope for mothers. “Mothers with babies in intensive care.

According to the National Association of Neonatal Nurses (NANN), approximately 40,000 low birth weight babies are born in the United States each year. Survival rates are improving thanks to advances in medicine, highly skilled NICU nurses and other healthcare professionals. In fact, the survival rate today is 10 times better than it was 15 years ago.

(Video) How to Become a Neonatal Nurse | What is Neonatal Nursing | NICU Nurse

How to become a neonatal nurse (6)

Show me newborn care programs

In addition to hands-on patient care, monitoring, and feeding babies, NICU nurses also work closely with mothers and fathers who are having this emotional experience with their newborn. NICU nurses provide comfort and education to help families during this difficult time.

According to NANN, newborn care generally includes care for newborns in crisis situations, but may also include newborns suffering from long-term problems related to preterm birth or a serious illness that occurs shortly after birth. Some neonatal nurses can even take care of babies as young as 2 years old. NICU nurses are not only responsible for the care of babies, but also for the entire family. They often act as a shoulder to cry on for distressed parents, help new moms breastfeed, and offer new parents lasting memories.

A day in the life of a neonatal intensive care nurse

A day in the life of a nurse in the NICU is demanding and can range from basic newborn care to follow-up care for critically ill patients. NICU units operate 24 hours a day, so most nurses work 12-hour shifts that include some nights and weekends. Most large public and private hospitals have a NICU, while smaller medical facilities or centers may not have an entire department, or even one at all.

Nurses in NICUs sometimes have more "down time" than a typical bedside nurse. Because sleep and rest are so important to the growing population of newborns, nurses working in the NICU typically tend to patients every three to four hours, with monitoring in between.

Levels of care in the neonatal intensive care unit

  1. Level I: Basic care for newborns
  2. Level II: Advanced Newborn Care
  3. Level III: NICU (where most NICU nurses work)
  4. Level IV: This is the most intensive level of newborn care for babies born with serious birth defects. It is usually found in children's hospitals, university hospitals or target centers.

In general, work on a NICU is considered level three care (level one is baby care and level two is for less severe newborn cases).

Nurses in the NICU monitor the vital signs of critically ill or premature babies day and night to ensure they are breathing and developing properly. They also administer medication, document the newborn's progress and recovery, change diapers, and soothe distressed babies.

How many patients does a neonatal nurse work with?

Depending on the condition of patients and how many babies are being born in a given period, nurses in NICUs typically only work with a few babies at a time. Typically, nurses can expect to attend to one or two patients at a time. When there are serious medical problems, the more experienced NICU nurses on a team can focus on just one or two cases.

Skills Required to be a Neonatal Nurse

Working in the neonatal intensive care unit requires special skills that go beyond medical ones. It can be fast-paced, stressful and emotional, especially when working with family members. Strong communication skills and a calm, empathetic demeanor are key. Also, because the patients are so small and even the smallest mistake can be life-threatening, the level of detail should not be underestimated.

Scope of the neonatal nurse

Like other RNs, NICU nurses work under a scope, a set of state laws that define your rights and responsibilities as a nurse and authorize you how you should proceed in the delivery of various aspects of health care.

You can find your state's nursing practice law at the National Council of State Boards of Nursing.

I was listening to Sister Tori on the radioAsk the Nurse Alice Podcast"ALL ABOUT NICU CARE: Why Sister Tori Became a NICU Nurse" now onwardsPodcasts from Apple, Spotify and all podcasting platforms.

When it comes to salary ranges in nursing, a good rule of thumb is to understand how much RNs make and then estimate that the pay will be slightly higher for the specialization. However, this does not apply to all nursing professions. In general, NICU nurses earn more than other nursing specialties due to the complexity and acumen of the patients.

AfterZipRecruiter, as of July 2022, the averageNeonatal Nurse Nurse (NICU) $120,317 per year or $57.84 per hour.

In New York City, for exampleZipRecruiterreports an average annual salary of$ 140.308,which is above the national average.

The states that pay the most for NICU nurses, according to ZipRecruiter, are:

States with highest salaries for NICU nurses
Conditionannual salaryhourly wage
NY140.308 $67,46 $
New Hampshire132.557 $63,73 $
Vermont130.712 $62,84 $
Arizona123.248 $59,25 $
Montana122.844 $59,06 $

It is fair to say that NICU nurses and all areas of care are paid according to their experience, with larger cities and well-known medical facilities paying higher salaries.

Opportunities for overtime, bonuses, and other financial benefits also vary by employer. However, in most cases, when nurses work for a hospital or medical facility, they receive a generous benefits package alongside their salary.

Show me newborn care programs

Career prospects for nurses of all persuasions are expected to be good. AsreportedAt The Atlantic today, approximately one million Registered Nurses (RNs) (roughly a third of the workforce) are over the age of 50. By 2024, almost 700,000 nurses are expected to retire or have left the workforce. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that this is the case in the healthcare sectorlost nearly half a million workerssince February 2020. Although the number does not accurately reflect the number of nurses who have left, an overwhelming number are front office nurses.

As they retire in the next decade, there will be a demand for new RNs to fill those positions. In fact, between 2014 and 2022, 1.2 million job openings are expected to be open. As such, the BLS forecasts registered nurse employment to increase by 9 percent from 2020 to 2030. Making Nursing a Great Career Choice.

(Video) Neonatal Nurse Salary | NICU Nurse Salary, Job Overview, and Education Requirements

Especially for NICU nurses, this demand can be even higher. Anytime special credentials and skills are involved, it can be more difficult to keep the talent pipeline full. In other words, nurses who continue their careers in the NICU are equipped with skills that will be in demand for years to come.

How to become a neonatal nurse (7)

Why I became a NICU nurse

"I've long had an odd interest in how the human reproductive system works. I wanted to understand it and help myself and other women thrive, especially during the reproductive season."

Before becoming a NICU nurse, you need to become a registered nurse and gain some experience. Here are the steps you need to follow:

1. Become an RN

To become a registered nurse, you must be pursuing a state board of nursing approved degree, either a bachelor's degree or an associate's degree. Upon completion, you must pass the NCLEX-RN.

2. Gain experience

You must have two or more years of clinical experience working with newborns before you can apply for a neonatal nursing certification exam. Eventually, to work in a NICU, you should gain experience in units such as:

  • pediatric nursing
  • mother-child care
  • baby care good
  • Obstetrics and childbirth care

3. Take a certification exam

Although certification is not essential to work at a NICU, earning one will aid in career advancement and qualify you for higher-ranking or more prestigious positions.

There are several important certifications for NICU nurses. These include:

  • Certification in neonatal critical care by the American Association of Critical Care Nurses.CCRN® (Newborns)is a specialty certification for nurses who directly care for newborns with acute or critical illnesses.
  • RNC Certification for Neonatal Critical Care(RNC-NIC) by the National Certification Corporation (NCC).
  • The National Certification Societyoffersthe RNC Certification for Low-Risk Neonatal Critical Care (RNC-LRN(R)).
  • The latest certificationofferedfrom the National Certification Corporation is the Neonatal Neuro-Intensive Care (C-NNIC) certification. This certification is different in that it applies not only to nurses in the NICU but also to other healthcare workers who spend the majority of their time caring for the neonatal population.
  • Last theSubspecialty certification of ultra-low birth weight neonatal care(C-ELBW) is also offered by the National Certification Corporation. Again, this subspecialty certification is not as popular as other NICU certifications and is open to all healthcare workers, not just NICU nurses.


This list is based on a number of factors, including:

  • Ruf
  • NCLEX Success Rate
  • Registration
  • Acceptance rate, if available
  • Only schools accredited by ACEN or CCNE are eligible to participate

care panel

Our selection committee consists of 3 qualified nurses with many years of experience and several titles:

  • Tracy Everhart, MSN, RN, SNC
  • Tyler Fausto, MSN, RN
  • Kathleen Gaines, MSN, BSN, RN, BA, CBC

There are many registered nursing programs and our panel of nurses have ranked them based on the factors outlined in the methodology. Because individual care paths and careers take many forms, the top 10 NICU newborn care programs are listed in no particular order.

1.University of Massachusetts Boston

Annual in-state tuition: $14,677 Annual out-of-state tuition: $35,139

online: me

Program duration: 4 years

The University of Massachusetts Boston, located on the waterfront right next to the John F. Kennedy Library and the Presidential Museum, offers a great combination of great location and low cost for MA residents. The BSN program lasts 2.5 to 4 years (depending on whether students choose direct entry or transfer) and students enjoy clinics in great locations throughout the area, including the renowned Boston Children's Hospital. This could help students become familiar with the NICU early and prepare them for their future careers. Also, all residents of the NE region receive a reduced tuition rate, so students in the region should consider this program.

2.University of Pennsylvania

Annual Tuition: $56,212

online: me

Program duration: 4 years

The University of Pennsylvania, a private Ivy League school in Philadelphia, may have the best comprehensive nursing school in the country. Students enrolling in the BSN learn essential nursing skills with an emphasis on cultural awareness and community involvement. Those planning to become NICU nurses could benefit from excellent clinical sites including the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, the first hospital in the country dedicated exclusively to children. The cost of this private school is high, but BSN students would struggle to find a better program.

(Video) How To Be A NICU Nurse, How I Knew I Wanted to be a NICU Nurse &How To Know If NICU Is Right For You

3.Washington University

Quarterly In-State Tuition: $4,026 Quarterly Out-of-State Tuition: $13,302

online: me

Program duration: 4 years

The University of Washington in Seattle is one of the top schools in the state. Perhaps best known for its research degrees, UW still has an excellent BSN program that allows students to complete over 1,000 clinical hours at campuses across the region. Aspiring NICU nurses could be placed at Seattle Children's Hospital, one of the premier children's hospitals in the west. Over 98% of the nurses in the program have graduated, and the UW has an above-average NCEX pass rate for first-time test takers.

4.University of Colorado Denver

Annual in-state tuition: $25,110 Annual out-of-state tuition: $44,100

online: me

Program duration: 4 years

With its main campus in downtown Denver, the University of Colorado Denver is the only public urban research institution in the state. However, students enrolled at BSN attend classes at the nearby CU Denver campus in Aurora. Students can choose from several BSN pathways, although most students choose the traditional BSN, a two-year program that accepts students who have completed two years of prerequisite courses. The program uses a cohort system so nursing students work closely together. In addition, the university could place students in clinics at Children's Hospital Colorado, a world-class children's hospital.

5.Georgetown University

Annual Tuition: $61,872

online: me

Program duration: 4 years

Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. is one of the top research universities in the country. The university is also private, meaning students do not have access to discounted tuition. Nursing students, while expensive, earn one of the best BSN degrees in the country. The BSN enables direct entry and the students start with clinical internships in the first year. By the end of the program, students will have completed more than 850 clinical hours at excellent sites in the region, including Children's National Hospital. Graduates from the program end up in a variety of positions, including neonatal nursing.

6.xavier university

Annual fee: $42,230

online: me

Program duration: 4 years

Xavier University, a Jesuit university in Cincinnati, is a medium-sized school with only 4,500 undergraduate students. The small size may make the nursing school more exclusive, but 98% of Xavier graduates find a position in the healthcare sector within six months of graduation. Many graduates also end up working at the Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, a great place to gain NICU experience and one of Xavier's major clinical rotation sites. Xavier may have high private school expenses, but many students receive some form of financial support.

7.University of California, Los Angeles

Annual State Tuition: $37,129 Annual Out-of-State Tuition: $68,155

online: me

Program duration: 4 years

The University of California, Los Angeles, known for its prime location and sports, also has some of the best academic programs in the area, including its BSN. The UCLA BSN is an excellent choice for anyone wanting to become a registered nurse in California. It includes extensive clinical experience and a clinical-based academic project at the end of the fourth year. Students enjoy clinics in great locations including Children's Hospital Los Angeles. Early exposure to working with children and the UCLA location could help graduates secure a position at NICU in California.

8.University of Pittsburgh

Annual in-state tuition: $23,452 Annual out-of-state tuition: $41,508

online: me

Program duration: 4 years

Founded in 1787, the University of Pittsburgh today educates nearly 23,500 undergraduate students. Pitt strives to provide nursing students with a comprehensive education, which requires courses at the Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences as students also take nursing courses. Students gain clinical experience through a skills lab in their first year and then rotate in their second year. Clinical sites include many of the top regional health facilities, including Pitt's own UMPC Children's. Graduates could end up finding a job at UMPC Children's or other great places in the area.

(Video) How I Got A Job As A NICU Nurse With No Experience

9.Houston University

Annual State Tuition: $14,544.60 Annual Out-of-State Tuition: $29,784.60

online: me

Program duration: 4 years

With more than 46,000 students, the University of Houston is one of the largest on this list. However, UH's size does not detract from the quality of its care program. BSN students gain more than 900 hours of clinical experience through rotations and labs, and those interested in neonatal care can gain experience at Texas Children's Hospital. Nursing students complete the first two years of BSN in Houston, followed by two years at the Katy location. In addition to low government tuition fees, students can also receive financial aid and scholarships.

10Ohio State University

Annual in-state tuition: $9,351 Annual out-of-state tuition: $24,237

online: me

Program duration: 4 years

Ohio State University, one of the top public universities in Columbus, is the largest school on this list with more than 68,000 students. Despite the university's size, OSU's BSN program is extremely competitive, especially for Ohioans looking to secure state tuition. Graduates find great careers later, and gaining clinical experience at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus could help students prepare for a nursing career in the NICU. In general, OSU offers relatively low tuition for an excellent education, making it a good choice for anyone wanting to become a neonatal nurse.

Show me newborn care programs

NICU nurses do not necessarily have specific requirements beyond state-mandated continuing education. However, advanced certifications such as CCRN and RNC-NIC require specific CEUs.

All NICU nurses are required to hold an RN license regardless of advanced certification.

The continuing education requirements for the license are different for each state. All license and certification renewals also have monetary fees and other state-specific criteria associated with them.

Examples of continuing education requirements for RNs are as follows:

  • California: 30 CEUs every two years
  • Florida: 24 CEUs every two years
  • Hawaii: 30 CEUs every two years
  • Oklahoma - 24 CEUs every two years
  • Pennsylvania: 30 CEUs every two years

A full list can be foundHere.

The CEU certification requirements are certification specific. It is important to check with the certifying body prior to the renewal date to ensure all requirements are met. For example, the CCRN Neonatal requires the following for recertification:

  • Completion of 100 CERPs is required, with a minimum of 60 CERPs in category A and 10 each in categories B and C, plus 20 in the category of your choice.
    • CERPs are a special form of continuing education
  • Hours of clinical practice are required. Practice as an RN or APRN for 432 hours of direct care for acute/critical newborns during the three-year recertification period, with 144 of those hours accrued in the 12 months prior to the scheduled renewal date.

NICU nurses and neonatal nurses have similar roles, but the difference lies in the training requirements and scope of practice. A neonatal nurse is a registered nurse who works in the intensive care unit and works under the supervision of neonatal doctors and nurses. Neonatal Nurses Practitioners have completed a master's or doctorate degree in training and are certified. To learn more about what a neonatology nurse is and what they do, visit ourProfessional guide to newborn care.

Show me newborn care programs

To learn more about neonatal and critical care, use the resources provided and consider joining the following professional organizations:

The more advanced your degrees and/or certifications are, the more likely you are to land the neonatal critical care nurse position you want.

The best opportunities are in large hospitals that have a full-fledged intensive care unit offering Level II and III care.

NICU nurses play perhaps one of the most important roles in our healthcare system, as they are there when life begins and are often instrumental in helping high-risk newborns survive and thrive. They also act as a great source of comfort and information for parents who are spending the first few days or weeks as parents in the NICU.

For prospective nurses who love the idea of ​​working with babies to improve their health and bring them home, NICU nursing is not only a highly sought-after specialization but also a fulfilling career choice. Find out now about vacancies for NICU nurses on ourwork bag.

*Indicates an affiliate link. At no additional cost to you, may earn a commission if you click through and use this service.

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