Neonatal nurses work with a wide spectrum of infants and their mothers, right from healthy born to those in need of intensive care. They work in hospitals as well as other healthcare facilities that require round the clock care. They do not have any fixed working hours and may be required to work night shifts, in the rotation, and even during weekends and holidays.
The neonatal nurse duties include providing care to newborn babies who are younger than 29 days. Since the roles of the neonatal nurse could be full of major responsibilities, they are often required to be well versed in proving special care and using certain vital equipment such as ventilators and incubators. They should also be able to accurately measure out the doses of medications to be administered to the patients, perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation and administer intravenous fluids.
The tasks assigned to an RN neonatal nurse include performing tests, documenting the medical history of the patients, offering treatments and providing assistance with the use of equipment. Sometimes, these nurses may also offer at home services to the families.
What Does A Neonatal Nurse Do?
The main role of a neonatal nurse is to provide medical care for the babies who are born vulnerable. Since their everyday work involved them to handle babies, who tend to be at a very vulnerable stage of their life, it is important for the neonatal nurses to not only have medical skills but also to have soft skills such as compassion and affection towards the baby. Even if the babies are born healthy, they are still physically very weak. Therefore, the neonatal nurses should make it a point to always work with great caution.
While looking after the babies remains their prime task, the neonatal nurses are also required to offer assistance to their mothers. The responsibilities of a neonatal nurse are many but their primary job is to tend to all the basic necessities of both the mother and the baby. If the babies are born very vulnerable, for example, premature babies or those born with some illnesses, they may have to be admitted to the neonatal intensive care unit. The duties of a neonatal nurse in ICU can be very challenging. The babies are very sensitive and may develop a reaction even on very mild exposure. Therefore, the units are divided, accordingly with regards to the amount of medical attention required by the babies. The nurses are allowed to choose their area, depending on the amount of stress they can handle.
There are mainly three different types of nurseries and they are categorized as follows.
1. Level 1 Nursery
Level `1 nurseries look after the infants who are born completely healthy. In such a case, the mother and the infant may not have to stay in the hospital for long. Due to the patients getting discharged immediately, this nursery remains vacant most of the time unless the healthcare facility is in a bustling area. This is also the reason why level 1 nursery is very rare and sometimes absent altogether.
2. Level 2 Nursery
This is where the infants requiring immediate special care are admitted. A level 2 neonatal nurse is required to take care of infants who require an intermediate level of care. These babies usually take more time to mature than other infants and may have to be placed on special diets and given supplemental oxygen.
3. Level 3 Nursery
This unit is for the babies requiring intensive care and is also known as the neonatal intensive care unit. These units are usually found in large hospitals as well as specialized hospitals for children. It is usually the premature babies, those born with a disease, babies with complications and a high risk for certain diseases or underweight babies who are admitted to this unit.
Out of these 3 levels, the nurses working in different levels are assigned different tasks and have their own set of responsibilities. Those working on the level 2 are allowed to take care of three or four babies at a time while those working on level 3 should only care for a maximum of two babies at a time so that the babies receive enough medical attention throughout their stay in the hospitals. A neonatal clinical nurse specialist job description on any normal day would include crying infants, the constant presence of therapists, specialists, and doctors, extensive use of medical equipment, communicating with family members of the infants and so on.
Many neonatal nurses, including the RNs as well as the NICUs choose to have a 12-hour work shift. However, many nurses also go for 8 hours instead. The working hours could be odd, especially for the intensive care unit nurses. Since, the neonatal units are required to stay open at all times, the nurses may also have to work during weekends and even holidays. However, the advanced nurse practitioners may have some certainty as far as the working hours are concerned. Since their expertise is mostly required during the daytime, they tend to work during the normal business hours.
Some Of The Basic Duties Of A Neonatal Nurse Include
- Evaluating the safety of the patient, especially during the administration of medications and the use of special equipment
- Keep a close watch on the patients at all times
- Keep a rack of the medications that are being administered
- Perform tests and evaluate the results
- Hold effective communications with the guardians
- Consult with other health care providers to decide the optimal care for patients
The duties of a neonatal nurse are slightly different. The basic neonatal nurse practitioner job description would include.
- Working closely with the intensive care units
- Offering emergency services
- Working in the delivery rooms
- Working in the specialty clinics
- They also act as the intensive caregivers for ill newborns
- Dispensing medicines while collaborating with the doctors
- Performing diagnostic tests.
Neonatal Nurse Qualifications
1. Bachelor Of Nursing
The first step to becoming a neonatal nurse is to take up a Bachelor of Science in Nursing program which can take anywhere from two to four years depending on the institution. The first year is mainly devoted to learning the knowhow of nursing. In the second year, the students are trained to focus on the patients. It should be noted that simply holding a bachelor’s degree is not enough. This course is only to encourage the students to take up further education. The Bachelor’s degree is only valuable with other additional degrees. After completing the bachelor’s course, the candidates can appear for the NCLEX-RN exam. Upon passing this exam, they are granted licenses as registered nurses.
2. Neonatal Graduate Programs
Many employers want their neonatal nurses to hold the credentials of either a neonatal nurse specialist or a neonatal nurse practitioner. These programs take around two years for completion. The courses include both hands-on skills as well as classroom programs. The training is of a very intensive nature and the nurses are trained to have a comprehensive knowledge including baby care, pain management, and more. The certification to practice as a neonatal nurse is offered by the National Certification Corporation.
Neonatal Nurse Salary
Currently, there is a very high demand for all the different types of nurses and more so for the neonatal nurses. After completing education in the required field followed by licensing, it should not be very difficult for the neonatal nurses to seek employment. The job prospects for the neonatal nurses have been growing at a faster than average pace and is expected to increase by about 31% by the year 2022, as stated by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. This is also partly due to the advancement of the technologies used by life support equipment which has led to an increased survival rate among the critically ill babies.
How Much Do Neonatal Nurses Make?
As of Feb 2, 2018, the average salary of a neonatal nurse was $28.15 per hour.5 These wages for a neonatal nurse are also likely to vary by a significant amount depending on the amount of education, expertise, employer, state, and more. When the survey was taken, the top earning category within the field of neonatal nursing had annual earnings of as high as $96,362 while those comprising the lowest earning categories only earned $40,414 per year.6 The information for these data was collected from hundreds of industries of all sizes across the country.
However, it should be noted that the salaries can rise and fall from time to time depending on the local economy, availability of nurses, state legislation and similar other contributing factors. Depending on all these factors, the starting salary for a neonatal nurse is likely to vary from place to place. Different nurses are bound to have different salary scales depending on their designation. For example, the salary for a neonatal nurse practitioner is likely to be quite good even if he/she is just at the entry level. Nurse practitioners constitute the highest paid category among the nurses. Currently, a neonatal nurse practitioner is said to have an average salary of $60,630 per year6, which is quite a good amount for nurses.
Salary By Experience
Experience can be another one of the huge deciding factors for determining the neonatal nursing salary. For the neonatal nurses, it follows a highly positive trend. A starting level neonatal nurse with less than 5 years of experience can expect an average compensation of $56,000 per year. Here, compensation means the total pay including the amount received through tips, overtime pays, and bonuses. Neonatal nurses who are in the mod stage of their career, with an experience of 5 to 10 years have an average yearly compensation of $65,000. Highly experienced neonatal nurses or those who have been working for more about 10 to 20 years can expect to have a total compensation of about $62,000 per year. As for the expert neonatal nurses who have been practicing for more than 20 years, the average annual compensation can go as high as $64,000.4
Since compensations tend to have a huge influence on the overall salary of a nicu nurse, they should not be ignored while considering the total earnings. Then there are also other things such as health insurances, life insurances, child care, travel allowances, rent allowances, tax exemption, and so on that tend to have an influence on the total earnings a neonatal nurse can make in a year.
Neonatal Nurse Practitioner Salaries
As mentioned once above, the neonatal practitioners do have higher salaries than the other nurses. This can make it very lucrative for students who are looking for a higher salary scale. Some of the highest paying states for nurse practitioners include California, Hawaii, Massachusetts and several others. It has been estimated that neonatal nurses have an average salary of $107,518 in these states. Listed below are the annual wages of the highest paying states.
Highest Neonatal Nurse Salary Paying States
|STATE||ANNUAL MEAN WAGE|
These are the figures as released by the US Bureau of Statistics. Different surveying bodies are also likely to have slightly different figures, mainly because things such as the short-term economy, a supply mechanism, and so are not taken into account while collecting the data. There are also a few metropolitan areas that tend to have very high salaries for the neonatal nurse practitioners.
Highest Salary Paying Metropolitan Areas
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How To Increase The Neonatal Salary?
If nurses working in this field are not satisfied with their earnings, they can always opt for an increase in the salary. This can be done by advancing their career in the field of either one of the level 1, 2 or 3 nurses. RN nurses can also continue their education and get certified as either the nurse practitioners or the advanced specialist nurses.