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Neonatal Intensive Care Nursing

A neonatal intensive care unit is often referred to as NICU. This is a specialized nursery that cares for premature, low birth weight, or otherwise critically ill infants who need the medical interventions of ventilators, incubators, or surgical procedures. The neonatal nurses who care for these babies are charged with giving highly technical direct care. They are also usually closely involved with the parents of the infants they care for. It's been estimated that 5,500 babies are born annually in the United States alone weighing less than one pound. Recent advancements in medical technology have made it very possible for these infants to develop into healthy active children. NICU nurses are also a factor in this success rate. The hands-on care they give these tiny babies includes administering intravenous medications, providing specialized feedings, and providing oxygen therapy. Advances in fertility medicine have also increased the number of premature and multiple births that often require NICU services.

An individual considering a career as a neonatal intensive care nurse will need to acquire excellent clinical skills. Many of the babies in NICU have a variety of co-existing health problems including pulmonary, neurological, and cardiac deficits. The prospective NICU nurse needs to possess compassion, good organizational skills, the ability to prioritize, emotional stability and good judgment. Nurses are one of the most trusted professionals in society. This specialized field of nursing can be extremely stressful but also very rewarding.

 

 

NICU Training

LPNs (licensed practical nurses) or LVNs (licensed vocational nurses) interested in a position as a neonatal intensive care nurse will most likely need to continue their education to become a (RN) registered nurse. This involves pursuing an associate or bachelor degree through an accredited nursing school and also passing the NCLEX-RN (National Council Licensure Examination Registered Nurse). There are opportunities online to transition from LPN and LVN to RN in a relatively short period of time. Most neonatal intensive care unit nurses are registered nurses but there are opportunities in this area for LPNs or LVNs with experience and outstanding clinical skills. Requirements for NICU nurses are widely established by individual facilities.

There are job opportunities for new graduate nurses in this specialized field of nursing, but it's usually recommended that new nurses work on an adult medical surgical unit to begin with. This are typically in-house postings for positions in the NICU. Registered nurses have the best chance of landing a position in a NICU. The jobs are often very competitive, though there are areas of the country where there is a shortage of qualified neonatal nurses. These geographical areas offer the best opportunities for new nurses who desire a position as a neonatal intensive care unit nurse.

Advancement

The National Association of Neonatal Nurses recommends that nurses work two years in a NICU before considering pursuing an advanced degree as a neonatal nurse practitioner or clinical nurse specialist. Nurses with these advanced degrees are given more responsibility and higher compensation packages. A graduate level education and specialized certification is required to attain these titles.

 

Compensation and Employment Outlook

There will continue to be a need for neonatal intensive care nurses as medical technology continues to advance. There's an increasing ability to save premature infants and sick babies with the health care capabilities that are available. The need for highly skilled nurses. Many hospitals offer large sign-on bonuses to attract nurses to this area of practice. Statistics by the United States Department of Labor indicates that job opportunities for LPNs, LVNs, and RNs are expected to be very good to excellent through the year 2016. Experienced nurses who retire will open up many jobs. Nursing comprises one of the largest occupations in the United States so there are many jobs available in this field.

Compensation

Compensation as a neonatal intensive care nurse varies significantly by geographical region in the United States. The website payscale.com indicates that Philadelphia and San Diego are two cities that offer NICU nurses the highest salaries. The website also provides the annual median salaries of NICU nurses based on years of experience. A neonatal intensive care nurses with less than one year of experience has a median annual salary of $48,647, 1-4 years $57,776, 5-9 $59,675, 10--19 $73,162, and 20+ years of experience $73,170. These statistics were updated February 4, 2009.

Further Information

Additional information about this career can be researched by contacting the National Association of Neonatal Nurses, 4700 W. Lake Avenue, Glenview, IL, 60025-1485. They can be reached by telephone at (800) 451-3795 or (847) 375-3660.

 

 


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