December 19, 2014
Article by Global Pre-Meds
Hospital doctor shadowing & global health experience programs.
Neonatology is a subspecialty of paediatrics that focuses on the care of newborns, in particular those who are seriously ill at birth. Neonatologists are paediatricians who undergo specialised training in providing care for babies who are born prematurely as well as full-term babies who are born with congenital or genetic defects of any kind. These babies receive immediate and highly proficient care from the neonatologist on staff at the hospital.
When a baby is born with any kind of complication, the neonatologist takes over the treatment and care of the baby till such time that they are released from the hospital or to the care of a paediatrician. Although a specialty practice, neonatologists have multiple career options available to them.
If you are interested in pursuing a career in neonatology there are a few subspecialties to choose from.
Neonatology is primarily a hospital-based specialty, although some neonatologists also work outside the hospital in a solo or group practice. Most neonatologists who work in private practice work on a referral basis. They also usually provide neonatology services to multiple hospitals that do not have a trained neonatologist on staff. Some neonatologists choose to continue providing direct care for children born with congenital defects until such time that the child’s care can be handled by a regular paediatrician.
Neonatologists with a few years experience under their belt may also choose to become teachers for medical students, nurse practitioners, neonatal nurses, paediatricians, therapists and other medical practitioners who work together as a team to provide life saving care to ill newborns or premature babies. Those who teach neonatology usually work in university hospital settings where they may also mentor medical students and would-be neonatologists and may occasionally consult on specialty cases.
While a majority of qualified neonatologists provide direct care to patients, there are a large percentage of neonatologists who work in clinical or scientific research. The primary goal of neonatologists who focus on research is to try to find the causes of low birth weights, genetic defects and newborn diseases.
Larger hospitals and university hospitals typically have a neonatal intensive care unit staffed by professionals who specialise in the care and treatment of premature and sick newborns. As an experienced neonatologist, you can become the administrator of the NICU or neonatal intensive care unit for a large hospital. In this role, you would oversee all other neonatology professionals, from neonatologists, neonatal nurses and nurse practitioners to nurse managers, specialists, respiratory therapists, staff nurse, clinical instructors and more. In this role you would also be require to manage the budget and the equipment used to treat sick newborns.
Neonatologists are in great demand in organisations that focus on maternal and newborn healthcare in developing countries where the death rate is high for these two demographics. If this is a career you’ve envisioned but are not sure whether it is the right option for you, a medical placement in Tanzania where you could get hands-on experience in childbirth and the care of newborns, could help you make a more informed decision.