Explore a career as a neonatal nurse practitioner

August 12, 2014

A neonatal nurse cares for newborn infants. As a neonatal nurse, you may opt to care for healthy infants, provide more focused and intensive care for premature babies or newborn babies who are very ill or work only with seriously ill newborns in a NICU or neonatal intensive care unit.

To be able to practice as a neonatal nurse practitioner you must first be a registered nurse with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN).

Career Overview

As a neonatal nurse practitioner, you may work in a hospital, private clinic, neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) or a community-based setting. You may also act as consultant, conduct research or provide education to staff and family members.

A career as a neonatal nurse practitioner calls for a high level of diligence and teamwork. To achieve the best possible outcomes for your tiny patients, you will have to work closely with that baby’s parents, neonatologists and other nurse specialists depending on the help the baby needs.

Within the neonatal nursing specialty, there are 3 different levels that you can choose to work at depending on your experience, skill level and of course personal preference:

  • Level I: Neonatal nurses at this level care for healthy infants. Because these babies are born health, the responsibilities are less demanding at this level of neonatal nursing though constant attention and monitoring is still required, especially for the first couple of days till the mother is more capable of doing things herself.
  • Level II: Nurses at this level look after premature and sick babies. They have more responsibilities because babies who are born premature or who are ill when they are born need constant careful attention. 
  • Level III: Nurses at level III have the most demanding responsibilities. Nurses who qualify to work at this level typically work in the NICU or Neonatal Intensive Unit, where they monitor premature infants and seriously ill infants around the clock. Some of their responsibilities include checking incubators and ventilators, making sure babies are responding well, and teaching parents how to care for their infants properly.

Education & Training Requirements

While requirements at entry-level may vary by location, at a minimum, you need to meet these criteria:

  • You must be a registered nurse with a four-year Bachelor of Science in Nursing Degree (BSN).
  • You must be certified in Neonatal Intensive Care Nursing and Neonatal Resuscitation.
  • Some establishments may also require you to have a minimum number of years of clinical experience in a hospital setting.

Today there are several neonatal nursing schools that offer a 2-year APPN or the Advanced Practice Neonatal Nursing program that is designed to prepare you for nursing licensure as a clinical nurse specialist or a nurse practitioner.

Career Outlook 

As with all nursing specialties, the demand for neonatal nurses and neonatal nurse practitioners is projected to grow considerbly over the next few years. In general, the more training, certifications and experience you have as a nurse, the higher the demand there will be for your skill set.