January 7, 2015
Article by Global Pre-Meds
Hospital doctor shadowing & global health experience programs.
A neonatologist is a highly trained doctor who cares for babies who are born prematurely or those who are critically ill at birth. Some of the problems that these critically ill babies face could range from premature birth and low birth weight to birth defects, underdevelopment and lack of oxygen at birth. Neonatologists work with these babies from the time they are born till the time that they leave the neonatal intensive care unit. The neonatal intensive care unit or NICU as it is more commonly called is the intensive care unit for newborn babies who are born with major health issues.
Some of the responsibilities of a neonatologist include:
If the birth is premature or the obstetrician detects before birth that the baby has some kind of defect, they call for a neonatologist to be present at the delivery. As a neonatologist you would also be required to help if there are complications with the delivery and the baby needs medical attention immediately after being born. You would help the baby breathe using highly specialised procedures or do whatever else may be necessary to stabilise the baby’s condition.
Premature and other NICU babies usually do not have fully developed digestive systems and often have difficulty suckling or feeding on formula milk normally. In cases like this finding alternative ways of feeding are crucial to ensure that the babies’ nutritional needs and that their growth and development are not compromised. You would attend to the nutrition needs of these babies and also treat babies for infections they may have been born with or developed after birth. Depending on the circumstances, you may need to administer medication and special nutrition to these babies intravenously at first and later progress to feeding them orally.
Performing Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation
Extracorporeal membrane oxygenation is a procedure in which a pump is used to circulate the baby’s blood outside of the body. The blood is then sent back into the baby’s system through an artificial breathing system. This is done to provide oxygen to babies who are having difficulty breathing on their own because of an underdeveloped or damaged heart or lungs or both. The Extracorporeal membrane oxygenation is a highly advanced heart-lung bypass procedure that cannot be carried out without the adequate training. Only neonatologists receive the training to carry out this procedure.
Providing supports to the parents of critically ill babies is crucial as the stress can often be too much for them to handle. As a neonatologist you would be responsible for helping parents understand their baby’s health condition by explaining medical terms in easy to understand layman language. You would also be responsible for helping parents make decisions that are in their baby’s best interest. In this role, you would talk to parents about the best course of treatment that can be given and provide emotional support to the parents to help them cope with their fears regarding the outcome of the treatment. You would also make sure that parents get ample opportunities to bond with their babies.