Do Neonatal Nurses Perform Surgery?

A Neonatal Nurse is responsible for caring for newborn infants in their first 4 weeks of life. Neonatal Nursing classifies the work performed by nurses into 3 specific classes of care. Level or class III encompasses Neonatal Nurses who care for the most severe cases.

Neonatal Nurses in this class care for newborn infants who need to be in NICUs. These are very sick newborns who often may have congenital type problems or as in most cases, be premature babies. These neonatal nurses often provide more intense care.

Babies in the NICU may need incubators, ventilators, surgery or other life support equipment. Neonatal nurses are trained to assist their patients in this type of case by providing care, feeding and following medical instructions.

Can Neonatal Nurses perform surgery? Nurses who specialize in Neonatology have the skills and knowledge to work with a team of medical professionals to care for newborns, provide the required care and be in direct contact with their families.

These nurses are trained to treat premature babies, babies born with physical problems, sepsis, respiratory disorders and conditions requiring surgical interventions.

But they are not trained to perform surgery; that is the responsibility of the Neonatal Surgeon or Specialist.

What types of work do Neonatal Nurses perform?

The Neonatal nurse is prepared to perform the following duties:

  • Perform all tasks typical of nursing professionals.
  • Assess the cognitive abilities of newborns.
  • Perform relevant neonatal testing during pregnancy.
  • Assist patients in selecting the best plan of action to follow.
  • Care for and assist each of their patients.
  • Administer medications to newborns in need.
  • Take vital signs of newborn babies.
  • Record patient activity.
  • Make quick medical decisions.

These nurses treat newborns with premature conditions, physical abnormalities, infections, respiratory disorders and conditions that warrant surgical interventions. Given the fragile nature of neonatal patients, Neonatal Nurse practitioners must be able to provide care in emergency and urgent medical situations.

Neonatal Nurse practitioners in the surgical area work with physicians, specialists and other clinical staff to determine the best care for each patient. Their responsibility extends to patient preparation prior to surgery and immediate aftercare following surgery.

What does the International Council of Nurses say about the roles of Nurses?

According to the International Council of Nurses, which is based in Switzerland and has a membership of more than 13 million nursing professionals worldwide, the essential roles of all nursing professionals are:

  • Advocating for their patients
  • Promoting a safe environment for their patients and for their professional performance
  • Research
  • Involvement in health policy
  • Education

A nursing professional must be able to positively impact the lives of their patients by providing the care and attention they need, regardless of their condition. In short, Neonatal Nurses can provide support and care, but they cannot perform surgery.

Do Neonatal Nurses go to Medical School?

In order to aspire to be a Neonatal Nurse, one must first obtain an Associate’s Degree in Nursing or a Bachelor of Science in Nursing. It is also a necessary requirement for licensure. This can be accomplished by passing the Neonatal Intensive Care Nursing Exam.

How are Nurses assigned to the Neonatal Care area?

Nurses who go to the Neonatal Care Area are assigned based on the criteria of the staffing management of hospitals and other medical institutions. Registered nurses must have specialized in neonatal care during their education in order to be assigned to the NICU.

Depending on additional training, they may be assigned to Class II and Class I Neonatal level of care. With additional academic training and clinical experience as a Nurse Practitioner, they will have a better chance of being placed in the NICU.

Difference between a Neonatal Practice Nurse and a Neonatologist

Neonatal Practice Nurses are advanced practice nursing professionals who are specialized in caring for newborns in every way. Although they are healthcare providers, they differ from Neonatologists in different ways.

Neonatologists are physicians, who have completed about 4 years of medical school, about three years of residency and additionally about three years in a Neonatology fellowship. As physicians, Neonatologists have a wide range of practices.

Neonatal Nurse Practitioners begin as Registered Nurses. Upon earning a Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing, they are able to enroll in a Master’s of Doctoral program and that is where they decide which specialty to choose.


Neonatal Nurses are professionals prepared and trained to care for newborn infants in their first 28 days of life. They care for babies who have medical complications at birth or who are detected after birth. These can range from birth defects and surgical problems to prematurity.

The Neonatal Nurse is responsible for caring for, measuring and weighing babies after they are born, monitoring their health and educating new parents about breastfeeding and caring for their baby. But their responsibilities do not include performing surgery, as that is the purview of Neonatal Surgeons.

Marlene J. Shockley

My name is Marlene J. Shockley, and I am a Registered Nurse (RN). I have always been interested in helping people and Nursing seemed like the perfect career for me. After completing my Nursing Degree, I worked in a variety of settings, including hospitals, clinics, and home health care. I have also had the opportunity to work as a Travelling Nurse, which has allowed me to see different parts of the country and meet new people. No matter where I am working, I enjoy getting to know my patients and their families and helping them through whatever medical challenges they may be facing.