Neonatal Nurses, also called Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) nurses, are the professionals responsible for providing care to infants who suffer medical complications after birth. Neonatal Nursing skills enable them to care for babies with surgical defects and congenital problems.
Neonatal Nurses care for babies admitted to the NICU during the first 30 days after birth. But sometimes, babies born prematurely with long-term problems are also cared for up to 2 years of age.
The Neonatal Nurse is responsible for caring for premature babies and their families. These babies usually need more care and support than the postnatal care provided to any other newborn baby. Premature infants often have a variety of medical problems, which may include:
- Birth defects.
- Cardiovascular problems.
- Respiratory problems.
Neonatal Nurses are required to provide intensive and complex care to premature infants who are sick. Their training qualifies them to work with newborns, providing daily care and follow-up as well as their mothers.
They possess organizational skills with excellent documentation to ensure clear communication with the health care team.
What does a Neonatal Nurse do?
As previously stated, the main responsibility of a Neonatal Nurse is to provide the help mothers need with the birth and postpartum delivery of their baby. On a daily basis, a Neonatal Nurse is needed to perform the following responsibilities:
- Perform procedures common to nursing professionals.
- Perform various neonatal tests for the duration of the pregnancy.
- Assist patients in selecting an effective plan of care.
- Deliver babies and provide care for infants immediately after birth.
- Evaluate and supervise the care of infants in the NICU.
- Monitor the health of infants who have birth-related medical problems, such as being premature or born with birth defects.
- Performing testing, obtaining and evaluating results.
- Provide treatment and administer medication as prescribed by the NICU physician.
- Perform patient history taking and documentation.
- Ensure that equipment in the NICU is in working order and properly maintained.
- Educate new parents about the attention and care they should provide to their baby. Especially breastfeeding.
- Inform parents or guardians about the care and medical procedures to be administered to their baby.
Levels of Neonatal Nursing
There are different levels of Neonatal Nurses, which give them the opportunity to have different responsibilities and work with different types of patients. These levels determine what type of work a Neonatal Nurse can do.
Level I Neonatal Nursing
This level of Neonatal Nursing pertains to the well newborn area, which is why it is often referred to as the well newborn nursery. Level I Neonatal Nurses possess the knowledge for:
- Neonatal resuscitation.
- Care of newborn infants.
- Care of infants born between 35 and 37 weeks gestation.
- Stabilization of premature and sick newborns who are less than 35 weeks gestation.
Level I Neonatal Nurses are in charge of performing the newborns:
- Hearing tests.
- Vision tests.
- Giving injections.
- Bathing them.
- Providing the necessary assistance to mothers to help them learn how to care for their newborns.
Level II Neonatal Nurses
At this level, Neonatal Nurses typically work in special care nurseries and possess all the knowledge and skills of level I nurses. They are qualified to provide care for infants born at 32 weeks gestation, who may have moderate illness and need increased care.
Level II Neonatal Nurses provide care for babies who need strengthening or require care and assistance after being in the intensive care unit. They are trained and knowledgeable in providing mechanical ventilation to these babies and can help them learn to breathe on their own.
Level II Neonatal Nurses typically work with premature infants who are newborn or require immediate care. They are skilled in administering intravenous fluids, oxygen therapy, specialized feeding, medications and more.
Level III Neonatal Nurses
At this level, Neonatal Nurses work in the NICU and have the expertise to care for newborn babies who are very sick, usually with congenital problems or who are very premature. These babies usually require incubators, ventilators, surgery and other support equipment to sustain their lives.
Newborn babies who are born sick often need sustained life support, are underweight, need to see a wide variety of specialists, and require constant monitoring. Level III Neonatal Nurses are professionals trained and qualified to work with very high-risk infants.
Other knowledge and skills required in Neonatal Nursing.
Neonatal Nursing requires nurses who are highly organized, able to prioritize effectively and who are flexible. They must have high observational skills, so that they can assess patients and determine what is the best course of action to follow, taking responsibility for the outcome.
They must also possess:
- Understand and empathize with parents and other family members.
- Be interested in newborn infants
- Have a good understanding of the physiological and psychological needs of newborn infants.
- Be competent to work in highly technical areas.
Neonatal Nurses must follow specific educational paths in order to be successful. In addition, they must possess certain personality traits in order to perform their duties appropriately, such as empathy, love for newborn infants, high level of communication, a high sense of compassion, and a desire to constantly learn.
The most common scenario expected of a Neonatal Nurse is that they will care for an infant from birth until discharge from the hospital. This requires a professional with a high dose of patience, equanimity and love for others. She must also have a good ability to adapt quickly to new tasks and environments.