What Exactly Does A NICU Nurse Do?


One nursing shift is never the same as another. When you start your day, you never know how it will end. This is especially true for a NICU nurse. If you are considering a nursing career, you probably know there are many subspecialties within the general field. Competent neonatal nurses are in high demand throughout the world.

The Basics

A NICU nurse focuses on providing care to newborns and their families when the infant has needs that exceed what regular newborn centers can provide. Neonatal nurses work with newborns with a variety of problems such as congenital defects, prematurity, surgical problems and other body malformations. The scope of a neonatal nurse ranges from minimal supportive care to highly complex intensive care. Neonatal nurses are skilled in handling newborn babies for the first four weeks of their lives. They can work either within the community or in specialist neonatal units. Specializations for this field may vary in three levels–Level I, Level II, and Level III.


As a nurse, you must complete the necessary hours for certification in your state. As well as both undergraduate and graduate nursing degree programs. To be a neonatal nurse, you need to obtain an MS in nursing with a focus on neonatal nursing. This course work will have a focus on neonatal care, pediatric pharmacology, fetus physiology, and healthcare system basics. Neonatal nurses need to take a certification exam by obtaining two years or up to 2,000 hours of clinical experience working as a neonatal nurse.

A Day in the Life

Usually, neonatal nursing care is divided into three levels and the level will determine the tasks you will be performing during each shift. Level I is designated for healthy newborns, Level II is reserved for newborns delivered prematurely or those with illness, requiring immediate care. These newborns commonly need specialized care such as IV fluid administration, specialized feeding, oxygen therapy and medications. These babies usually need time to mature and grow stronger in a more sterile environment.

Level III neonatal care refers to the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). Neonatal nurses in this level render care to very sick newborns, often with congenital problems or extremely premature infants. These newborns may need much intense care, such as incubators, ventilators, surgery and other support equipment. A NICU nurse provides around-the-clock care for these at-risk newborns.

As a nurse, finding the right specialty can mean you move into a more satisfying career. Using your skills to save the lives of the youngest patients in the hospital can be very rewarding. To ensure you can always use your skills, check out the Nurse Backpack app to make sure your nursing credentials are always up-to-date and ready to go!


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