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Neonatal Intensive Care Nurse

There are fewer situations in life that are more stressful than having a newborn child in the intensive care unit in a hospital.  But one thing is collectively agreed upon in families that have lived through this situation: the neonatal nurse staff influences the family’s experience in the NICU more than anything else.  Whether you’re hoping to become a neonatal nurse or go into critical care nursing in any capacity, these are meaningful careers that confront some of life’s most difficult circumstances. 

When an infant ends up in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), chances are they are critically ill or born prematurely.  These kind of infants need immediate care from health care professionals that are well equipped with advanced knowledge of the of technologies and treatments that will save lives. 

To be a neonatal ICU nurse, you must be able to work in a fast-paced work environment.  Your job description will include recording infant progress and recovery, monitoring general condition of babies (temperature, weight, color, ect), holding and comforting new babies, administering IV fluids and medications, and much more.  You will also be a constant communication line for families.  You’ll likely spend time working with parents on holding their new child, educating them on breastfeeding practices and general care.   

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How to Become a Neonatal Intensive Care Nurse

A Neonatal Intensive Care Nurse is an RN with an associates or bachelors degree.  The first step in becoming an NICU nurse is to obtain your RN.  To do this, you’ll need at least an ASN (associate of science in nursing).  It’s a 2 year nursing program.  When you have obtained your ASN, you’re eligible to take the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN).  This test qualifies you to work as a registered nurse. 

In nursing, your salary is dependent on your level of education as well as your experience.  So most people that truly love the field will eventually obtain a bachelors in nursing (BSN).  This can be done by first obtaining the associates degree and RN.  This way, you can begin working while you continue a bachelors nursing program.  In a bridge program entitled RN-to-BSN, your nursing credits are applied to the bachelors program.  The benefit of this method is that you can continue to work while you finish your degree.

Others go straight into a bachelors nursing program.  Although you won’t be working as an RN for 4 years, the entire program is generally shorter than the two-part bridge program mentioned above.  There are benefits to both nursing tracks.  It’s important to choose the track that’s best for you.

A masters degree in nursing (MSN) lends to excellent opportunity within the nursing field.  For instance, the Physicians Assistant (PA), Nurse Practitioner (NP), and Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS) positions are all masters degrees.  These are some of the highest paying nursing positions, particularly for neonatal intensive care.

Once you’ve completed your degree program, you’ll need to pas the Critical Care Neonatal Nursing Certification exam through the American Association of Critical Care Nursing. 

Nursing Schools

Online Nursing programs are widely available.  Even the best nursing schools in the country now offer online study programs.  These are well-suited for individuals that work outside of school or care for a family and don’t have time for a full time brick and mortar school campus. 

For individuals hoping to attend a graduate nursing program, some of the best online nursing schools include:

  • East Carolina University
  • University of Alabama- Huntsville
  • Texas A&M – Corpus Christi
  • Drexel University
  • Kaplan University
  • Grand Canyon University
  • Capella University
  • Ferris State University
  • University of Delaware
  • Texas Christian University

Neonatal Nurse Salary

NICU nurse salary ranges between $60,000 per year and $110,000 or more depending on your education.  Neonatal nurse practitioners salary is generally 6-figures (between $95,000 and $112,000)