There are over four million births in the United States each year, a figure that has increased by nearly 30 percent over the past 30 years. Even as the number of births increased sharply over this time period, the US infant mortality rate declined significantly. These facts underscore the important role played by a neonatal nurse.
Neonatal nursing can be a financially and emotionally rewarding career, but it requires both intensive training and some special personal characteristics.
Job requirements for neonatal nurses
A neonatal nurse cares for newborns in the first days of their lives. Because newborns are so delicate, nurses need specific neonatal training in various aspects of nursing, from administering medications to resuscitation. In many cases, nurses have to work long and tiring shifts, and because of the importance of their work they have to fight against allowing fatigue to diminish patient care.
Nurses need a strong enough aptitude for science to understand a range of medical subjects, from anatomy to medication. They need to couple this intellectual ability with emotional stability and empathy for their patients.
Neonatal nurses are required to be registered nurses with a bachelor’s degree in nursing. They must be certified in either neonatal resuscitation or neonatal intensive care nursing, or both. In addition, they may pursue more advanced training depending on the level of neonatal nursing they provide. There are different levels of neonatal nursing for healthy babies, premature or sick babies, and those babies requiring intensive care.
Career opportunities for neonatal nurses
The number of jobs for registered nurses, in general, is expected to grow much more quickly than the employment market as a whole, and with the birth rate steadily increasing, neonatal nurses should continue to see rising demand.
As you might expect, most nurses work for hospitals, and hospitals tend to pay above-average wages. Location can also be a big factor in the income you earn, with California, Massachusetts, Hawaii, Maryland, and New Jersey being the highest-paying states for registered nurses.
Being a neonatal nurse has several things going for it as a career – above average expected job growth, geographic flexibility, and good wages. On top of that, it is literally a chance to make a life-or-death difference to some of the most fragile members of society.