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All You Need to Know About Becoming a Neonatal Nurse

August 26, 2021 | By inscol@admin

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One of the most rewarding and rather demanding careers in the field of healthcare is neonatal nursing. This is a specialty that focuses on caring for new born babies with health problems in the first few days or weeks after birth.  The nursing education and training of neonatal nurses are focused on working with babies who have specific physical conditions, infections, cardiac irregularities, and other medical problems. Due to these defects, an infant may have to spend time in the neonatal intensive care unit and the neonatal nurse is usually responsible for caring for that infant.  Becoming a neonatal nurse is an act of empathy and compassion. It takes the completion of a nursing course in Canada, dedication, confidence, and advanced technical skills. To a professional who is interested in this career, it can also offer a satisfying and rewarding career. 

Who is a Neonatal Nurse? 

Neonatal nurses work with new born infants having a variety of medical ailments such as premature congenital diseases, serious infections, morphological problems, functional problems, medical ailments, cardiac malformations, etc. Neonatal nursing is a specialized field that can be pursued after the completion of a postgraduate nursing courses in Canada.  In medical literature, the first month of life is known as the neonatal period. Hence, neonatal nursing includes caring for infants with complications after birth, but that is not to say that it excludes the care for infants who experience chronic long-term problems after their birth. Neonatal nurses are supposed to care for infants from the time of birth to the time they get discharged from the hospital.  Very often, it is assumed that the neonatal nurses and NICU nurses are the same, but the roles are not always the same. The job role of neonatal nurses describes nurses who work with critically ill infants. However, the NICU nurses are the professionals who work specifically in the neonatal intensive care unit. In other words, NICU nurses are neonatal nurses, but not all neonatal nurses work in the NICU.  The babies who are born premature or with a specific kind of defect are considered Level II care babies. They require consistent monitoring and care. These babies are the ones who are taken care of in the neonatal intensive care unit by the NICU nurses. They must be placed on the ventilators, should be tube-fed, and isolated to prevent potential infections. 

What Does a Neonatal Nurse Do? 

A neonatal nurse is supposed to work with the new born babies and their parents as they help them care for their child. These nurses help the new parents hold, bathe, and feed their infants while playing the role of a bridge between the parent and the specialist working with the infant.  Neonatal nurses also work in hospitals or clinics but they can also work in community settings providing at-home follow-up care for high-risk babies and their families after the babies leave the hospital. This is a job that includes a lot of observation for determining in case the behavior of the babies is normal or not. Neonatal nurses are supposed to carefully observe circulation issues, blood oxygenation, and other important signs. These nurses also learn to give the babies a lot of contact with the mothers right away.  Neonatal nurses also work as a part of NICU teams. That said, the job of a neonatal nurse whether working in the NICU or somewhere else requires good intuition and attention to subtle changes seen in the babies. Some infants are too little to even cry, so a neonatal nurse is trained to understand small signs of potential problems.  The job can be challenging but also rewarding. On a given day, a neonatal nurse can be tasked with the following responsibilities: 
  • Ensuring the infants are clean and comfortable. 
  • Monitoring the important signs such as body temperature and respiration. 
  • Measuring and weighing the infants until they get discharged to go home. 
  • Making the neonatal nursing care plans with healthcare providers on the team including the doctors and neonatologists. 
  • Assessing, planning, and implementing the treatment. 
  • Administering the medication. 
  • Working with the modern and lifesaving technology while performing complex procedures. 
  • Offering comfort, education, and reassurance to the parents and family members. 
  • Performing CPR and life support for the infants. 

Becoming a Neonatal Nurse: 

1. Completing a Registered Nursing Course: The primary and the most important step to become an NICU nurse is to get an accredited nursing degree.  Nursing programs mostly include coursework such as Biology, Chemistry, Psychology, Microbiology, Statistics, and Anatomy, etc.  2. Becoming a Registered Nurse: After the nursing students complete their nursing courses in Canada, they will need to pass the National Council Licensure Exam for Registered Nurses called the NCLEX-RN.  This exam can be taken after completing nursing courses in Canada and proving your eligibility to take the exam.  3. Gaining a Clinical Experience: Once a nurse becomes an RN, they must start gaining a substantial amount of clinical experience. In case you are a new graduate or a nurse who wishes to transfer into the NICU, you will need a minimum of two years of clinical experience in neonatal care focusing on mother and baby, labour and delivery, paediatrics, etc.  It is best to gain some experience if you wish to work in the NICU since the nature of work inside the NICU is sensitive. Some healthcare facilities also offer a fellowship for the nurses who are interested in working in the NICU.  4. Getting Certifications: After gaining some experience in the NICU, most neonatal nurses choose to take one or more exams for validating their knowledge and advancing their careers. Many tests are offered to neonatal nurses by certification organizations and they enable you to practice in a specific area of neonatal nursing.  The Neonatal Resuscitation Program certification is one of the most basic requirements for neonatal nurses. In addition, the National Certification Corporation or the NCC offers certifications in National Intensive Care Nursing and Low-Risk Neonatal Nursing to nurses. However, the acceptability of these certifications may vary from province to province.    Irrespective of any sub-specializations that you choose to pursue, it is mostly advised that all the neonatal nurses should become certified in Basic Life Support, Neonatal Resuscitation Program, and Advanced Cardiovascular Life Support.  5. Beginning Your Career: Becoming a Neonatal Nurse requires a great level of commitment. In case you think that you have the knowledge, critical thinking skills, and compassion to care for critically ill infants then this nursing career can be an extremely rewarding choice.  Sure, the job can be emotionally challenging and stressful at times, but the comfort and care that you offer can come with the reward of knowing that you are making a difference in helping new people come into the world happy and healthy. 

Average Salary and Job Outlook of a Neonatal Nurse in Canada 

The average salary of a neonatal nurse salary in Canada is $78,546 per year or $40.28 per hour. The entry-level positions start at $73,408 per year while the salary of an experienced worker goes up to $83,726 per year.  The neonatal nurses work full-time positions on varying shifts. Some nurses work on a per diem basis, which means they work on days when they are needed by the hospitals. The salary of Neonatal nurses varies based on the level of nursing education, experience, location, level of care, and amount of overtime. 
Job Outlook of Neonatal Nursing: 
Just as it is with most other nursing careers, the demand for neonatal nurse practitioners is expected to rise significantly over the coming 10 years. The baby boomers are aging, which will create a demand for the younger nurses to join the field and offer good care.  Neonatal nurses will be needed to work in hospital settings within labor and delivery, postpartum maternity, paediatrics, and NICU. Some of them might also be needed in birthing centers, healthcare clinics, and physician’s offices.  The field of neonatal nursing is not just in demand but it actually offers great career growth. Neonatal nurses develop a wonderful rapport with each family. It is not merely a science but also an art because there is so much care at the centre of this field.  Conclusion:  It is almost miraculous to see babies take their first breath while caring for them. Neonatal nursing is a very special field of nursing. In case you wish to become a neonatal nurse then you have made a great choice.  You must now move ahead in the direction of building a successful career by enrolling in a suitable nursing courses in Canada. All the best for a bright future! 

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