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Working as a NICU Nurse: The Main Things to Know

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NICU Nurse – Neonatal nursing is a highly specialist nursing career path. With over 40,000 babies per year born with low birth weight and other issues, the demand for nurses with the specialist knowledge and skills to help these vulnerable patients is on the rise. Neonatal nursing can be a very highly rewarding career with several benefits to working in this role. Let’s take a look at what it’s like working as a neonatal nurse and some of the benefits that you can expect from working in this role.

Career Advancement Opportunities for NICU Nurse

As a highly specialist nursing field, neonatal nursing offers a lot of career advancement opportunities to registered nurses. There will be several options to take your career even further and dive into even narrower specialist areas such as treating infants who have certain health conditions, thanks to a range of certifications and advanced training courses that you can take. Neonatal nurse practitioner roles, for example, are in higher demand than ever before due to the shortage of physicians and the need to fill the gap with nurse practitioners to ensure that all patients receive the standard of care that they receive. Check out the NNP programs available at Baylor University to find out more about qualifying as a neonatal nurse practitioner.

Excellent Career Outlook for NICU Nurse

Nurses have always had quite a positive outlook, including NICU nurses. With the nationwide nursing shortage currently affecting nurses in every department and specialty, the demand for good nurses in this field is growing rapidly. Once you have qualified as a neonatal nurse, you can be sure to find work almost anywhere, with over 300,000 babies born around the world daily and thousands of them needing additional specialist care in the first few days or weeks of their lives. In addition to the high demand for nurses and neonatal nurses, professionals working in this healthcare field can also expect to earn a generous salary, with the average wage for NICU nurses coming in at just over $125k annually.

Career Satisfaction

Helping any patient can be very satisfying, but knowing that you have been instrumental in helping a baby get the healthiest start in life can be a reward like no other. Nursing in the NICU can be very emotionally charged as you’ll also be dealing with parents who are worried about their precious new arrival and babies can often be difficult patients to deal with as they can be very unpredictable when it comes to their health, along with the fact that they’re not able to communicate with you. Being able to watch the babies that you have cared for get stronger, healthier and more stable until they can go home with their parents and start their lives is the most highly satisfying and rewarding part of working in this role.

Less Physically Demanding Compared to Other Nursing Roles

If you want to avoid the more physically demanding aspects of the nursing role such as lifting and moving adult patients, neonatal nursing could be ideal for you. Working in the NICU is often a less physically demanding nursing role simply because your patients are much smaller and lighter. Compared to other types of nursing, nurses in the NICU will often spend much less time lifting, moving and transferring their patients. Instead, they must carefully monitor and observe their patients throughout the shift.

Is Neonatal Nursing Right for You?

While nursing in the NICU can be a highly rewarding role with the opportunity to help new-born babies get the best start in life, there are some parts of this job that will need to be carefully considered before deciding if it’s right for you. You will need to be prepared to handle the following:

Emotional Stress

The NICU is typically a very emotionally stressful place, especially for parents who are now facing the toughest time of their lives after bringing their new baby into the world. In addition to this, babies can often be the most unpredictable type of patient which means that NICU nurses need to be constantly on their toes as situations could change at any time. Patients who appear to be getting stronger and healthier could suddenly take a turn for the worse at any point, and you’ll need to be prepared to deal with this and the impact that it has on parents and family members quickly and effectively.

Highly Demanding:

While NICU nursing might not be as physically demanding as other nursing roles, it can be very emotionally demanding and taxing. Babies can be some of the most uneven patients to treat and things can often be more complicated due to the fact that they cannot communicate how they are feeling to you. In addition, working with parents who are understandably going to be upset, anxious and scared for their child can take an emotional toll.

Ethical Issues for NICU Nurse

Nursing ethics is constantly one of the main issues for NICU nurses. There are often more ethical dilemmas in this role compared to other types of nursing that will not always be easy to solve. Sometimes, the dilemmas might not have a clear way out and can be heart-wrenching, for example, if you need to make the decision to turn off the life support for a patient who is critically ill and will not improve. As a NICU nurse, you’re likely going to be facing a lot of distressing situations, and the decisions that you make and the support that you offer should always be ethical.

Requires Specialist Skills

Neonatal nursing will require a range of specialist skills that may take some time for you to develop and improve. Working in this nursing role leaves absolutely no room for mistakes since even the slightest difference in dosage or treatment can have a massively devastating impact on vulnerable patients like new-born babies. Nurses in the NICU need to have excellent skills when it comes to judging situations and cannot afford to have any lapses in attention since situations can change very quickly and their patients cannot communicate with them.
If your ideal career involves helping babies and their parents, neonatal nursing could be ideal for you – but it’s worth understanding more about what this role entails.

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