A NICU nurse provides vital care for babies until they reach 28 days old. When tiny infants are fighting for their lives, they need the services of skilled nurses that specialize in neonatal care. With various germs, viruses, and bacteria waiting to attack the immune systems of these young patients, it is so important that NICU nurses protect these babies from the harmful aspects of the environment.
NICU Nurse Job Description
Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) nursing is the area of nursing that ensures the proper care of newborn babies until they reach 28 days old. They are responsible for nursing these fragile individuals back to good health. NICU nursing is gradually becoming a more demanding field of nursing due to medical advancements and an increase in premature babies being born.
There are 3 concentration areas that NICU nurses may focus. The areas include Level 1, taking care of newborn babies in good health; Level 2, caring for sick newborn babies; and Level 3, caring for newborns who require attention and critical care. There is also a 4th level that has recently been introduced, and this is for the most serious and critical conditions.
NICU nurses must be team players since they deal with such delicate patients. They must also be masters of technical competencies related to neonatal nursing because every second counts. A full understanding of the needs of newborns and their families is also an imperative aspect of the NICU nursing.
NICU Educational Requirements and Certifications
A quality education is important when handling such fragile patients. The education requirements consist of obtaining a degree and becoming a registered nurse. Most NICU nurses have either an associate’s degree or a bachelor’s degree in nursing. Some hospitals offer diplomas in nursing to become NICU nurses. Most hospitals prefer nurses with a bachelor’s degree to care for newborns. A master’s or a doctoral degree in nursing is required to become a nurse practitioner and supervisory positions in neonatal intensive care units.
NICU nurses do not get to care for newborn babies directly after graduating from nursing school. They must complete several steps, including certifying, before providing this specialized care for newborns. It is first necessary to become a registered nurse by taking the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN).
Nurses need ICU and ER experience before they can fill a position in neonatal intensive care units as full time NICU nurses. Nurses must have a minimum of 2 years of neonatal care training before sitting for the examination.
Each state has its own requirements for certification so it is important that students know this information before enrolling in courses and defiantly before graduation from a nursing school. States generally have a minimum number of continuing education hours required to maintain NICU certification as a Neonatal Resuscitation Provider.
NICU Nurse Salary
The salaries for NICU nurses vary greatly by location, experience, and education. Neonatal nurses with an associate degree in nursing can make nursing salary ranges of $53,400 to $75,300 annually. A bachelor’s degree in nursing can earn NICU nurses salary ranges of $60,900 to $79,800 annually. NICU nurses with master’s degrees in nursing can earn annual salaries of $62,100 and $87,100.
The salaries of NICU nurses increase with experience. The lowest paid neonatal intensive care unit nurses earn salaries range of $40,700 and $61,000. With one to four years of experience, they can make annual salaries of $44,900 and $64,600. Nurses with over 20 years of experience earn the highest wages of $63,800 and $94,500 annually.
The highest wages for NICU nurses are in state and local government, federal government, general companies, and non-profit organizations, respectively. California, Georgia, New York, New Jersey, and Texas offer very impressive salaries for neonatal intensive care unit nurses.
NICU Nursing Jobs Outlook
The shortage of nurses makes the outlook for NICU nursing jobs very promising—especially in Canada and the United States. The demand is expected to last at least until 2014, but if medical technology continues to advance, the outlook will continue to increase. Fertility drugs and medical advancements will continue to create the need for certified, highly qualified NICU nurses to care for newborn babies.
NICU nurses provide specialized care for babies until they turn 28 days old. They also provide support and education to parents and family members during their time of need. It takes a great deal of training and experience to become a neonatal intensive care unit nurse.
When time is critical, every moment of a newborn’s life should be entrusted to skilled professionals who can make imperative decisions that help to maintain the good health of healthy babies, and nurse ill newborns back to good health as quickly as possible.