Neonatal nurses provide complete care for babies. They attend deliveries,
weigh and measure infants, bathe them and monitor their health. They also
teach new parents about newborn care and breastfeeding.
Neonatal nurses certainly have their work cut out for them. Newborns today
face some challenges -- addiction, HIV infection, premature birth. And it's
not just medical care these infants need. They need care and comfort to survive
and thrive. Neonatal nurses give them the care and compassion they deserve.
"Some common health problems I see are drug-addicted babies, premature
babies, HIV-positive babies and babies born with respiratory distress. We
work as a team with the doctors to help the babies," says neonatal nurse Susan
Hospital work requires nurses to be composed, caring and in control every
second of their shift. Although neonatal nurses witness the miracle of birth
every day, they also view untimely infant deaths.
"My job is very stressful because I deal with life and the prevention of
morbidity and mortality. I would say my career is more rewarding than fun.
When I'm not working as a nurse, I engage in my hobbies or other activities
that give me great pleasure," says Kathleen Baker, a neonatal nurse.
Intensive-care nursing demands sharp monitoring skills and special care
immediately after birth. Typical duties include starting and maintaining IV
lines, managing ventilators, assessing vital signs and drawing blood. New
parents also require special care during this time, so neonatal nurses are
in frequent contact with worried families.
Neonatal nurses work with needles, feeding pumps, incubators and ventilators.
"We use thermometers, stethoscopes, baby warmers...and cardiac monitors for
special care babies," says Early.
This means neonatal nurses must keep current with the latest instruments,
procedures and research through continuing education and medical journals.
As nurses take on increasing responsibilities previously restricted to physicians,
a strong educational background is a must.
"Neonatal intensive care is continually challenged with new technologies
that may reduce mortality for the most fragile and immature newborn," says
Pat Johnson. Johnson is the operations manager for the National Association
of Neonatal Nurses.
Working hours depend on the facility. Some hospitals schedule a three-day
week with 12-hour days. Other hospitals schedule eight-hour shifts. Expect
to work some weekends, evenings and holidays.
"I usually work day shifts with occasional evening shifts. I don't work
much overtime," says neonatal nurse Gary Berringer from Pennsylvania.
Neonatal nurses must be physically fit with adequate vision, hearing, dexterity