How to become

How to Become a Neonatal Nurse?

How to Become a Neonatal Nurse

What Exactly Is a Neonatal Nurse?

Neonatal nurses provide care for healthy infants as well as those born with severe health issues such as infections, complications from premature deliveries or birth weights below the recommended weight, congenital heart defects, and other diseases.

Their neonatal nurse training prepares them for a variety of jobs in hospital nurseries, birthing rooms, and intensive care units. Community healthcare facilities, birthing centers, and home care settings are examples of other neonatal nursing settings.

NICU nurses may provide care for the newborn for a few days or for a prolonged period of time during his or her stay in the ICU. They track progress, provide cognitive tests, analyze test results, and give treatment. They also inform parents about the particular care their child may require.

What Is the Role of a Neonatal Nurse?

NICU nurses work closely with moms and dads who are going through this emotional journey with their newborn, in addition to providing hands-on patient care, monitoring, and feeding. NICU nurses bring comfort and instruction to families during this difficult period.

According to NANN, neonatal nursing primarily entails care for newly-born newborns in crisis, but it may also include neonates who have long-term issues as a result of being born prematurely, or who have a serious illness that occurs soon after delivery. Some neonatal nurses may even care for babies as young as two years old. NICU nurses are not only in charge of the babies, but also of the entire family unit. They frequently provide a shoulder to cry on for distressed parents, aid new mothers with breastfeeding, and provide lasting memories to new parents.

A Neonatal NICU Nurse’s Day at Work

A NICU nurse’s day is tough, ranging from basic infant care to monitoring critically ill patients. Because NICU facilities are open 24 hours a day, most nurses work 12-hour shifts that include some nights and weekends. The majority of large private and governmental hospitals have NICUs, however smaller facilities or medical centers may not have a full department or none at all.

NICU nurses will have more “downtime” than a regular bedside nurse at times. Because sleep and rest are critical to neonatal growth, nurses in the NICU will normally provide hands-on care to patients every three to four hours and monitor in between.

NICU Levels of Care

Level I: Fundamental newborn care

Level II: Superior neonatal care

Level III: Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (Where most NICU nurses will work)

Level IV: For newborns born with major birth problems, this is the most intensive level of neonatal care. Typically found in children’s hospitals, academic hospitals, or travel destinations.

Working in a NICU is generally considered level three nursing care (level one is care for healthy infants, and level two is for less serious neonatal cases).

The most severely unwell or premature newborns’ vital signs are constantly being checked by NICU nurses to make sure they are breathing and growing normally. They also give drugs, keep track of the newborn’s growth and recuperation, change diapers, and soothe distressed newborns.

Salary of a Neonatal Nurse

A decent rule of thumb when it comes to nursing pay ranges is to be aware of what RNs make and then assume that the remuneration will be somewhat greater for the speciality. But not all nursing specialties are like that. Because of the intricacy and acuity of the patients, NICU nurses often make more money than nurses with other nursing specializations.

The typical neonatal nurse income is $100,944 per year, or $48.53 per hour, according to ZipRecruiter.

For instance, ZipRecruiter states that the average yearly income in New York City is $119,052, which is more than the national average.

According to ZipRecruiter, the states with the highest salaries for NICU nurses are:

Highest Paying States for NICU Nurses:

StateAnnual SalaryHourly Wage
New York$119,052$57.24
New Hampshire$115,545$55.55
West Virginia$103,437$49.73

It’s safe to assume that compensation for NICU nurses—as well as nurses in all other nursing specialties—are proportionate with experience, with larger salaries being offered by major cities and prestigious hospitals.

Employers may provide different opportunities for overtime, bonuses, and other cash benefits. However, while working for a hospital or other healthcare facility, nurses typically get a comprehensive benefits package in addition to their pay.

What Is the Future of Neonatal Nursing?

All nursing practitioners should have a positive employment outlook. A third of the workforce, or one million registered nurses (RNs), are over 50, according to a story in The Atlantic. By 2024, it is anticipated that about 700,000 nurses would retire or quit the workforce. According to projections from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the healthcare industry has shed close to 500,000 people since February 2020. Although the statistic doesn’t clearly state how many nurses have quit, a disproportionately large percentage are bedside nurses.

New RNs will be needed to fill those positions when they start retiring over the coming ten years; in fact, there are anticipated to be 1.2 million openings between 2014 and 2022. As a result, the BLS anticipates a 9% increase in registered nurse employment between 2020 and 2030. making a career in nursing a wise decision.

There may even be a modest increase in demand for NICU nurses particularly. Keeping the talent pipeline full might be harder whenever specialized credentials and abilities are needed. In other words, nurses who choose to work in the NICU will have a skill set that will be in demand for a long time.

What Is the Process to Become a Neonatal Nurse?

A registered nurse must first have some experience before becoming a NICU nurse. The actions you need to do are as follows:

1. Train as an RN

You must complete either a bachelor’s degree programme or an associate degree programme that has been recognised by your state nursing board in order to become a registered nurse. You must then succeed on the NCLEX-RN.

2. Acquire expertise

Before seeking to take a certification exam for neonatal nursing, you must have two or more years of practical experience working with newborn patients under your belt. Try to gain expertise in areas like these in order to one day work in a NICU:

Pediatric nursing, maternal-child nursing, well-baby nursing, and nursing during labor and delivery

3. Pass an exam for certification

Although certification isn’t always necessary to work in a NICU, obtaining one will help you develop in your profession and make you eligible for more honorable or senior-level jobs.

The major certifications accessible to NICU nurses are many. These consist of:

  • The American Association of Critical Care Nursing offers certification in critical care newborn nursing. 
  • For nurses who directly care for newborn patients who are severely unwell or in critical condition, there is a specialist qualification called CCRN® (Neonatal).
  • Neonatal Intensive Care Nursing RNC Certification (RNC-NIC) through the National Certification Corporation (NCC).
  • The RNC Certification in Low Risk Neonatal Intensive Care Nursing (RNC-LRN(R)) is provided by the National Certification Corporation.
  • Neonatal Neuro-Intensive Care (C-NNIC) certification is the newest credential provided by the National Certification Corporation. This credential is unique in that it is available to other healthcare professionals that work primarily with newborn patients as well as bedside NICU nurses.
  • Last but not least, the National Certification Corporation also provides the Care of the Extremely Low Birth Weight Neonate Subspecialty Certification (C-ELBW). This specialized qualification, albeit less well-known than other NICU certificates, is available to all healthcare professionals, not only NICU nurses.

Best Programs for Neonatal Nurses

1. Massachusetts University Boston

In-state tuition for one year is $14,741; out-of-state tuition is $35,203.

Web: No

Program Duration: Four Years

For residents of MA, the University of Massachusetts Boston, which is situated on the river and close to the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, provides a superb mix of a great location and an affordable price. Depending on whether students choose direct admission or transfer in, the BSN programs may be finished in 2.5–4 years, and students can take advantage of clinical experiences at top local facilities including the famous Boston Children’s Hospital. This may provide students early exposure to the NICU and help them get ready for their future employment. Students in the area should take this programme into consideration because it offers subsidized tuition for all inhabitants of the NE region.

2. University of Denver

year out-of-state tuition is $38,400 annual in-state tuition is $21,560

Internet: No

Program Duration: Four Years

The University of Colorado Denver is the only public, urban research university in the state, with its main campus situated in downtown Denver. However, BSN students will take classes at CU Denver’s Aurora campus, which is close by. There are other BSN options available to students, but the majority of them choose for the standard BSN, a two-year programme that only admits applicants who have successfully completed two years of required coursework. Nursing students collaborate closely with one another since the curriculum employs a cohort approach. Additionally, the institution may assign students to clinicals at the esteemed children’s hospital Children’s Hospital Colorado.

3. Annual In-State Tuition at University of Washington: $16,104 Annual Out-of-State Tuition: $53,208

Online: No

Program Duration: Four Years

One of the top universities in the state is the University of Washington, which is situated in Seattle. Though UW is perhaps best known for its research degrees, it nonetheless offers a top-notch BSN programme that requires students to complete more than 1,000 hours of clinical work at locations all throughout the area. One of the top children’s hospitals in the West, Seattle Children’s Hospital, may be able to position aspiring NICU nurses. In the nursing programme, almost 98 percent of students graduate, and UW has an above-average NCEX pass rate for first-time exam takers.

4.Georgetown University‘s yearly tuition is $57,928.

Internet: No

Program Duration: Four Years

One of the top research universities in the country is Georgetown University, which has its headquarters in Washington, D.C. Additionally, because the university is private, students are not eligible for tuition discounts. Although expensive, nursing students can obtain one of the top BSN degrees in the country. Students can enter directly into the BSN programme, and clinicals start in the first year. Students will have accrued over 850 clinical hours by the program’s conclusion at top local facilities like Children’s National Hospital. The program’s graduates take on a range of jobs, including neonatal nursing.

5.California State University, Los Angeles

In-State Tuition Per Year: $13,249 Out-of-State Tuition each year: $43,003

Online: No

Program Duration: Four Years

The University of California, Los Angeles, is renowned for its fantastic location and outstanding athletics, in addition to having some of the finest academic programmes in the area, including its BSN. UCLA’s BSN programme is an excellent option for anybody who wants to become a nurse in California since it offers a lot of clinical experience and, at the conclusion of the fourth year, a clinically-based academic project. At fantastic locations like Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, students love their practical experiences. Graduates may get employment in a California NICU thanks to their early contact with youngsters and UCLA’s proximity.

What Do Neonatal Nurses Need to Know About Continuing Education?

The only mandatory criteria for NICU nurses are state-mandated continuing education hours. But specific CEUs are needed for higher certifications like the CCRN and RNC-NIC.

Regardless of advanced qualification, all NICU nurses must keep their RN license current.

Each state has its own standards for license renewal in terms of continuing education. All license and certification renewals also come with monetary costs and other state-specific requirements.

The CEU requirements vary depending on the certification. To make sure that all standards are being completed, it is crucial to verify with the certification authority before the renewal date. For instance, in order to renew certification with the CCRN Neonatal,

  • It is necessary to complete 100 CERPs, including at least 60 CERPs in Category A, 10 in each of Categories B and C, and 20 in the category of your choosing.
  • A particular kind of continuing education is CERPs.
  • Hours of clinical practices are necessary. During the three-year certification renewal term, practice as an RN or APRN for 432 hours in direct care of critically/acutely ill newborn patients is needed, with 144 of those hours earned in the 12-month period previous to the scheduled renewal date.

Jobs as Neonatal Nurses

You are more likely to get hired as a Neonatal Intensive Care Nurse if you have advanced degrees and/or certifications.

Large hospitals with a fully functional NICU section that offers both level II and level III treatment will present the best chances.

Because they are there at the beginning of life and frequently play a crucial role in a high-risk newborn’s survival and development, NICU nurses may hold one of the most significant positions in our healthcare system. They also serve as a valuable resource for knowledge and comfort for parents who spend their child’s first few days or weeks of life in the NICU.

NICU nursing is not only a highly in-demand specialty, but also a rewarding career choice for prospective nurses who enjoy the notion of helping newborns to improve their health and bring them home. On our employment board, look at the NICU nurse openings.


What level of schooling is required to work as a neonatal nurse?

A registered nurse license and an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in nursing are requirements for neonatal nurses. NICU nurses frequently obtain qualifications in newborn care as well.

What does a nurse in a NICU do?

A NICU nurse offers specialized care to neonates with serious medical issues. They also operate medical equipment and deliver care. The majority of their patients suffer from congenital diseases, were born too soon, or had low birth weights.

Is nursing in NICUs stressful?

Due to the intense strain, NICU nurses may become stressed when confronted with complicated scenarios.

What do NICU nurses get paid?

As of July 2021, PayScale reported that the average yearly compensation for neonatal nurses was $68,760. With experience or more education, neonatal nurses can make more money.

Do NICU nurses give birth to infants?

A newborn’s delivery may be assisted by NICU nurses who are assigned to the case. They are accountable for:

  • the newborn’s weight and size upon birth
  • Bathing
  • keeping an eye on the newborn’s health
  • Supporting the medical staff and family
  • educating new moms on breastfeeding and baby care