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Can You Be A Neonatal Nurse With An Associate’s Degree

By David Krug 3 minute read

According to the National Association of Neonatal Nurses, about 40,000 infants are born underweight each year (NANN). These babies and other newborns in need of care are being cared for by neonatal nurses. To work as a neonatal nurse, you must first be a licensed nurse (RN). Furthering your education and obtaining different certifications are other options for progressing in the neonatal field.

Pre-Neonatal Nursing Education

A neonatal nurse’s first step is to become a registered nurse (RN). In order to sit for the NCLEX-RN exam, aspiring RNs must have either an associate’s or a bachelor’s degree in nursing (BSN). Having a bachelor’s degree in nursing (BSN) will help you better prepare for the exam and advance your career in the field.

To gain experience as a nurse, you’ll need to work in a facility with a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). Working at this level for at least two years is recommended by NANN in order to gain the practical experience that neonatal nurses require when caring for infants. A Neonatal Clinical Nurse Specialist (NCNS) or a Neonatal Nurse Practitioner (NNP) program are two options for continuing your education. If you’re interested in learning how to provide life-saving care to premature and full-term babies, these courses are for you. You’ll also learn how to be of assistance to families who are going through a trying time. The American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) is pushing for doctorates to be made a requirement for aspiring NNPs, but this isn’t mandatory. You should be able to take courses in embryology, neonatal physiology, and neonatal pharmacology, no matter what program you choose to enroll in.

Pediatrics, maternal-child nursing, well-baby nursing, and labor and delivery nursing are the units to work in.

Choices for Credentialing

While a certification isn’t required to work in a NICU, you may want to get one if you want to be able to advance to more senior positions. If you’re interested in becoming a neonatal intensive care nurse, the American Association of Critical Care Nursing (AACN) and the National Certification Corporation both offer certification in neonatal intensive care. You don’t have to get certified, but it will show employers that you have the skills and experience to provide high-quality care.

There are two ways to meet the CRRN’s requirements. Over the course of two years, practicing as an RN or APRN caring for neonatal patients for more than 1,750 hours, at least 875 of those hours must have taken place in the last year. At least five years of direct neonatal patient care as an RN or APRN is required for this option. Only 144 of those hours must be from the most recent year if you choose this option.

If you’re interested in the RNC-NIC track, you’ll need at least two years’ worth of experience working as an RN and logging at least 2000 hours of clinical time. Only employment in the specialty in the last two years is time-sensitive in terms of recent activity. Whichever certification you choose, you’ll have to recertify every four years regardless of which one you have.

Basic Life Support, Advanced Cardiovascular Life Support, and the Neonatal Resuscitation Program are among the other certifications that NICU nurses should acquire.

Taking Care of Newborns

For months or even two years, neonatal nurses may be caring for their patients throughout the neonatal period. The majority of neonatal nurses work in intensive care units (NICUs), where their patients require round-the-clock attention. Patients in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) are under the care of nurses who work 12-hour shifts. These infants, who have either serious medical conditions or were born prematurely, require level three nursing care. For the most part, neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) nurses take care of everything from monitoring the health of the baby to administering medication.

A neonatal nurse is also responsible for working with the baby’s family. Strong communication is essential to help keep the family relaxed and less stressed when emotions are running high. Parents and other members of the family need to be educated about what is happening with their newborn and given instructions on how to properly care for them.

Neonatal nurses earn an average annual salary of $96,187, according to Payscale, making their work both emotionally and financially rewarding.

David Krug