NICU nurses care for the youngest and most vulnerable patients

Nurses care for patients from all walks of life, from the elderly to newborns. Neonatal intensive care nurses, often referred to as NICU nurses or neonatal nurses, devote their professional lives to caring for the most delicate and vulnerable patients, including infants born prematurely or with critical illnesses.

What is NICU? The first neonatal intensive care unit in the United States was established at Yale-New Haven Hospital in 1960. Since then, NICUs have opened in medical centers across the country. Within these centers, NICU nurses are part of multidisciplinary teams caring for infants during the first days of life. The National Association of Neonatal Nurses says there are about 40,000 low birth weight infants born each year. Thanks to advances in medicine and the care of NICU nurses, survival rates for vulnerable infants are now 10 times higher than they were in the past.

Working in a NICU presents new challenges every day. NICU nurses can cuddle little patients, administer medicine and comfort parents when they receive heartbreaking news. NICU nurses spend much of their time monitoring and assessing their patients’ vital signs. They administer intravenous fluids and other treatments prescribed by doctors. NICU nurses often have to administer specialized nutrition and oxygen therapies. NICU nurses also perform the important task of ensuring that support equipment, such as ventilators and incubators, are working properly.

The Nurse Journal nursing program resource notes that there are certain requirements to join the ranks of NICU professionals.

Education: NICU nurses follow a similar path as other registered nurses. One can pursue an associate degree in nursing or a bachelor of science in nursing.

Licence : Nursing students must pass the appropriate testing and training to receive a registered nurse license.

Training in general pediatrics: Many nurses who hope to work in a NICU start out in a general pediatric ward before eventually working in a NICU. Some hospitals offer neonatal nursing graduate residency, which is a key way for new nursing graduates to gain valuable experience and training while earning a living.

Certificate : Nurses can pursue various certifications in neonatal care. Nurses interested in NICU certification have career-specific options through the National Certification Corporation and the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses, among other organizations. Other helpful certifications include Basic Life Support, Advanced Cardiovascular Support, and Neonatal Resuscitation Program.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that RN positions will grow 15% between 2016 and 2026. Demand for NICU nurses is expected to increase at a similar rate given continued population growth and the rate of infants admitted to NICU.

Neonatal intensive care nurses do their best to ensure that infants live long and healthy lives.

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