How do I Become a Neonatal Nurse?

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  • Written By: N. Madison
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 12 October 2018
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A person who wants to become a neonatal nurse usually does so by meeting the same basic requirements set for becoming a nurse in general. Requirements may vary from place to place and institution to institution, but many require an aspiring nurse to earn a degree or nursing certificate. After earning this credential, an aspiring nurse usually takes an exam that results in a valid nursing license for her particular jurisdiction. At this point, a person who wants to become a neonatal nurse may apply for a job or gain experience in another type of nursing before applying for this position. An aspiring neonatal nurse may also take tests for additional certifications pertinent to neonatal nursing.

Generally, a person must be a registered nurse to become a neonatal nurse. The first step toward becoming a neonatal nurse is earning a high school diploma or an equivalent certificate. An individual may then enroll in an associate’s degree, nursing certificate, or bachelor’s degree program in preparation for becoming a registered nurse. An individual interested in a degree may enroll in a nursing program at a community college or university. Certificate programs may be offered at some nursing schools or even some hospitals.


Many people opt to earn bachelor’s degrees in nursing because this degree may translate into more work opportunities. Some institutions prefer nurses with bachelor’s degrees, and a person who holds a degree may also enjoy more opportunities for promotions. In fact, nurses who hold bachelor’s degrees many even secure higher pay in some places.

After completing the educational requirements for her chosen nursing credential, a person who wants to become a neonatal nurse must typically take and pass a nursing license exam. In some places, a person may have to pass a regional exam while other jurisdictions may require national licensure.

Once licensed, an aspiring neonatal nurse may apply to hospitals and other medical facilities, attempting to land a position. Some facilities may hire neonatal nurses right after licensure while others may require at least a year’s worth of experience. Neonatal nurses usually receive on-the-job-training, so experience isn't always necessary. Many institutions may also expect their nurses to obtain other certifications in addition to basic licensing, such as neonatal resuscitation and neonatal intensive care certification. Experience may be required before taking some types of certification exams, so some nurses may earn such certificates after they've been on the job for a time.



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Post 3

@umbra21 - Neonatal medicine is coming along really well now, compared to where it was even ten years ago. And often neonatal units are dealing with babies that aren't in that much danger, but just need a bit of special care.

Still, it does take a certain kind of person to be able to perform the job well, without becoming too attached to every child, I think.

Post 2

@bythewell - I had a friend who worked in a neonatal unit, and she said it was very hard at times, but really any job in the medical profession is difficult in that way.

She said you eventually "get used to it". Not that you ever stop being sad for the babies, but you just learn to cherish the ones that make it and grieve the ones that don't in a healthy way.

She said the worst thing for her was that she could sometimes feel very powerless. Sometimes no matter what you do, the wee one will slip away. But, she said she never had a parent wish it had never been with them, even if it was only for a short time.

Post 1

I'm not sure I could stand to be a neonatal nurse. It seems like you'd always be on the verge of losing a patient, and the patient would always be completely innocent and doted on by its parents.

The sadness would be overwhelming.

I mean I know there'd be happy moments as well. But, neonatal care often means dealing with premature babies and so often those poor little things either don't make it, or end up with permanent damage.

If I was going to be a nurse, I'd rather work with adults. At least then you can explain to them what's going on and you know they've had a chance at life.

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