How do I Choose the Best Neonatal Nurse Program?

K. Testa

A neonatal nurse program typically offers a specialized curriculum to train nurses to work with infants. A neonatal nurse generally works with standard cases, while sometimes providing special services as required. Many of them work in the intensive care units at hospitals. There are various types of neonatal nurse training programs available. Choosing the best one will depend on one’s professional skills and ultimate career goals.

The neonatal period comprises the first 28 days of the child's life.
The neonatal period comprises the first 28 days of the child's life.

The neonatal period comprises the first 28 days of a child’s life. The basic requirements of a neonatal nurse are to assist doctors during and after a baby’s birth. In general, the nurse also assists the mother with newborn issues, such as feeding and bonding. In addition to basic nursing concepts, the best training programs usually offer education in advanced concepts, like neonatal resuscitation, for example. Many nurses eventually go on to earn certification in neonatal intensive care.

When evaluating a neonatal nurse program, one should consider several factors. In combination with the academic preparation and access to high quality educational resources, one might seek to gain practical experience on the job, ideally with a mentor. In the U.S., there are three basic types of general nursing education programs offered by formal educational institutions. A bachelor’s degree in nursing from a college or university usually takes four years to complete. Local and community colleges generally offer two-year associate’s degree programs. The third type, a hospital diploma, refers to an on-site neonatal nurse program that involves cooperation between a hospital and a local junior college.

Although it is possible to be hired as a neonatal nurse with just a bachelor’s degree, those who wish to specialize further in a particular area of nursing may pursue a master’s degree. Someone who eventually aspires to be a neonatal nurse practitioner is usually required to hold a master’s degree, and sometimes a doctoral degree as well. These prerequisites, along with a certain amount of practical experience, are usually needed prior to applying to a nurse practitioner training program.

Licensing requirements to become a neonatal nurse may vary by location. Some nurses can be licensed to work in a particular region, while other types of certifications allow them to work anywhere in the country. Selecting the right neonatal nurse program can also depend on the setting in which the nurse wishes to work. For example, nurses tend to be in demand in places such as neonatal intensive care units in hospitals, as well as in independent obstetric clinics.

The ability to stay current with developments in the medical field is another important aspect of neonatal nurse training. After completing a neonatal nurse program and becoming licensed, many people have the option to take continuing education courses either online or in person. These opportunities are typically offered by various educational institutions or through one’s membership in a professional nursing association.

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