Education for a Neonatal Nurse

Newborns demand specialized nursing care that ranges from basic monitoring to life support, depending upon their health at birth. Neonatal Nurses work to provide this care usually during the first month following an infant’s birth.

Three distinct levels of care are indicated for newborns:

  • Level I newborns are healthy and born without complication. Mother and baby bond quickly and go home ASAP.
  • Level II newborns may have minor complications, be premature, or demand a bit more complex care, possibly a longer stay in the hospital.
  • Level III newborns are admitted to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) where they require advanced and constant medical care, life support, and other intervention.

What type of nursing degree and education do you need to work with neonates?

Neonate Nurse Degree Requirements

An RN license is preferred and depending upon the hospital you could be required to have an Associates degree, Bachelors Degree and/or some experience in clinical nursing to work in a neonate area.

Expect entry-level RN jobs in neonatal care to be few. As you might imagine these ultra-specialized units demand RNs with advanced practice experience.

Graduate Degrees for Neonatal Nurses

Despite the fact that undergraduate nursing students learn the skills to assess and provide basic nursing care to patients at nearly any point along the lifespan, most require significantly extra training to provide the kind of care necessary to adequately neonates.

The few degree programs open to nurses exist at the graduate level:

  • MSN Neonatal Nurse Practitioner: Earn your Masters of Science in Nursing as an Advanced Practice Nurse Practitioner and cap it with a neonatal nurse specialization. Post-Grad Neonatal Nurse Certificate for NP: Already have an MSN NP degree? Use the post-grad certificate to get yourself up to speed with the curriculum necessary to provide advanced practice care to the newborn patient population.
  • MSN Neonatal Clinical Nurse Specialist: CNSs are among some of the most versatile and “expert” of RNs. As the name suggests you study academically and clinically to provide the best clinical care to patients and provide guidance and leadership to other nurses. The concentration in neonatal care indicates your practice intention.

Besides these official degree requirements you can expect to be required to maintain a number of certifications in neonatal life support and care, such as Neonatal Resuscitation Certification.

Specialized Curriculum for Neonatal Nursing Students

Graduate level nursing degrees first require RNs to complete core MSN curriculum before progressing onto any area of specialization. Neonatal curriculum could include:

  • Advanced Assessment and Diagnostics for Neonates
  • Pharmacology for Neonates
  • Issues in Neonatal Nursing
  • Advanced Physiology and Pathophysiology

The National Association of Neonatal Nurses and the Association of Women’s Health, Obstetrics, and Neonatal Nurses are two popular professional organizations providing support and recognition to Neonatal RNs at all levels of practice.

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