Neonatal Intensive Care Nurse Jobs

What does a NICU Nurse do?

A neonatal intensive care nurse (NICU nurse) is a specialized and highly trained professional who provides specialized care to critically ill newborn infants. Neonatal nursing focuses on providing care to newborn infants with a range of medical issues, including prematurity, birth defects, infections, heart conditions, and surgical complications. 

This subspecialty of nursing covers the first month of life, known as the neonatal period, although some newborns may require extended care for several months. The main responsibility of neonatal nurses is to provide comprehensive care to these infants from the moment of birth until they are ready for discharge from the hospital. These nurses play a vital role in ensuring that newborns receive the best possible care and have a positive outcome. 

The job of a NICU nurse involves a wide range of duties, including:

Monitoring vital signs: NICU nurses continuously monitor the vital signs of newborns, such as heart rate, blood pressure, respiratory rate, and oxygen saturation levels. They use this information to make informed decisions about the infant’s care and to detect any changes in their condition.

Administering medications and treatments: NICU nurses are responsible for administering medications, including antibiotics and pain relievers, and performing procedures such as intubation and chest tube placement. They must have a thorough understanding of the medications they administer and their potential side effects.

Assisting with medical procedures: neonatal intensive care nurses assist physicians with medical procedures, such as inserting IV lines and performing blood transfusions. They must be able to provide support and comfort to the infant during these procedures and be able to respond quickly and calmly in emergencies.

Collaborating with a team of healthcare professionals: neonatal intensive care nurses work closely with a team of healthcare professionals, including physicians, respiratory therapists, and dietitians, to provide comprehensive care for newborns. They communicate regularly with other members of the team to ensure that the infant’s care plan is being followed and that everyone is aware of any changes in the infant’s condition.

Supporting families: neonatal intensive care nurses provide emotional support to families of newborns, especially during a difficult and emotional time. They help families understand their baby’s condition, answer their questions, and provide them with resources and support.

Keeping accurate medical records: neonatal intensive care nurses are responsible for keeping accurate and detailed medical records of the infants they care for. They document the infant’s vital signs, medications, treatments, and any other important information that is relevant to their care.

Maintaining a clean and safe environment: neonatal intensive care nurses must ensure that the environment in which they work is clean and safe. They are responsible for following infection control procedures, maintaining clean equipment, and ensuring that the infant’s surroundings are free from hazards.

Providing education and training: neonatal intensive care nurses provide education and training to families, other healthcare professionals, and students about the care of critically ill newborns. They may also participate in research studies to help advance the field of neonatal intensive care.

What is the difference between an RN and a practitioner NICU nurse?

A neonatal intensive care nurse and a neonatal intensive care nurse practitioner are both critical members of the healthcare team providing care for critically ill newborn infants. However, there are several key differences between these two roles.

A NICU nurse is a registered nurse (RN) with specialized training in neonatal intensive care. They work under the supervision of a physician and are responsible for monitoring vital signs, administering medications and treatments, and assisting with medical procedures. They also provide emotional support to families of newborns and keep accurate medical records.

A NICU NP, on the other hand, is an advanced practice registered nurse (APRN) with a master’s degree in nursing and specialized training in neonatal intensive care. They have the authority to diagnose and treat medical conditions, prescribe medications, and perform medical procedures. They also collaborate with physicians and other healthcare professionals to provide comprehensive care for newborns.

The main difference between neonatal intensive care nurses and NICU NP is their level of education, training, and autonomy. A neonatal intensive care nurse works under the supervision of a physician and is responsible for carrying out tasks and procedures as directed. A NICU NP, on the other hand, has the authority to make independent clinical decisions and provide direct patient care.


How to become a Neonatal Intensive Care Nurse

Here is a step-by-step guide on how to become a NICU nurse or NICU NP:

– Become a registered nurse (RN): to become a neonatal intensive care nurse, you must first become a registered nurse. This typically involves earning an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in nursing (BSN) from an accredited program and passing the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN).

– Gain experience as an RN: after becoming an RN, it is recommended to gain experience working in a neonatal or pediatric setting. This will give you a solid foundation in caring for critically ill infants and prepare you for the specialized skills required in a NICU setting.

– Obtain NICU certification: several organizations offer certification for neonatal intensive care nurses, including the National Association of Neonatal Nurses (NANN) and the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC). Obtaining NICU certification demonstrates your commitment to the specialty and enhances your career prospects.

– Advance your education: to become a NICU NP, you will need to advance your education and become an advanced practice registered nurse (APRN). This typically involves earning a master’s degree in nursing (MSN) and obtaining certification as a neonatal nurse practitioner. 

– Gain experience as a neonatal intensive care NP: after becoming a NICU NP, it is important to gain experience working in a neonatal intensive care unit. This will allow you to develop your skills and gain expertise in caring for critically ill newborn infants.

– Obtain state licensure: to practice as a NICU NP, you must obtain state licensure. Requirements for licensure vary by state but typically involve passing an exam and meeting other educational and professional requirements.


Skills of a Neonatal Intensive Care Nurse

To be a neonatal intensive care nurse, the following skills are necessary:

– Clinical skills: a strong understanding of neonatal anatomy, physiology, and pharmacology is essential, as well as the ability to perform advanced assessment techniques, including resuscitation and stabilization of critically ill newborns.

– Communication skills: effective communication with newborns’ families, interdisciplinary teams, and healthcare providers is essential in ensuring the best outcomes for patients.

– Critical thinking and problem solving: the ability to make quick and informed decisions, especially in emergencies, is crucial in providing the highest level of care to critically ill newborns.

– Emotional intelligence: neonatal intensive care nurses must have the strong emotional intelligence to support the families of critically ill newborns through challenging times.

– Attention to detail: careful monitoring of critically ill newborns and accurately recording their vital signs and medical conditions is essential.

– Physical stamina: neonatal intensive care nurses must be physically fit as they spend long hours on their feet, lifting and transporting newborns.

– Adaptability: the neonatal intensive care unit is a fast-paced environment, and nurses must be able to quickly adapt to changing patient needs and unexpected situations.


Salary of a Neonatal Intensive Care Nurse

In the United States, the average yearly salary for a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) nurse is estimated to be $114,470, with a total estimated payment of $122,338 per year, according to Glassdoor. Additionally, they may receive an estimated yearly bonus of $7,868, which could include elements such as cash bonuses, commissions, tips, and profit sharing.


Q: How to become a neonatal nurse practitioner? 

A: To become a neonatal nurse practitioner (NNP), one typically needs to complete the following steps:

– Obtain a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree and become a registered nurse (RN).

– Gain experience in neonatal nursing, typically as a staff nurse or charge nurse in a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU).

– Earn a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree with a specialization in neonatal nursing.

– Obtain certification as an NNP through a certification body such as the National Certification Corporation (NCC) or the Pediatric Nursing Certification Board (PNCB).

Q: Where do neonatal nurses work? 

A: Neonatal nurses typically work in neonatal intensive care units (NICUs) in hospitals, specifically in children’s hospitals or labor and delivery units. Some neonatal nurses may also work in outpatient care centers, physician offices, or research facilities.

Q: Is being a neonatal nurse stressful? 

A: Working as a neonatal nurse can be emotionally and physically demanding, as caring for critically ill newborns requires a high level of compassion and attention to detail. However, the sense of fulfillment and satisfaction from helping these vulnerable patients and their families can also be incredibly rewarding.

Q: Is neonatal nurse a major? 

A: Neonatal nursing is a specialization within the field of nursing. To become a neonatal nurse, one typically needs to complete a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree and then specialize in neonatal nursing through additional education and certification.

Q: Are neonatal nurse practitioners in demand? 

A: Yes, neonatal nurse practitioners are in demand due to the growing need for specialized care for critically ill newborns. The demand for NNPs is expected to increase in the coming years, making it a promising career field for those interested in neonatal nursing.



Glassdoor. (n.d.). Neonatal Intensive Care Unit Nurse Salary. Retrieved from,34.htm

American Association of Critical-Care Nurses. (n.d.). CCRN-Neo Certification. Retrieved from

National Association of Neonatal Nurses. (n.d.). What is Neonatal Nursing? Retrieved from