Figure. 1 (n.d.). Neonate’s Hand in Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. Source: http://nursing.hmc .psu.edu/web/guest/ nursing/ patientcare/inpatient/nicu

Life is full of complications, often in need of expert knowledge and understanding to make the situation better. That is the job of a neonatal nurse. When a child is born with any complications they require special care around the clock. This is what neonatal nursing is all about. This Wiki discusses what neonatal nursing is, the types of newborns neonatal nurses work with, the special equipment that the neonatal nurse is required to operate and the necessary qualification to become a neonatal nurse. Each aspect listed is needed to facilitate life for every neonate.

What is Neonatal Nursing?

Neonatal Nursing is one of the many branches that nursing has to offer. In comparison to other branches this branch is fairly new. It has been around since the 1960's (Dole, 2006). The word neonatal, according to the Merriam Webster's Online Dictionary (2009) is defined as anything relating to or that may have an effect on the infant during the first 30 days of life. A neonatal nurse provides direct patient care to infant patients. There are three levels of nurseries in neonatal nursing.

Level I:

The first level is for healthy infants and doesn't usually exist since newborns and their mothers are only in the hospital for a short period of time it isn't necessary to have an actual nursery. The infants stay in the individual hospital rooms with their mothers (Dole, 2006).

Level II:

The second level is called a special care nursery. This nursery is for infants born prematurely or if an infant suffers from an illness (Dole, 2006).

Level III:

The third level is the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). This level is for infants who cannot be admitted to any other level and suffer from acute illnesses, being premature and need special technology to sustain life such as an incubator, ventilator or surgery (Dole, 2006).

NICU Equipment

These are the four types of equipment seen most often in the NICU that are used for sustaining the life of neonates.
Figure. 2. (n.d.). NICU nurse with baby Source: http://www.emoryhealthcare.org/maternity-center/special-care-nursery-nicu.html

Radiant Warmers

A radiant warmer is a cart with a heat source overtop that NICU staff place babies on (Healthline, 2009). It keeps the baby warm along with allowing accessibility to the baby when procedures and examinations are needed (Healthline, 2009). When fewer examinations and procedures are needed as the baby gets stronger they are then placed in an incubator.

Infant Incubators

A neonate may spend a lot of their beginning stages in an incubator until they are stable enough to sustain life on their own. In the neonatal intensive care unit incubators are essential for increasing efficiency. An incubator is a Plexiglas
machine with a mattress used to house at risk babies who are premature,
have low birthweights, have difficulty breathing and or have bacterial infections
(Design that matters, 2009). It is important to note that incubators alone are not responsible for the survival of at risk newborns, a caring nursing staff and infection control is also needed. Incubators assist babies in managing their temperature and breathing (Design that matters, 2009). Babies are kept warm in a moist, clean filtered air system that protects them from infections, and noise (Design that matters, 2009).

Figure. 3. (n.d.). SSM Cardincal Glennon Children’s Medical Center NICU & Surgery addition. Source: http://images.google.ca/imhttp://www.christnerinc.com/our-work/markets/health/cardinal-glennon-nicu-surgery

In the NICU babies are hooked up to a monitor that displays the heart rate, breathing rate and blood pressure. Alarms sound when any abnormalities occur (Healthline, 2009). Every sound means something different

Nasal Cannula/ Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP)

A cannula is a small clear plastic tube that fits just inside the neonate’s nose and provides the newborn with oxygen (Healthline, 2009). Cannula’s are used on newborns that are unable to breathe on their own or are not able to receive enough oxygen (Healthline, 2009). As well prongs known as CPAP may be placed in a neonates nose to help transport extra pressure and oxygen to help keep the lungs inflated (Healthline, 2009).
Figure. 4. (n.d.). NICU baby with nasal cannulas Source: http://www.foreverfriendsappeal.co.uk/NICU/

Nurse Qualifications

  • Obtain a Bachelors of Science in Nursing (BSN) (DegreeDirectory, 2009)
  • Become a Registered Nurse (RN) (DegreeDirectory, 2009)
  • May have to work a minium number of years as a RN in a hospital setting (DegreeDirectory, 2009)
  • Become certified in Neonatal Intensive Care Nursing (All Nursing Schools, 2008)

The NICU nurse works primarily in hospital-based neonatal intensive care units next to respiratory therapists, neonatologists, and advanced practice nurses (clinical nurse specialists and nurse practitioners). A nurse interested in functioning as a clinical nurse specialist or nurse practitioner in this setting will need to obtain a master’s degree in nursing and additional certification. (Futures in Nursing, 2003). Neonatal Nurses must have a love for babies and be able to handle the stress of caring for ill infants. There is a shortage of NICU nurses due to the fact that the baby boomers are retiring. This is a very respected career choice as children are our future. The care that goes into this section of the hospitals is phenomenal.

Thus it can be concluded that neonatal nursing is necessary to helping a newborn with complications sustain life. The neonatal nurses possess the knowledge and understanding to administer effective care. This special nurse also has the skills need to manipulate the equipment discussed to facilitate the various complications a neonate may suffer from. Neonatal nursing incorporates every aspect mentioned.


Become a Neonatal Nurse Practitioner. Retrieved from

Design that matters inc. (2009). Infant Incubators and Isolation Unit. Retrieved from http://www.designthatmatters.org/portfolio/projects/incubator/

Healthline Networks Inc. (2009). Neonatal Intensive Care Equipment: Health Article. Retrieved from http://www.healthline.com/yodocontent/pregnancy/preterm-delivery-nicu-equipment.html

Neonatal. (n.d.). In Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary (11th ed.). Retrieved from

Neonate’s Hand- Neonatal Intensive Care Unit [Online Image] (n.d.). Penn State Hershey Nursing. Retrieved from http://nursing.hmc.psu.edu/web/guest/nursing/patientcare/inpatient/nicu

Neonatal Nursing: How to become a Neonatal Nurse in 5 steps
. Retrieved from

Neonatal Intensive Care (NICU) Nursing. Retrieved from