The Journey to Becoming a Successful Neonatal Nurse Practitioner

By  //  February 3, 2020

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Working as a neonatal nurse practitioner can be very challenging and very rewarding. Neonatal nursing is a branch of nursing that focuses on providing care to infants who are less than a month old. Most of the infants taken care of by neonatal nurses are born prematurely.

Working as a neonatal nurse practitioner can be very challenging and very rewarding. Neonatal nursing is a branch of nursing that focuses on providing care to infants who are less than a month old. Most of the infants taken care of by neonatal nurses are born prematurely.

Sometimes, these infants have serious ailments and conditions – such as heart defects, heart deformities, and other illnesses – that need specialized care to treat properly.

Because of the seriousness of the work neonatal nurses carry out, the path to becoming one can be very long. Below, we will look at what the journey to becoming a neonatal nurse looks like and what educational qualifications you need.

What Do Neonatal Nurses Do?

As mentioned, neonatal nurses typically take care of infants who are less than one month old. That said, it is not uncommon for some nurse practitioners to work with children of different ages including children younger than two years old.

They are also some of the most qualified nurses as they specialize in the finest details of nursing including drug administration, drawing of blood and oxygen administration.

A neonatal nurse practitioner will usually be responsible for up to four infants. Each shift presents different challenges and learning opportunities, so before you become a nurse practitioner, be sure that you will be able to adapt to all the changes that are constantly taking place in the nursing and medical fields. 

Becoming a Neonatal Nurse

  1. Graduate from an Accredited Institution

Before you can become a neonatal nurse or even a nurse practitioner, you have graduated and become a registered nurse. When becoming a residential nurse, you can choose from three paths:

  • Going through hospital-based schools and graduating with a diploma
  • Going through a community college and graduating with an associate’s degree
  • Going through a four-year college or university and graduating with a Bachelor’s degree

The only caveat here is that you will need to check that the institution you choose is registered by the relevant bodies in your country. In some countries, registered nurses have to graduate from pre-approved colleges. Also, a Bachelor’s degree offers the best opportunity of finding a job, so that should be your first choice when choosing a learning path.

  1. Become Licensed

Regardless of the nursing path you choose to take, you cannot practice as a nurse without a license. Nurses must complete an accredited nursing program and then take a nursing exam, usually organized by a national council of nurses (the name depends on the country you would like to practice in).  Although this is a simplified look at how to become a licensed nurse, there might be many more steps to take before you sit the exam. Research all the steps you need to take because these requirements do vary from country to country or even from state to state in the United States. 

  1. Get into Pediatrics and Neonatal Care

Most hospitals require that nurses who wish to work in the NICU have prior experience working with infants and children. The best place to gain this experience is during your internship. Most hospitals offer internships to students to help them gain the requisite experience before graduating.

  1. Become Certified

Certifications help sharpen your skills by helping you get certified in different specialties. Such specializations might include low-risk neonatal nursing, intensive care, pediatric transport and more.

In most cases, certifications are not a necessity, but they could make getting a job a lot easier. 

  1. Go Further

Even after getting your license, certifications, and experience, the learning never ends. Further education can be the ladder you use to advance your career.

For example, if you would like to become a neonatal advanced nurse, you must have a master’s degree in nursing. You can go down this path through online programs so that you continue gaining experience while upgrading your education. 

Different Neonatal Degree Programs

Even though those aspiring to become neonatal nurses might have the three paths outlined above to choose from, many countries are advocating for the diploma path to be phased out.

The reason for this might be because of the increase in demand for nursing positions. Below, we will look at the Associate’s, Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees.

  1. Associate’s Degree in Nursing

An associate’s degree in nursing typically takes two years. It includes both classroom and clinical training. After graduating and getting their licenses, students can go on to become registered nurses.

After getting a job as a registered nurse, they can start undertaking neonatal, maternity or training in other areas that require their skills as nurses. An associate’s degree forms the foundation for more advanced nursing courses.

  1. Bachelor of Science in Nursing

A Bachelor’s degree builds on the associate’s degree. This degree goes a little deeper than an associate’s degree and offers a greater focus on specialized skills and knowledge.

Nurses who hold a Bachelor’s degree are well equipped to work in a number of different hospital settings, including private practices, community clinics, and larger hospitals.

A Bachelor of Science in Nursing allows students to tailor their electives so that they can focus on infant and neonatal care if they are looking to become neonatal nurse practitioners.

  1. Master’s Degree in Nursing

This is the most popular option for those who are looking to advance their nursing careers. These programs usually take two to three years. Because most of those looking to get a masters in nursing are already working, online programs are very common at this level. 

Going back to school might seriously boost your salary as PayScale states that neonatal nurses are paid an average salary of $59,598 while neonatal nurse practitioners are paid an average of $92,259

Becoming a neonatal nurse practitioner can be a very rewarding journey. Advancing in your nursing career is also relatively easy if done right.

We hope the tips above give you a better understanding of what is ahead of you and we wish you a very successful career.