Neonatal Intensive Care Nurses (NICU Nurses) are the ones who care for premature or critically ill newborn babies. These babies are at a critical point in their lives and as such require specialized treatments and monitoring specific to infants. If you are looking for a career that is rewarding, fast paced and with the ability to care for patients that need you more than anyone, NICU nursing may be your calling.
These babies that are born critically ill or born prematurely require specialized medical attention immediately after birth and are usually sent to a Level III nursery where neonatal nurses work with special high technology equipment such as incubators and ventilators and other equipment that works in conjunction with the above mentioned devices.
Level III NICUs have all personnel on hand and available at a moments notice. These personnel include neonatologists, neonatal nurses, cardiac neonatal nurses, and respiratory therapists. Level III NICU nurseries are split into three subcategories, Level IIIA, IIIB and IIIC. NICU nurses can find themselves working in any one of these three Level III nurseries as well.
The Level IIIA NICU nursery has the least amount of equipment and care available and these Level IIIA facilities generally care for infants with a gestational age more than 28 weeks and a birth weight of more than 1000grams. Level IIIA nurseries generally have the capability to provide conventional mechanical ventilation for as long as needed, but do not use the more advanced respiratory support such as high-frequency ventilation. Minor surgical procedures such as placement of a central venous catheter or inguinal hernia repair are also performed in the Level IIIA nursery.
Levels IIIB and IIIC NICU nurseries are the nurseries that provide care for the most critically ill newborns. It is in the Level IIIB & C nurseries where everything needed to care for critically ill newborns is on hand and available for immediate use as needed. Some of the on hand medical equipment consists of advanced imaging equipment such as MRI machines, ECGs, EKGs, various high tech ventilation equipment, and other advanced life support equipment.
In addition, the NICU and Level III nurseries are a critical care environment and as such, Neonatal Intensive Care Nurses must also have met the requirements to work in a critical care setting. Some of the requirements and qualifications that a potential Neonatal Intensive Care Nurse needs to meet to become Critical Care Nurse Certified are that you must first complete the basic RN school with either an associates degree or bachelors degree. But given the complexity involved in this high specialty field, most employers as a matter of protocol, require the critical care nurse applicant to have at least a Bachelors Degree of Science in Nursing (BSN).
Most employers also require that the critical care nurse applicant be trained and certified in Advanced Cardiac Life Support as well as Advanced Pediatric Life Support, and have at least one to two years in a critical care related setting. In addition most dedicated critical care nurses take the Certified Critical Care Nurse (CCRN) exam offered by the American Association of Critical Care Nurses.
Due to the highly complex nature of this specialty, nurses need to be very proficient in a very wide variety of high level nursing skill sets and should be near experts at being able to evaluate intensive care patients and be able to recognize any complications and coordinate with other members of the critical care team to ensure the patient is treated properly and quickly. Critical care nurses have strong leadership skills and excel at strategic planning, interpersonal communications, quick and accurate decision making, and critical thinking. So as a matter of reference, potential NICU nurses need to meet the basic requirements as a critical care nurse first in order to work in an NICO setting and be effective at it.
In a Level II nursery, they care for the less critically ill infants. These nurseries, which are also classified as specialty care nurseries, are more commonly found in children’s hospitals or a general hospital that has its own special NICU section. In these Level II nurseries, they provide care for infants who are only moderately ill of which the problems are expected to be resolved fairly rapidly. Level II nurseries are divided into two sub categories, Level IIA and Level IIB with Level IIIB providing the more advanced care than a Level IIA nursery.
The standard RN school program does not offer the additional specialized curriculum needed to become a certified Neonatal Nurse, therefore it is necessary to enroll in and successfully pass a graduate program that offers the required curriculum in neonatal nursing.
The average annual salary range for a Certified NICU Nurse is $47,000.00 to $97,000.00, with a median salary of around $72,000.00.
If you are currently working in a specialty that makes you hate your nursing job, you may want to give this career field some consideration.
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