If you've finally begun to fulfill your lifelong career dream by enrolling in nursing school, you may be wondering how soon you'll be able to select a specialty or concentration. For those who have always enjoyed working with babies, the neonatal unit may seem like the ideal choice -- however, the day-to-day duties of a neonatal nurse involve much more than holding adorable babies. Read on to learn more about this specific field of nursing and the factors you'll want to consider before making your decision.
What does the typical day of a neonatal nurse look like?
As a neonatal nurse (or any type of nurse), you may not ever have a "typical" day -- however, as a neonatal nurse, you'll likely spend the majority of you time providing direct care to infants. If you choose to work as a neonatal nurse in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), you'll be primarily dealing with infants who are battling health problems (ranging from chromosomal disorders to undeveloped lungs to drug exposure in utero). You may assist the obstetrician or neonatologist at births or staff the nursery and handle feedings, baths, and diaper changes.
You'll also work directly with your patients' parents, particularly if you're working in the NICU. You may need to teach them how to handle their child's specific medical needs (whether changing a catheter or adjusting an oxygen cannula) so that they can move toward discharge more quickly. Because you'll be spending the most time with your infant patients and their parents, you'll likely field the majority of questions they have about infant care in general or their own child's health problems.
How can you decide whether this specialty is right for you?
Neonatal nurses are privileged to witness both the best and worst moments in many of their patients' lives. From an ultra-premature infant who fights against all odds to be sent home at a healthy weight to the tragic stillbirth of a very wanted child, you'll carry the stories of the children (and families) you care for your entire life.
However, this position isn't for everyone. You'll likely find yourself dealing with some very difficult situations, particularly when it comes time to release an infant back into the custody of the person responsible for his or her health issues. For example, if you're not sure you can set aside your personal feelings about drug use to show a recovering mother how to care for her drug-addicted infant, you may have trouble remaining objective enough to provide comprehensive treatment. By that same token, if you're not sure you're emotionally equipped to handle the death of a healthy (or seemingly healthy) infant, you may find this job very difficult. However, those who have a passion for nursing and a soft spot for infants can find a career in neonatal nursing quite fulfilling.
For more information, contact Kidz Medical Services or a similar organization.