Giving birth can be an extremely stressful process that causes lots of changes in the family dynamic. However, what many people don’t focus on is the fact that the aftermath of birth is just as stressful and just as challenging, especially for new parents, who find themselves now dealing with a screaming, crying, and utterly helpless human that is dependent on them for their every single need.
This stress is increased when health issues are involved, whether it be a heart problem, congenital disability, premature birth, or another issue; having a high-risk delivery can be terrifying because parents have no idea if their child is going to be okay.
This is where the neonatal nurses come in. Neonatal nurses are trained to handle high-risk infants. They ensure that newborns with health issues are properly taken care of. But what exactly does a neonatal nurse do, and how do they help their patients and the parents?
What is a neonatal nurse?
A neonatal nurse is a nurse who works with newborn babies from the moment they are born until about the first month of their life. Often, a nurse will care for a baby until they are well enough to be released from the hospital. They also work to help the mothers as well, helping them get through the birth of their child as well as the afterbirth.
For many neonatal nurses, their job consists of tasks similar to other nurses. However, on top of these tasks, they also test the cognitive skills of newborn babies and provide care for mothers and their newborns. This can include checking vitals, performing tests, and ensuring no complications have arisen after birth.
The different levels of neonatal nursing
The field of neonatal nursing is dominated by three levels, depending on the care the babies need. Other groups may need additional physician specialties, but a neonatal nurse’s scope of practice remains the same across all levels. Nurses may need to adjust their care depending on the severity of the newborns’ health within the NICU.
Level 1 neonatal nursing is for healthy newborns born with no problems. Nurses help to take care of newborn babies, perform hearing tests, bathe the children, and answer any questions that the mother might have about the newborn. Additionally, nurses can care for babies at 35-37 weeks of gestation and stabilize babies who are ill and born at less than 35 weeks of pregnancy until they are transferred.
In Level 2, neonatal nurses provide care for any babies born at 32 weeks of gestation, and if the babies have a moderate illness or need extra care and support, they can help. Additionally, if the child has gone through intensive care, they can provide help and support. One of the most common ways a neonatal nurse can help is by giving mechanical ventilation if a baby is having trouble breathing.
In Level 3, neonatal nurses work in the neonatal intensive care unit. They are the ones who care for very sick newborns who are extremely premature or have various life-threatening issues. They care for children who need surgery, ventilators, incubators, or other equipment. Many of these babies are underweight, need to be on life support, and need to be monitored and taken care of constantly.
How do neonatal nurses help?
Neonatal nurses offer care to parents and their babies during one of the most important stages of life, providing evidence-based practice, information, and guidance to help them. Raising a baby is difficult and scary for many new parents. Increasingly so for parents whose newborns have health issues – they not only have to worry about whether or not their child can come home but also how they need to take care of their child.
All neonatal nurses undergo intensive education and training, such as a Baylor DNP course. The courses at Baylor University help nurses get their Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree and build on their previous NICU experience to further the scope of their knowledge and lead change within neonatal nursing.
The program puts students in a position to answer questions and support parents in a supervised environment. An example of the information neonatal nurses might need to provide is seen in underweight babies – these babies might require a more rigorous feeding schedule. Other newborns who are having trouble breathing or heart problems, for example, might need to be held and treated in a certain way. Many parents are not aware of this information and need to be informed. These nurses are lifesavers who can provide important information on how to be a great parent and ensure their child has the best life possible.
Having someone who is a calming presence in both the delivery room during the birth and in the post-birth stages can be extremely helpful. Neonatal nurses are vital in the care of newborns. So, for those looking for a rewarding career in which they can make a real difference in the lives of children and their parents, neonatal nursing is an excellent choice. With the appropriate qualifications, neonatal nurses will be equipped with everything they need to start a rewarding and impactful career.