January 23rd, 2012 | The Blog
If you are a registered nurse with some experience, you may be wondering how to become a neonatal nurse. You may even be a relatively new nurse who simply already knows her area of focus will be neonatal. Either way, you want to know the steps you need to take the path you need to follow in order to reach your goals.
Neonatal Nursing Education Requirements
The nurse who works in a neonatal unit is a master nurse. She cares for newborns, 28 days old and younger. That means she not only is a registered nurse with a bachelor’s in nursing, but that she also holds a master’s degree in an advanced practice program specializing in this area. Lastly, she is a nurse with certification in this specialty field.
With any advanced practice degree, there are some foundational courses you will be expected to take, including such courses as statistics, foundations for advanced practice, health care policy and advocacy, genetics, etc. But for this specialty area, you should anticipate coursework specific to the field.
Such coursework includes:
There will also be practicum and residency hours required by your program as well. Each state differs in its requirements for certification and licensure. So the requirements of the masters program in this specialty will vary somewhat from state to state.
Certification Requirements–Neonatal Nurse Testing Procedures
There are several certification entities.
If you opt for certification from the American Association of Critical Care Nurses (AACN), you will pursue the CCRN (Certification for Adult, Pediatric, and Neonatal Critical Care Nurses). This three-hour exam has 150 questions. Only 125 actually count toward your score. The exam is over adult, neonatal and pediatric patient populations. The bulk of the exam is on clinical judgment and age-specific questions. The remainder is on professional caring and ethics.
Some institutions would like their neonatal nurses to have taken the Neonatal Resuscitation Program, which is a course designed by the American Academy of Pediatrics. It is recommended that you take this course and get this certification. But this would be in addition to your main licensing and certification.
Another certification you will want to pursue is the Neonatal Intensive Care Nursing. This is offered by the National Certification Corporation. This is a three hour test. This is a 175 question test, with only 150 of them counting toward your score. Roughly half of the questions will be over general assessment and management. The other half will cover assessment and management of pathophysiologic states. A small portion of the test is over Assess and Manage Psychosocial/ Behavioral Adjustments and Professional Issues. This certification authority also offers the Maternal Newborn Nursing and the Low Risk Neonatal Nursing exams.
There are study guides available for these tests. It is highly recommended that you prepare ahead of time because these tests are expensive.
Neonatal Nurse Job Outlook
Because of the increase in fertility treatments and premature births, neonatal nurses are enjoying terrific job outlook. If this is a specialty that interests you, chances are good you can find a job once you finish school. However, the coursework is very rigorous. The payoff, at the end, is that you can find a good paying job. You will probably start at around $50,000, depending upon where in the country you work, as well as which level of nursery.
Level I nurseries are where healthy newborns are cared for. Level II nurseries care for premature babies who either need special care or more time before discharge. Level III nurseries are referred to as the NICU and this is where babies receive the highest level of care.
In conclusion, knowing how to become a neonatal nurse is the first step in realizing your dream of working with newborns. This is a very rewarding job, but the preparation and certification process are very rigorous.