Neonatal nurses sum up their work very succinctly. As the theme of 2017’s Neonatal Nurses Day, celebrated every September 15, states “We Save Babies!”
Sponsored by the National Association of Neonatal Nurses (NANN), the “We Save Babies!” theme resonates with this clinical specialty of nurses who work with the tiniest patients.
Neonatal nurses care for babies who are born so early or with conditions or infections that just a mere decade ago they might not have survived. In fact, according to NANN, survival rates for these patients are 10 times better than they were 15 years ago. Preemies born months too early who barely fit in a hand are now able to survive, but the journey is often treacherous. These nurses might also care for newborns who have birth defects or who were born with life-threatening health problems. Some babies become ill or develop an infection shortly after birth and neonatal nurses care for these babies, too.
This specialty of nursing is very specialized and neonatal nurses are trained to watch for the smallest challenges that can face these newborns. Preemies are faced with a range of potential problems because they didn’t have enough time to fully develop in the womb. They might have breathing problems from underdeveloped lungs, difficulties taking and digesting food, and are often unable to regulate their body temperature. Neonatal nurses’ training prepares them to monitor all the smallest fluctuations in a baby’s health and vital signs.
For families of these babies, neonatal nurses are a lifeline to their babies. Nurses and families often become close as the nurses care for the babies and also help inform the families of how to care for their infants as well. Nurses help families cope with the emotional toll of having a sick newborn and have an impact on families that is often life-long.
Nurses who are interested in this field need experience with infants and children and that should include work in a level lll neonatal intensive care unit, according to NANN. With a current RN designation and work in the field that includes at least 2000 hours in the specialty in a 24-month period, you can obtain RNC Neonatal Intensive Care Nursing certification (RNC-NIC) through the National Certification Corporation.
As neonatal nurses are celebrated today, you can check out videos on NANN’s Facebook page from the people who have been touched by the life-saving skill and care given to their babies when they were in their most fragile state. Take photos of your unit to post on social media and tag them with #NeonatalNursesDay. Let people know of this challenging career choice and the incredible rewards it offers.