Career Advice

NICU Nurse Career: 14 Motivating Factors (With Job Definition)

You could be able to benefit others and have a fulfilling job if you decide to pursue a profession in nursing. There are many different nursing specializations to select from, such as concentrating on a specific sort of care, patient, or issue. Making the right choice for you may be easier if you are aware of your possibilities. To help you make your decision, we’ve defined what a NICU nurse is and provided a list of some benefits of working in this field.

Who are the NICU nurses?

A specialist nurse who cares for unwell and premature babies is known as a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) nurse. They often treat patients till they are one year old and care for infants who are admitted right after delivery or at the time of birth. Patients often transfer to the pediatric critical care unit when they turn one year old (PICU).

In general, NICU nurses perform the following duties or tasks regularly:

  • Give parents tips on how to care for their new babies.
  • Help mothers learn how to breastfeed
  • Attend births to aid in the delivery process
  • Educate infants on how to breathe, feed, and grow
  • Control medical devices like ventilators and IV lines
  • Keep an eye on the health and vital signs of newborns.
  • Ensure that infants are fed and bathed as necessary.
  • Help the physicians as they perform intensive care procedures.
  • Newborns are weighed and measured to monitor their growth.

14 good reasons to work as a NICU nurse

Here are some motivations for becoming a NICU nurse:

1. Taking care of infants

NICU nurses are experts in providing care for infants who have several life-threatening illnesses. They must work to enhance the infants’ health to allow the parents to take the children home. They could offer assistance with the following conditions:

  • Cardiac issues
  • Infections
  • Premature delivery
  • Respiratory disease

2. Assisting families

Families with children in the NICU could experience worry, guilt, or depression. However, NICU nurses support these families. They aid in their comprehension of the situation and guarantee that they are giving their youngster the best treatment feasible.

3. Educating parents

To help babies go home with their parents, NICU nurses provide for their needs. Even though it might be a joyous moment, parents frequently experience stress during this period. However, NICU nurses instruct them on how to properly care for their infants before they leave the hospital. They might receive training on how to give treatments like oxygen, medication, and tube feedings as part of this.

4. Looking for prospects for career growth

There may be prospects for career progression for NICU nurses. As an illustration, certain NICO nurses might start mentoring or instructing medical students. The pursuit of leadership positions inside the hospital could be an additional choice. Additional NICU nurses may choose to focus on a specific aspect of care.

5. Having a promising future in terms of work

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of registered nurses—including those who work in NICUs—will increase by 9% until 2030. This growth rate is comparable to the overall average for all occupations. A median of 194,500 job opportunities is predicted by the BLS each year. These positions are attributed to persons quitting their jobs, either to retire or to seek other career options.

6. Examining travel options

As opposed to regular jobs in one location, some NICU nurses choose to work as travel nurses. Usually, this entails finishing a variety of shorter contracts. Benefits of travel nursing may include fun job locations, accommodation aid, increased pay, and more.

7. Feeling motivated

Working with infants can be an enjoyable experience. NICU nurses could be motivated by their infant patients’ struggle to maintain or enhance their health. This could inspire the nurses to put in more effort and give them a sense of accomplishment.

8. Creating connections

Patients in the NICU are there for varied amounts of time. While some patients only spend a short time in the NICU, others may be there for several weeks, months, or even years. As a result, the nurses can get to know the families and follow the development of the kids.

9. Managing various duties

Every day, NICU nurses handle a variety of jobs. Although some patients could be comparable, every patient is different and faces different difficulties. This offers NICU nurses fresh tasks each day, allowing them to appreciate a variety of jobs.

10. Getting appreciation

The chance to make a major difference in other people’s lives is frequently presented by choosing this career route. Parents usually express their thanks to NICU nurses for the life-saving job they perform. Even years after their children have left the NICU, many families still have specific memories of the nurses who look after their children.

11. Developing new skills

It is frequently necessary to pursue continuing education options to work in the medical industry. For instance, NICU nurses must become knowledgeable about the most recent medical advancements or innovative caregiving methods. People who are interested in occupations that support lifelong learning may find this to be intriguing.

12. Providing care to the same patients

NICU nurses frequently care for a small number of patients at a time, though specific numbers may vary depending on the scale and design of the facility. They can establish relationships with their patients and their relatives as a result. This can calm the families and give the nurses a feeling of accomplishment.

13. Promoting the rights of infants

NICU nurses represent the infants while concentrating on their care. They care for patients whose needs and emotions cannot be expressed. They must be aware of the infants’ needs and follow their best interests.

How to train as a NICU nurse

The steps below can assist you in getting started if you’re interested in working as a NICU nurse:

1. Finish a program to become a registered nurse.

Getting a degree in nursing from a school that has been accredited and accepted by your board of nursing board is the fundamental step toward becoming a NICU nurse. Coursework like this is often included in nursing programs:

  • Biology and anatomy
  • Microbiology
  • Biology
  • Psychology
  • Chemistry
  • Statistics

2. Become a registered nurse

Some students opt to complete an Associate of Applied Science in Nursing (ADN) before completing a bachelor’s degree in nursing. (BSN). A two-year nursing degree is known as an ADN. ADNs are regularly employed by hospitals, however, others exclusively employ RNs with a BSN.

You must pass the National Council Licensure Exam for Registered Nurses after completing a nursing program (NCLEX-RN). You will receive a license to work as an RN as a result of this. Once you have earned an ADN or BSN, you are eligible to take this exam.

3. Build up clinical knowledge

You can start acquiring medical skills once you are an RN. It is expected that you will need at least two years of clinical expertise in neonatal care if you’re a recent graduate or a nurse looking to transition into the NICU. Your main areas of focus should be:

  • Labor and Birth
  • Pediatrics
  • Mother/Baby (Maternal-Child) 

Some hospitals immediately place recent graduates who lack experience in the NICU. Typically, they provide fellowships to people who want to work in the NICU.

4. Earn a certification

NICU nurses may want to pursue certifications for professional progression and skills training in addition to being an RN and gaining clinical experience. Among these is the Neonatal Resuscitation Program certification (NRP). Normally, the NRP is necessary before employment or within the first couple of months of employment as a NICU nurse.

NRP instructs NICU nurses on how to care for and assist a newborn infant who isn’t performing well. It includes:

  • Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR)
  • Medications that can save lives, like epinephrine, atropine, and adenosine
  • Mechanical ventilation uses a machine to assist the newborn in breathing.

The National Certification Corporation offers extra qualifications for NICU nurses (NCC). A few certifications are:

  • Nursing of Newborns at Low Risk
  • Nursing for Neonatal Intensive Care

The Critical Care Registered Nurse-Neonatal (CCRN-Neonatal) accreditation is another well-liked credential for neonatal nurses. The American Association of Critical Care Nurses states that nurses who are interested in earning this accreditation could work in places like:

  • Cardiac care units in NICUs
  • Integrated ICU/CCUs
  • Surgical/Medical ICUs
  • Trauma centers
  • Critical care flight or transport
  • Experience with neonatal patients who are severely or seriously ill

If you are interested in working at a Level III or Level IV NICU, these certificates can make you a more competitive applicant for the job. As is typical for many professional qualifications, keeping your NICU nursing certification requires continuous education, which includes keeping your RN license unrestricted.

5. Look for open positions

When you have the training and experience necessary to work as a NICU nurse, you are prepared to look for positions and submit applications. You can begin by looking out for open NICU nursing employment in your neighborhood.

Before writing your resume, it’s crucial to investigate the NICU nursing roles you’re interested in. This will allow you to tailor your CV to the job.

6. Write your resume.

Once you’ve located the NICU nursing opportunities you’re interested in applying for, use the job descriptions to develop a CV that highlights your best qualifications for that particular position. Returning to the job posting after finishing your resume will allow you to submit your application through the online application process.

7. Look at options for advanced degrees

Consider earning a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) if you’re a NICU nurse who wants to advance your profession. Many NICU nursing programs offer two-year Advanced Practice NICU Nurse programs that lead to MSN degrees. Because of their extensive training and education, NICU NPs are given more latitude in the kind of treatment and care they are authorized to give to babies.

The typical pay for NICU nurses

A NICU critical care unit nurse makes, on average, $1,733 per week, with a salary range of $600 to $3,300 a week. NICU nurses typically hold full-time jobs that involve a variety of shifts. Certain NICU nurses work on a per diem basis, or on the days the hospital needs them.

The following factors affect a NICU nurse’s pay:

  • Education
  • Experience
  • Geographical area
  • The standard of NICU treatment they offer
  • Number of overtime hours

A NICU Nurse’s Day in the Life: Basic Tasks

A fulfilling career path may exist in the healthcare industry. Consider a job as a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) nurse if you’d like to work with infants and provide parents peace of mind knowing their child is receiving the best care available. Given that this is a specialist area of nursing, it’s crucial to learn more about what this job includes to decide if it’s the correct path for you.

What does a typical day look like for a NICU nurse?

Review the activities that NICU nurses perform throughout a typical day to gain additional insight into what to anticipate from a career in this field of medicine:

Embrace huddles

Physicians, doctors, therapists, and other support workers that work in NICUs frequently hold a group discussion before starting their shift. The team is typically briefed on important details by the head nurse or visiting physician, like how many discharges and admissions they anticipate during the employees’ shifts. Additionally, they might discuss any potential concerns with a certain patient and allocate a specialty task to a particular nurse. During this huddle, NICU nurses also discover how many patients are present on the floor, and the number of receiving transfusions or a ventilator.

Monitor deliveries

Since NICU nurses look after newborns, they frequently attend deliveries for infants whom doctors anticipate a stay in the NICU. A NICU nurse may need to administer some vitals immediately after delivery and may also be required to transport the newborn to the neonatal ICU. A NICU nurse could be a member of a trained staff team that assists with birth and provides urgent care in a dedicated delivery room, depending on the urgency of the situation.

Medicine administration

The majority of NICU infants require specialist drugs to stabilize themselves long enough for another procedure or treatment, or just to get well. The nurses in this division are in charge of doing this and frequently have to keep track of how a baby is responding to a drug or change the dosage by the doctor’s recommendations. NICU nurses can utilize their expertise and experience to collaborate with doctors to develop treatment plans for patients, even though they lack the certification necessary to administer drugs.

Positioning patients differently

Neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) babies are too young to roll over by themselves and are unable to walk. Babies in NICUs must be rotated and repositioned by NICU nurses to avoid bed sores on their delicate skin, encourage proper muscular tone, and simulate the sense of being in the womb for the infant. As a nurse in the NICU, you might gently turn the infants from side to side, stretch their hands upward and down, or even pull them out of bed for a safe moment.

Take test results.

The amount and kind of care a newborn needs in the NICU depend on their lab results. If a patient’s condition changes or a doctor wants new test results, NICU nurses may collect the results several times during their shift. As low oxygen levels are typical for infants in the NICU, their principal nurse may frequently check their oxygen levels to spot any issues.

Consult with family members

Speaking with the baby’s family to explain their situation is a crucial component of a NICU nurse’s routine. Even while parents are usually included, this also applies to any legal guardians and members of the extended family who have been permitted by the family to receive medical updates from the nurse. Empathic communication with family members can assist nurses to build strong, positive interactions with them while educating them concerning a child’s health.

A NICU nurse may be required to explain a treatment strategy and diagnosis to parents, demonstrate how to hold the infant, and provide consolation and encouragement to parents who are having a difficult time comprehending their child’s situation. To ensure that parents and guardians are comfortable with their baby’s care, NICU nurses frequently schedule time for these discussions in addition to overseeing care delivery.

Consult medical professionals

Any nurse’s meetings with doctors to review the conditions of their patients and offer advice are an essential component of their day. If they believe their NICU patient will benefit from specialized interventions, they might also want to speak with the head nurse or support team. It is crucial that NICU nurses can communicate any issues they have observed with the infants in their care since doctors usually depend on their work to build a treatment regimen.

Prepare the food

Babies still require nutrition to get healthier and stronger, even while in the NICU. NICU nurses frequently have to take care of feeding the infants and getting the kids the food they require during their shifts. To properly plan, NICU nurses evaluate the requirements of each child under their care, including whether the infant is on breastmilk or formula or needs any dietary supplements. Whether the infant can feed without assistance or require support, such as through a feeding tube, may also influence how best to feed it.

Assemble supplies

The NICU nurses work together to assist each other, and one method they accomplish this is by preparing the supply room for the upcoming shift. Typical supplies are syringes, bottles, IVs, caps, and tubes, blankets, although this list can change based on the number of infants in the NICU and the level of care that the facility can provide. NICU nurses can make sure the other members of their team have access to the tools they require during their shifts by controlling supply inventories.

Provide reports

NICU nurses often report to the incoming nurse and support team after their shift. This report could include any benchmarks a baby has reached, such as improving their eating capacity or generating a bowel movement. Every nurse may describe their shift, any emergencies they dealt with, what to anticipate from the following nurse, and also where they stopped with the patient’s care. When nurses switch shifts, these reports are crucial for ensuring a high quality of ongoing care. In addition, reporting can be an excellent opportunity for nurses to emotionally review their shifts.


Nurses in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) treat newborn newborns with a range of medical conditions, including premature congenital impairments, heart deformities, life-threatening infections, and other physical or functional issues. The neonatal phase is a term used in medical literature to describe the first week of life. NICU nursing often includes care for newborns who have concerns right away, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t also cover care for newborns who have persistent long-term issues after birth. Infants are routinely cared for by NICU nurses from the moment of delivery until they are released from the hospital.

Frequently Asked Questions on NICU Nurses

Examine these frequently asked questions regarding the position if you’re thinking about working as a NICU nurse:

  • What advantages do nurses in neonatal intensive care units have?

A lot of the advantages of employment as a NICU nurse are similar to those of operating in other healthcare positions, such as employee satisfaction and safety, a flexible work schedule, and the opportunity to take advantage of professional growth opportunities. Along with providing care for a newborn and assisting in their recovery so they can be discharged home, this occupation can also make you feel accomplished. Being a NICU nurse can be challenging, but it can also be a rewarding and fulfilling career that gives you the ability to change lives.

  • Is there a NICU-specific specialization?

A baby can receive treatment at four different levels. Level one NICUs are typically for healthy newborns, while levels 3 and 4 offer advanced care for the most specialized conditions and diagnoses. Depending on their training and background, many NICU nurses start their employment by providing a certain degree of newborn care. Others, however, may operate at different levels within the same facility, depending on their level of necessity on any given day.

Nurses who want to operate at a more expert stage might need further education and training before finding a job. Hospital NICUs are frequently found to specialize in particular types of care, which may attract a nurse with the corresponding level of experience. A nurse with experience in cardiology, for instance, would find a level four NICU at a hospital that specializes in heart diseases to be an interesting alternative.

  • What is the working atmosphere like for NICU nurses?

The neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) can be a hectic setting, but most NICU nurses also have nights free of emergencies, allowing them to concentrate on caring for and watching over their infant patients. The NICU frequently has a collaborative atmosphere. To give the newborns in their section the best care possible, the medical team as a whole collaborates. Although every day is different, it’s typical for NICU nurses to look after one to two infants during a standard shift. However, depending on the situation, they may be in charge of up to four infants.

Most NICUs are cheerful and colorful to reassure visiting family members. Rocking rockers, soft blankets, cheerfully painted walls and spotless equipment are common in NICUs, which can help to maintain a happy atmosphere.

  • Do NICU nurses also deliver infants?

A newborn’s delivery may be assisted by NICU nurses who are devoted to the case. They are accountable for:

  • Measuring and weighing the newborn at birth
    • Bathing
    • Keeping an eye on the baby’s health
    • Supporting the medical staff and family
    • Teaching new moms about breastfeeding and baby care
  • What kinds of shifts do nurses in NICUs work?

A NICU nurse works similar hours to other RNs. In hospitals, RNs often perform 13 shifts each month or 12-hour shifts. A NICU nurse might do any of the following jobs, depending on their location and the degree of care they offer:

  • Eight-hour workdays
    • Nights
    • Evenings
    • Weekends
    • Holidays
  • What kind of setting does a neonatal nurse work in?

Typically, neonatal nurses work at hospitals within:

  • Birth and labor
    • Postnatal motherhood
    • Pediatrics
    • NICU

In addition, some neonatal nurses are working in the:

  • Medical facilities
    • Birthing facilities
    • Other medical offices

NICU nurses frequently work in demanding situations where they must maintain their composure while giving assistance and care to infants and their families. NICU nurses must be quick thinkers who can handle pressure well and have strong communication abilities.

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