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In the NICU

  • In the NICU, your baby gets special medical care.
  • Get to know the NICU staff who take care of your baby.
  • Ask questions and get involved in your baby's care.
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Staff in the NICU


The NICU is a very busy place. The babies need constant checking and 24-hour care from different health care providers. Here’s a list of NICU staff and what they do. Some or all of these people may be part of the NICU team at your hospital.

Charge nurse – A nurse who makes sure that the NICU runs well. He or she is in charge of staffing the NICU, and coordinating the admission and discharge of babies.

Clinical nurse specialist – Also called CNS. A nurse who has special training in the care of children and their families. The CNS provides support and teaches parents about what is going on with their baby. He or she also is involved in nursing staff education.

Neonatal nurse practitioner – Also called NNP. A nurse with special nursing and medical training in caring for sick and premature babies. This type of nurse works with the baby’s neonatologist and medical team, and can do medical procedures, prescribe medicines and care for the baby.

Neonatologist – A pediatrician (children’s doctor) with special medical training in the care of sick newborns. There may be more than one neonatologist in the NICU.

Neonatology fellow – A fully trained pediatrician who is getting special medical training in the care of sick newborns.

Neonatal physician assistant – Also called PA. A physician assistant who has special medical training in working with premature and sick newborns. He or she works with the neonatologist, performs medical procedures and directs the baby’s care.

Occupational therapist – Also called OT. A health care provider who helps figure out how well the baby is feeding and swallowing.

Patient care assistant – Also called PCA. A NICU staff member who helps nurses do things, like changing bed sheets, feeding babies and preparing bottles.

Pediatric resident – A doctor who is getting medical training in baby and child health.

Pharmacist – A person with special training in how medicines work and the side effects they may cause. You get prescription medicine from the pharmacist.

Physical therapist – Also called PT. A health care provider who helps figure out how well the baby moves. They look at any problems the baby has moving and how that might affect things like sitting, rolling over or walking.

Registered dietitian – Also called RD. A health care provider who is trained as an expert in nutrition. They work with the NICU doctors and nurses to help make sure the baby is getting all the nutrients she needs.

Registered nurse – A health care provider who has a nursing degree. In the NICU, a registered nurse will have special training in caring for sick newborns.

Respiratory therapist – Also called RT. A health care provider trained to care for babies with breathing problems. They are trained to use the medical equipment needed to care for the baby’s breathing.

Social worker – A person who is trained to help families cope with their baby’s NICU stay. The social worker can help families get information from their baby’s provider, provide information on their baby’s medical problems, provide emotional support, help navigate insurance and help plan for when their baby comes home.

Speech and language therapist – A person who is trained to help people with speech and language problems. In the NICU, they often help newborns with feeding problems.

Technician – Hospital staff who does things like drawing blood or taking X-rays.

All of these health professionals are part of a team that is working to help your baby get stronger and help you cope while your baby is in the NICU. You are an important member of this team. It’s OK to ask questions and get help.


See also: Share your story

Last reviewed August 2014

On your baby's team

Confused about all the people caring for your baby in the NICU? Find out who's who.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is it OK to hold my baby in the NICU?

It depends on your baby's health overall. Some newborn intensive care units (NICUs) will encourage you to hold your baby from birth onward. Other NICUs will want you to wait until your baby's health is stable. Ask your NICU staff about its policy on kangaroo care (holding your baby on your bare chest). Kangaroo care has benefits for both you and your baby. The skin-to-skin contact is a precious way to be close to your baby. You may be afraid you'll hurt him by holding him. But you won't. Your baby knows your scent, touch and the rhythms of your speech and breathing, and he’ll enjoy feeling that closeness with you.

My baby was born full term. Why is she in the NICU?

Not all newborn intensive care unit (NICU) babies are born premature. Some babies, even those born full term, may need special care. Your baby may need to spend some time in the NICU if she had a difficult delivery, has breathing problems, has infections or has birth defects.

Most babies leave the NICU just fine. Others may need more special care once they're home.

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