Neonatal Nurses Week (also known as NICU Nurses Week) is the perfect time to celebrate the hard work and dedication of the nurses who take care of babies in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU).
What is the NICU?
The NICU is a unit in a hospital that provides around-the-clock special care to sick or preterm babies. It has health care providers who have special training and equipment to give your baby the best possible care.
Common health conditions treated in the NICU include birth defects, breathing problems, feeding issues, gastroschisis, infections, jaundice, problems maintaining a normal body temperature, problems maintaining normal sugar levels, retinopathy of Prematurity (ROP) and surgical conditions.
What kind of nurses work in the NICU?
Babies in the NICU are cared for by many health care providers. Every provider on your baby’s health care team has different skills and is responsible for different parts of your baby’s care.
The nurses providing care to your baby in the NICU may include:
- Registered nurse— Also called RN or Staff Nurse. An RN in the NICU has special training in caring for sick newborns. An RN may be in the delivery room during your baby’s birth, help with breastfeeding, check any medical equipment that your baby needs and give your baby medications or treatments prescribed by the doctor.
- Nurse manager—The supervisor for the nurses in the unit. They are responsible for overseeing how the NICU runs.
- Neonatal nurse practitioner— Also called NNP. An NNP is a nurse with special training to take care of sick babies. The NNP works with the baby’s neonatologist, can do some medical procedures and may direct your baby’s care.
- Clinical nurse specialist— Also called CNS. A CNS is a nurse with special training to care for children and their families. The CNS teaches parents about their baby’s health condition.
- Developmental care specialist—A nurse who has special training in how babies develop, learn and communicate. They help make sure babies are developing and growing properly.
- Charge nurse— The nurse who’s responsible for making the NICU run well. The charge nurse admits your baby to the NICU and discharges your baby to go home.
Your baby’s providers may change during their time in the NICU. This depends on your baby’s condition, the length of time they are in the NICU, and how the NICU schedules its staff. For example, in some NICUs, one nurse may be assigned to care for your baby on most days. This system of scheduling is called primary nursing. In other NICUs, your baby may have a different nurse every day. Even if the providers on your baby’s health care team change, everyone is working to give your baby the best care possible.
You may feel scared and confused about your baby’s condition. It’s OK to feel like you do. Talk with a NICU nurse to learn about resources and support to help you and your family while your baby’s in the NICU. Visit shareyourstory.org, the March of Dimes online community for families to share their experiences.