How to Become a Neonatal Nurse

How to Become a NeoNatal Nurse in 8 Steps

Step 1: Enjoy working with newborns with a strong tolerance for treating newborns in intensive care

Step 2: Work toward and achieve your bachelors degree in nursing

Step 3: Receive your RN license in the state where you wish to work as a nurse

Step 4: Gain work experience on a neonatal unit

Step 5: Complete an accredited nurse practitioner program

Step 6: Attain your national certification as a neonatal nurse practitioner

Step 7: Get certified in neonatal resuscitation

Step 8: If you wish to work on the IC unit, get your neonatal intensive care nursing certification

What is a Neonatal Nurse?

Neonatal nurses, also known as neonatology nurses, take care of newborn babies. There are three levels in the neonatal nursing:

  • Level I - consists of care for healthy infants.
  • Level II - consists of caring for premature and sick babies.
  • Level III - consists caring for seriously ill and/or premature babies. This care requires constant and continual care as babies are connected to ventilators and incubators.

Neonatal Nurse Job Description

As a neonatal nurse, you'll care for high-risk infants with complex, acute, and critical health conditions. You'll be responsible for making evaluations, interpreting labs, making nursing diagnosis, and prescribing therapeutic treatments to assure the infants best chances at survival. The work of a neonatal nurse is high pressure and high stress. Not only are you constantly dealing with life or death crisis, but you also have to be capable of dealing with the emotional stress involved with working with infants as patients.

Requirements for Becoming a Neonatal Nurse

Generally speaking, in order to become a neonatal nurse, you must meet these requirements.

  • Be a Registered Nurse or Advanced Registered Nurse Practitioner
  • Hold current National Certification as a Neonatal Nurse Practitioner
  • Complete an approved Nurse Practitioner Program
  • Hold a masters degree in nursing or related field
  • Have experience on a neonatal unit
  • Certified in Neonatal Resuscitation and/or Neonatal Intensive Care Nursing

In addition, you'll likely need 3-5 years experience working as an RN, with at least a few of them working in the neonatal area. You'll also need CPR certification.

Education Requirements

The education requirements for attaining an RN are an associates degree in nursing. However, to become a neonatal nurse, you'll be required to have a BSN, and in most cases a masters in nursing is preferred. Because of the nature of this work, and the emotional toll it can take, it is suggested that you work in the neonatal unit for 2 years before taking graduate courses to work toward becoming a neonatal nurse.


National certification as a neonatal nurse practitioner is required for most neonatal nursing jobs. In order to sit for the exam to become certified, you must have a current RN license and hold a masters degree in nursing with a specialty in neonatal care.

In addition, you'll likely be required to have one or both of the following:

Work Experience

You'll likely need a few years of experience working as an RN before you'll be able to work as a neonatal nurse. Many jobs require a minimum of 3 years of experience, with some of it coming from work on the neonatal unit.

National Associations

The National Assocation of Neonatal Nurses is an organization dedicated to the promotion and education of neonatal nurses. There are also state associations of neonatal nurses.

Neonatal Nurse Salary

According the the Bureau of Labor Statstics, nurses in hospitals made a median salary of $66,650 per year in 2010. Growth in this area is at 26%, which is above average, which are predicted to create over half a million nursing shortages across the country.

Neonatal Nurse Jobs

The best approach to finding neonatal nursing jobs is to attain a position in a hospital working in the neonatal unit. You may expect to start out at level 1 care, and progress to level 2 or level 3. After you meet the experience requirements, you may apply for a position as a neonatal nurse when one becomes available.