The Pros and Cons of a Career as a Neonatal Nurse

Neonatal nursing is one of the most in-demand sub-specialties in nursing. With over forty thousand babies each year born with low birth weight and other health issues, the demand for nurses with the unique knowledge and skills to treat these vulnerable infants is on the rise.  Neonatal nursing can also be a highly rewarding career choice where you can make a huge difference to young lives and new parents, enjoy several career advancement opportunities, and a great career outlook. If you are considering this profession, here are some pros and cons to be aware of. 

The Pros:

What’s good about working as a neonatal nurse? Some of the main pros of this job include:

  • Less Physically Demanding:

If you’d like a job as a nurse but would rather avoid the more physically demanding aspects of the job such as helping grown adults in and out of bed, neonatal nursing could be the ideal choice for you. It is often less physically demanding compared to many other nursing fields since you are dealing with tiny newborn babies rather than grown adults. Neonatal nurses spend less time compared to other nurses transferring and moving their patients, and spend more time carefully monitoring and observing them. 

  • Great Career Opportunities:

Neonatal nursing is a highly specialized field of nursing, so there are definitely plenty of career advancement opportunities that you can take advantage of when working as a registered nurse in this field. Neonatal nurses have a wide range of opportunities that will allow them to advance their careers whether they would like more responsibility achievable through the neonatal nurse practitioner programs from Baylor University or want to get a doctorate in nursing that will allow them to teach the future generations of nursing students, work as a nurse manager and much more. 

  • Awesome Job Outlook:

Nurses have a very positive outlook right now regardless of the field of specialization. The nationwide nursing shortage means that neonatal nurses are in very high demand, meaning that you can be sure to find work wherever you go. With over three hundred thousand babies born around the world on a daily basis, finding work as a nurse in this field is certainly not difficult. And when it comes to salaries, neonatal nurses earn a very generous average annual salary of more than $65k. As a neonatal nurse practitioner, you could expect to earn even more at an average of just over $125k annually. 

  • Satisfying and Rewarding Work:

While every type of nursing can be very rewarding and satisfying since you are using your time to help other people in their time of need, there is something special about knowing that you were instrumental in helping babies get the best start in life. It can be extremely rewarding to know that you played a part in helping a vulnerable and sick baby grow up to be a healthy and happy child that brings joy to their parents. Nurses working with babies have a very emotionally fulfilling and rewarding job. 

The Cons:

It might seem that there’s little not to like about being a neonatal nurse, but every career has some downsides to be aware of. For this field, consider:

  • Specialized Skills Required:

Since working with newborn babies is very different to working with fully grown adults, nurses in this field will be required to have a lot of specialized skills on top of their general nursing knowledge and skills. As a nurse you’ll know just how important it is to get everything right when you are working with any patient, but the stakes are even higher when you are caring for newborn babies since even the tiniest of errors could have a huge effect. Babies are also unable to tell you what they are feeling at the time, so it’s important for nurses in this field to have strong observational skills and be able to make good judgement when dealing with patients who are unable to communicate verbally with them. 

  • Ethical Dilemmas:

For neonatal nurses, ethics are a crucial issue with many nurses in this field often dealing with unclear ethical dilemmas that might leave you feeling torn and heartbroken. In some cases, for example, it might be necessary to switch off life support for a very sick baby, which can be heart-wrenching news to give to any new parent as the neonatal nurse. It is not always possible to save all of your patients no matter how much you wish you could, and this can be one of the toughest parts of the job

  • It’s Demanding:

While there might not be as many physical demands compared to nursing jobs where you’re helping adult patients move around, working with babies is certainly not a less demanding job. Babies can often be very unpredictable and sometimes develop complications out of the blue, which coupled with the fact that they cannot communicate with you, means that you always have to be on high alert and aware of what is going on with your patients at all times so that you can act quickly when needed. 

  • It Can Be Stressful:

Working as a nurse with newborn babies can be emotionally taxing and stressful, since they can be unpredictable patients and you’ll also be dealing with your own natural instincts around tiny helpless humans who are relying on you for their care. You might deal with patients that suddenly develop complications even though they appeared to be getting better and stronger not very long ago, for example, which can be stressful to deal with when this type of situation happens with no warning. Along with your patients, you will also need to be there for their parents, who are understandably going to be scared, anxious, and upset. As a neonatal nurse, you’ll need to be a strong and compassionate person who can perform very well under a lot of pressure. 

Neonatal nurses have a huge responsibility of caring for vulnerable newborn babies who need medical attention. The job can be hugely rewarding, but it’s important to know exactly what it entails before deciding if it’s right for you. 

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