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Neonatal Nurse: Educational Requirements for a Neonatal Nursing Career

Neonatal nurses are registered nurses who provide care for newborns. They work with doctors and other members of the medical staff to ensure that babies are healthy. This may include administering medications, performing tests and recording vitals. Requirements include completing postsecondary educational programs in nursing and earning a nursing license.

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Educational Requirements for a Neonatal Nurse

The National League for Nursing Accrediting Commission (NLNAC) accredits nursing programs at all levels (www.nlnac.org). This organization is recognized by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN) and the U.S. Department of Education (www.ncsbn.org). According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, all states require graduation from an NLNAC-accredited program to become a licensed nurse (www.bls.gov).

Bachelor's Degree Programs

Neonatal nurses first need to complete a Bachelor's of Science in Nursing (BSN) program. BSN programs usually require students to complete their non-nursing requirements in the first two years. Aside from enrolling in general education courses, students must complete math and science requirements that include statistics, microbiology, anatomy and physiology.

The nursing track includes professional experience and lecture-based learning. Courses cover topics in pharmacology, human responses and healthcare delivery. In addition to nursing techniques and concepts, BSN programs also cover specific areas of nursing, such as administering care to families and infants. Programs include extensive experience in clinical settings under the supervision of licensed nurses and other health professionals.

To become license registered nurses (RNs), graduates of a BSN program must pass the National Council Licensure Examination for RNs (NCLEX-RN), administered by the NCSBN (National Council for State Boards of Nursing). The NCLEX-RN tests individuals in broad subject areas, including health maintenance, infection control and pharmacological therapies. The eligibility requirements to sit for the NCLEX-RN vary by state and prospective test-takers should check with their state nursing board.

Master's Degree Programs

RNs with a BSN may go on to a master's program to become neonate nurse practitioners. These programs prepare students for working in delivery rooms and caring for neonates. The curriculums cover common illnesses and treatments in the neonatal area and include clinical rotations in neonatal units. Students are prepared to work in a family practice or intensive care.

Nurses with a master's degree in nursing may enroll in a certificate program to train nurse practitioners to work with critically ill neonates. Applicants must have a master's in nursing, as well as experience working in a critical care unit for neonates.

Graduate of a neonatal nurse practitioner program may seek certification from the National Certification Corporation. Graduates may also take their state's certification exam.

Career Outlook and Salary Information

Demand for registered nurses is expected to increase by 26% between 2010 and 2020, based on data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The BLS projects the field of registered nursing will see 711,900 new jobs during this decade. In May 2012, registered nurses earned a median salary of $65,470, and the median salary for nurse practitioners was $89,960, according to the BLS.

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