Working in the NICU

Eye-opening hospital work experience
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Newborns needing urgent medical attention are transferred to a specialist area of the hospital called the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) for urgent care. Typically, infants are admitted to the NICU if they have low birth weight, are premature, or they are born with a medical condition that requires special attention. Babies born with serious medical conditions such as birth defects, infections and heart problems are also moved to the neonatal intensive care unit to receive treatment under the care of specialist paediatric physicians and NICU nurses.

Working in the NICU: Challenging But Also Highly Rewarding

Working in this field often means caring for critically ill infants. Newborn babies are some of the most fragile patients. They do not have fully developed systems and can become physiologically unstable at any time. The most minor anomaly at birth or immediately after birth can put them on the critical list.

NICU nurses work in a fast-paced, challenging and an adrenaline-pumping environment. It can be an emotional roller coaster, with high highs and low lows. There’s nothing as satisfying as celebrating when a newborn stabilises and is allowed to go home. On the other hand, there is nothing as devastating as coming to terms that there is nothing more you can do to save an infant’s life.

Your main responsibility in this role would be to monitor and provide comprehensive medical care for all infants admitted to the NICU.

Some of your tasks may include:

  • Checking vital signs and monitoring infants’ heart rate, blood pressure and oxygen levels
  • Performing necessary tests and administering medications as recommended by the specialist paediatrician
  • Maintaining charts that record your patients’ progress

Being ever-vigilant is absolutely crucial as a newborn’s condition can change in the blink of an eye.

Educating patients’ families, giving them regular updates and providing emotional support also form an integral part of your responsibilities.

Essential academic & non-academic requirements for the job

NICU nursing is a highly advanced speciality. Before you can specialise in this field you will have to first successfully complete a registered nurse programme and obtain a Bachelor’s degree or an Associate’s degree in nursing. You will then have to gain some experience working in a general paediatrics area or an ICU setting. Very few establishments will hire a freshly graduated RN to work in this highly fast paced and complex speciality.

After you’ve had some experience in general paediatrics or an ICU setting, you will be provided with 6 to 8 weeks on-the-job training. Training is usually provided by experienced RNs who have had solid NICU experience.

In addition to having the necessary qualifications and training, there are also a few attributes that are essential for anyone who wishes to work in this highly specialised field.

  • A caring and compassionate nature
  • Emotional maturity
  • Pay careful attention to detail
  • Critical thinking and sound decision-making abilities
  • Ability to work quickly and accurately under pressure
  • Excellent communication skills
  • Have well-developed stress management skills
  • Willing to study continuously to stay updated on latest studies and discoveries in the field

If you have what it takes, exploring the highly rewarding career opportunities of the NICU might just be for you. Spending some time shadowing a NICU nurse either in a hospital near you or at a medical placement is a great way to make an informed decision about whether or not this is the right career path for you.

Chat with us on Facebook or Twitter, or email info@gapmedics.com

Gap Medics provides year-round hospital work experience for people aged 16 and over. Our shadowing placements offer a unique insight into the work of doctors, nurses, midwives and dentists – helping students to focus their career aspirations before embarking upon medical training.

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