The NICU, or neonatal intensive care unit, is the temporary home to newborn babies who need specialized medical care. These babies may be premature, born before the 37th week of pregnancy, very ill, or have birth defects of various types. Babies who need oxygen, special monitoring or IVs are also often in the NICU.
Taking care of these fragile babies is a well-trained team of experts headed by neonatologists as well as specially trained nurse practitioners and nurses. Aiding them are dieticians, occupational therapists, chaplains, lactation consultants, respiratory therapists, and of course, NICU nursing assistants. The NICU presents many challenges as well as rewards that differ greatly from other units.
Less Physically Demanding
Many hospital nurses go home each night physically worn out from the strain of lifting patients and transferring them to and from beds, gurneys and wheelchairs. In the NICU, however, your patients weigh a few pounds at the most, and you’ll spend much more time observing monitors than lifting and hauling.
When you become a NICU nursing assistant, you don’t have to worry about whether your job is secure. The job outlook for nurses and nursing assistants in general is strong, and NICU nursing assistants are highly in demand. The job also offers career growth, since it’s relatively easy to acquire the additional training and certification to move up the nursing ladder.
Many NICU nurses find that the emotional stresses of caring for potentially endangered newborns are balanced by the incredible rewards of nursing those babies to health, as well as sharing the joy with the baby’s parents when they take their children home. In addition, many neonatal nurses bond closely, forming close relationships with one another that provide emotional support.
Working in a NICU is an extremely high-pressure job. The NICU nursing staff is responsible for the lives of tiny, unstable babies, and you may be required to leap into crisis mode at any moment. Even healthy babies can suddenly become critically ill, and babies in the NICU are much more likely to develop complications or fall into a coma without warning. You’re also prone to pick up stress from the babies’ parents, who are often at the end of their nerves as they worry about their newborns dying.
Caring for neonates requires a great deal of precision, and any mistake made could have a drastic, negative effect on the baby in question. NICU care also requires making difficult decisions, since it’s not always clear what treatment is best for the babies, especially in a crisis situation.
Parents of NICU babies bring a lot of stress with them every time they come in to the unit — and some of them want to stay there around the clock. As a NICU nursing assistant, you may sometimes feel as if those parents are your second set of patients. You can expect them to make sometimes unreasonable demands on you, and they may often inadvertently try to transfer their own stress to you.
If you’re considering becoming a NICU nursing assistant, you’re likely to feel the pros far outweigh the cons of the job. Take the next step by learning more about the training required to become a NICU nursing assistant. Visit our website at: www.woodruffmedical.edu/programs/nursing-assistant.