How To Become a NICU Nurse (Step By Step Guidelines)

What Is a NICU Nurse?What Is a NICU Nurse

A NICU nurse is a neonatal nurse, with the primary duty of care. Care in the sense that they have a special duty to provide care (as do all nurses).

To better clarify, the neonatal nurses (also known as NICU nurses) are a special class of nurses; that provide care primarily for babies that are either sick from birth or premature.

In other words, these nurses have the sole duty of ensuring that they take proper care of babies who fall into this category.

Their workstation is the intensive care unit, always on the lookout for babies that cannot survive without immediate extra care.


What Does A NICU Nurse Do?

Like I said when was defining or rather, explaining who a NICU nurse is, the neonatal nurses are a team of nurses dedicated to taking care of sick babies and premature babies.

It would be prudent to know how they care for these babies. They also care for babies with heart deformations, infections as well as congenital disabilities.

What Does a NICU Nurse Do

The NICU nurses are responsible for these babies for weeks, sometimes even months, until the babies are healthy again.

They are semi-midwives, of some sort, because they provide the care their mothers couldn’t provide, given to the fact that the care needed here is of a professional nature, and leaving the baby alone with the mother, inevitably spells doom for the child.

An in-depth analysis was carried out as to the number of babies that suffer from sickness, resulting from the low birth rate or the fact that the child was born immature and premature.

A total of 400,000 babies yearly have been recorded as being born with a low weight rate in the United States of America alone. Thanks to these NICU nurses, there has been a drastic reduction in the mortality rate of these babies, because these nurses are trained and skilled in how to deal with the problem. You will know that these nurses are working when you look at the progress made; it is ten times better than the progress made 10 to 15 years back.

Steps To Become A NICU Nurse

Becoming a NICU nurse or practitioner is no easy task; you have to go through the requisite and necessary schools to attaining a degree in nursing.

The task includes picking up a form, applying for either program as will be explained presently, passing with a cut off mark and going through the training. Some of the programs include;

Steps To Become A NICU Nurse

Nursing Education


The diploma program is a sort of postgraduate program for persons who may wish to advance his or medical knowledge. To do the diploma program, you’ll need to have a 50 credit point, a part-time, clinical coursework program, which has a duration of one year.

To get admitted, you must have either a bachelor degree in nursing or any other degree that is its equivalent. If neither of these qualifications is present, then the student can present some evidence that he or she has some acute experience in the medical caretaking, within five years.  The students of the diploma program do four courses with a 12.5 credit point each, and this will run for a year.

The course is mainly theoretical, with an online and sometimes a face to face study with the lecturers, or during visits to the hospitals. If you’re lucky enough to be put in a student employing hospital, you’ll stand the chance of learning more, because the students get to practice the theoretical aspect of caretaking.


Getting an associate degree in nursing is good because it only goes to show the level of knowledge you are striving to attain. You tend to have a more solid career when you have an associate degree in nursing, or any health-related field you may find yourself. Entry-level nurses and aspiring NICU nurses usually purchase the associate degree forms.

The ADN is a two or three year (depending on the institution) curriculum, where the students get to enhance their learning, not only in nursing but also liberal arts.  When you complete the ADN program, the next step will be to go for the national licensing exams (the NCLEX-RN), which will be a determining factor, as to whether you’ll practice or not.

For those who are not yet ready to do the course in college, as coursework can do the associate degree in nursing program. This course is reducing the workload and specializes in the aspect of nursing alone, which helps the student to understand better.


The bachelor degree in nursing is the main way to get the degree in nursing. It is a very straightforward program that deals mainly with training students in nursing and how to pass the licensing and certification exams. So how do you get a degree in nursing?

The first is to attend a school of nursing and do the nursing program, which will run for about four years. During the years you will be taught the basic principles of nursing and how to be a good caretaker, but you’ll not have an in-depth knowledge of the NICU nursing profession. The profession on its own is a distinct profession so that even though you are already a registered nurse, you’ll need to have a certificate in Neonatal nursing.


Getting masters in nursing would only mean that you want to pursue the career of nursing as not only in the practical aspects but also the theoretical aspects, with aims of breaking the bounds of the knowledge.

For you gain admission into the MSN program, you’ll have to be a graduate of the BSN program. The master’s program is a special program that focuses mainly on women health and oncology. The program is a two-year program that provides nurses with a gateway to developing their nursing careers.

The MSN gives most nurses the credentials they may need to go into specialized professional practice. There are not so many RN programs that can give way to MSN programs, but that doesn’t deter the RNs to apply for the MSN program.


Getting a doctorate in any profession is the pinnacle, apex, or zenith of any career. Doctoring a profession is one of how solutions have been proffered to the problems that were surrounding the field.

There are two kinds of doctorate programs applicable in the US; the doctorate in the nursing program and the Ph.D. program. Either way, the idea that constitutes the doctor’s degree is, in fact, an elaboration of the principles in the master’s program.

Get a License

Getting a nursing license is nothing fancy, but you’ll need to get some things in place. Some of the requirements for getting a nursing license will normally include;

  • You must graduate or show compelling evidence that verifies that you have completed the course and are in fact eligible for graduation, from an institution, approved by the state, or government.
  •  You must have taken and passed the NCLEX examination. This examination determines whether or not you will be a nurse.
  •  You must, by yourself, self-report all criminal convictions you may have if you have any dependence on a chemical substance. If you do not personally report this fact and they are found out by the agency themselves, they may refuse to give you License.

Get Neonatal Experience

Getting the Neonatal experience doesn’t come with the bachelor degree in the nursing package. Being a bachelor or bachelorette in nursing doesn’t necessarily mean that you are a certified neonatal nurse; you have to get the experience, one way or another.

So, therefore, you’ll have to get neonatal training, which will either involving getting a degree in associate nursing or a diploma in neonatal nursing.

However it may be, without having a neonatal experience, no hospital will employ, owing to the delicate and sensitive nature of the job. So getting the experience is essential if you ever want to be certified as a NICU nurse

Get Certified

Getting certified is very easy. In fact, once you have gone through the process of being a registered nurse because you have to be a registered nurse, for you to be a NICU nurse, then the next step will be to do an affiliate course like an associate program or a diploma program for a period of 2 to 3 years.

This experience helps you to get acquainted with the intricacies of neonatal experience. When you have received the neonatal experience, then you can now apply for the NICU certification.

This certification proves that you are in fact a certified NICU nurse and you can then receive employment as a NICU nurse in any hospital or institute, that has a NICU unit.

You’ll need to do a certification exam, but it is not necessary, it only helps to boost your chances of getting a NICU nursing job a lot faster.

Keys To Success As A NICU Nurse

Keys to Success as a NICU NurseBecoming a NICU nurse is a little tricky and somewhat confusing. It does have to do with acquiring the skill alone you have to possess some traits that are common in this field of work.

To be a neurosurgeon, you have to have stable hands, becoming a lawyer means, having the boldness and confidence to stand before any crowd. Well so is being a NICU nurse.

You have to possess, some traits, be it natural or learned, it has to be something you have and can do well. Right about now, I’ll be laying down some salient keys an intending NICU nurse will need to succeed in the field of NICU nursing.

  1.  Caring

Being a neonatal nurse naturally means being caring. It doesn’t matter how you acquire this nature, either naturally or by learning. All the same, it doesn’t matter, all that matters is the nurse has the well being of the baby at heart.

Like I was saying in the introduction, it is pertinent that if you want to go into the profession of nursing, that you must have a caring and kind disposition. Some people might be wondering how being caring affects the work you do?

Well being caring and having compassion for the babies, to a long extent, makes the work just bearable but enjoyable. Plus it brings out the motherly instincts in you

  1. Good Communication Skills

Some persons may take this for granted, but the nurse is a mediator, a sort of middleman, for the doctor and the parents. They are the ones to relay the information about the health of the babies to the parents and also updating the doctor on the progress of the baby. Thus good communication is an indispensable tool for the NICU nurses.

They are responsible for communicating with parents using terms they can understand, the issues their infants may be facing, and telling them ways in which they can treat and mitigate the damage.

Aside from telling the parents of the problems their kids may be facing, they also have to do that with patience, especially when the parents are stressed out and erratic.

  1. The feature of Stability

Working in the medical profession has a level of emotionality to it. Some people even believe it is the most emotional job on the planet, making it all the harder, requiring all the level of rationality and restraint on the part of the nurses.

Being an emotional job, nurses may get emotionally attached to an infant, which might, in turn, affect their judgment. So it is therefore very pertinent that they need to be emotionally stable and rational.

  1. Having the ability to think critically

The last on the keys of being a successful NICU nurse is that you must be able to think critically. Always try to salvage the situation, no matter how dire it may look or sound. The thing with newborn babies is that they are very delicate and prone to having infections.

When this happens, nurses of this specialty must be able to handle the situation with prowess and wisdom. They need to be able to respond to an emergency with all the necessary speed need to properly care and attend to that need.

Salary Range For NICU Nurses

The annual salaries of a nurse vary on different grounds. First off, you will have to look at the position of the nurse, their ranking, their certificates (and the number of years they might have worked, in some cases).

However, notwithstanding that the salary may also vary from one hospital to another, the US government has tried as much as possible to try and maintain a stable salary range for all the NICU nurses, which is naturally dependent on the nurse’s levels. We’ll now look at the various pay ranges for all the nurses in the business.

Salary Range For NICU Nurses

According to the BLS data, an average median nurse annual salary is about $72,180. The rule of thumb behind this pay is that all the nurses, just as much as possible, be paid the same amount of salary, and if there is a difference, then it is a slight one.

Now like I was saying, the salary usually varies, but this time it may be dependent on the source of information. Meaning, every website has a percentage as to the amount of salary a NICU nurse collects.

According to scrubs; this is an online nursing site, they estimate the salary of the NICU nurse to be roughly about $74,000, owing to the specialty of the particular profession.

According to Payscale, a New York online salary scale, they estimate that the annual salary of the average median nurse is about $91,457, but I won’t take their analysis in a rush, it far above the national average annual pay to these workers.

Whatever the pay, one thing is certain, because of the precarious and very delicate nature of the job, NICU workers have to be paid so much so they can not only be motivated but properly taken care of, by the government.

Find The Best NICU Nurse Jobs?

Find The Best NICU Nurse Jobs
Find NICU Nurse Jobs

The NICU nursing career is taking a turn for the better, in that not only is it a rewarding job, both in cash and emotion, it is also fulfilling, plus it gives the nurses a sense of parenthood.

Because of this, many people decide to go into the field of neonatal nursing. Because this field needs so many hands, there are so many places you can find the job. I’ll go on ahead to list some of the best NICU nursing centers.

The best opportunities where you can get the NICU nursing job is in a large hospital, where they have the NICU department, with level 2 and three care.

Some large hospitals include:

There are the professional educator nursing NICU services at Atlanta, Georgia

You can also apply for a NICU nursing Job at the registered nurses – neonatal ICU/NICU, over at Dallas city.

There is also an opening at the critical care RN trainee: burn/ Critical care/ED/labor and delivery/ NICU/OR/PACU, located at Bernardino County, at CA.

There is also the RN Special Care Nursery NICU, where you can apply as a NICU nurse. You can find the institute at Northside Hospital, Cumming, GA

Last on my list will be the registered nurses-NICU-Wolfson Children’s Hospital, over at Baptist health, all the way in Jacksonville, FL 32207

For more information on how to get a job on NICU nursing online, you can search online, type in “Find the Best NICU Nurse Jobs” and you’re good to go.

Bottom Line

So many people know the joy they derive from being in the field or profession they love, that same joy can also be felt in the NICU nursing profession.

It is not easy to get a diploma in nursing, talk less of a master, Ph.D. or even a normal degree in nursing, but when you do, you find that it is a rewarding profession and that people who are in that field appreciate the nature of the job.

Being a job with so many do’s and don’ts it is pertinent that you understand the basic requirements, (other than the certification of course), which will be care, communication, emotional stability and critical thinking.

Last Updated on January 1, 2023