What is a NICU Nurse?

NICU nurse + job description + duties and responsibilities + neonatal nurse

A NICU nurse is a medical professional with specialized skills in caring for newborn infants who are either premature or born with congenital deformities and life-threatening illnesses.

NICU nurses work within a specialty area and are part of a multi-disciplinary team. In the US, the first neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) was established at the Yale-New Haven Hospital in 1960. Since then, NICU nurses have gradually formed a specialized field that cares for infants who are in the first 28 days of life.


NICU Nurse: Job Description

Today, the terms “NICU nurse” and “neonatal nurse” are used interchangeably. A NICU nurse cares for the needs of newborn infants who require strict medical attention while neonatal nurses are RNs trained to care for neonates regardless of their condition.

NICU nurses are registered nurses who have earned a diploma, baccalaureate, master’s or doctoral degree. Most NICU nurses work under the supervision of a physician. On the other hand, advanced practice nurses like neonatal clinical nurse specialists (CNSs) often act as consultants, educators, administrators, or researchers.

NICU nurses are trained to provide round-the-clock Nursing care to premature infants or babies with serious birth defects, delivery complications, or other life-threatening conditions. They provide basic as well as advanced infant care such as changing of dressings/diapers, administration of intravenous (IV) fluids, giving of specialized feedings, and management of ventilators among others.



NICU Nurse: Duties and Responsibilities


Basic and advanced infant care procedures: NICU nurses are expected to be adept in performing basic Nursing procedures such vital signs taking & monitoring; accurate documentation/charting; cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) for newborn infants; and the ability to start and terminate an intravenous (IV) line.

Since newborn infants only require a fraction of an adult’s medication dose, NICU nurses should also know how to perform accurate drug dose calculations. In addition to that, NICU nurses must also know how to use and adjust complex and specialized equipment like ventilators and incubators.


Interpersonal skills: As part of the health care team, NICU nurses are also responsible for coordinating all the medical procedures and treatments given to the patients. They assist physicians during treatments and communicate regularly with other members of the team during the entire shift.

NICU nurses also take into account the needs of the parents and other family members by building rapport with them and helping them lessen their anxiety.


NICU nurses literally hold the lives of their critically-ill patients on their hands. Thus, it’s not unusual to see neonatal nurses working in 12-hour shifts, day in and day out.

It’s a very challenging field with an above-average salary range to boot. If you have the heart and passion to care for newborn infants, and willing to go the extra mile to help them recover from their conditions, a career in NICU Nursing may be the right fit for you.