What does a NICU Nurse Do? Roles and Responsibilities

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NICU nurses specialise in caring for premature and critically ill newborn infants, monitoring vital signs, administering medications, and providing respiratory support. NICU nurses also assist with feeding, assess developmental milestones, educate parents, collaborate with healthcare teams, offer emotional support, and maintain a sterile environment to ensure the well-being of vulnerable newborns.

Roles and Responsibilities of a NICU Nurse

  • Monitoring Vital Signs: NICU nurses continuously monitor the vital signs of newborns, including heart rate, respiratory rate, blood pressure, and oxygen saturation levels.
  • Administering Medications: They administer medications as prescribed by physicians, often through various routes such as intravenous, oral, or respiratory.
  • Feeding Assistance: NICU nurses assist with feeding premature infants, whether through breastfeeding, bottle feeding, or tube feeding, ensuring that they receive the necessary nutrients for growth and development.
  • Providing Respiratory Support: They may be responsible for managing and monitoring respiratory support equipment, such as ventilators or continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machines, to help newborns breathe properly.
  • Assessing Developmental Milestones: NICU nurses monitor the developmental progress of premature infants, tracking milestones and addressing any developmental delays or concerns.
  • Educating Parents: They provide education and support to parents regarding the care of their newborns, including feeding techniques, medication administration, and recognizing signs of distress.
  • Collaborating with Healthcare Team: NICU nurses work closely with neonatologists, pediatricians, respiratory therapists, and other healthcare professionals to develop and implement comprehensive care plans for newborns.
  • Emotional Support: They offer emotional support to parents and families, helping them cope with the stress and uncertainty that often accompany having a newborn in the NICU.

Specialised Skills and Training

NICU nurses possess a deep understanding of neonatal physiology and development, undergo rigorous training in neonatal resuscitation and emergency care, and demonstrate proficiency in operating critical medical equipment like ventilators and incubators . These specialised skills and training equip them to provide comprehensive care for premature and critically ill newborns in intensive care settings, ensuring their well-being and stability.


What does NICU stand for?

NICU stands for Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. It's a specialised unit in hospitals that provides intensive medical care for newborn infants, particularly those who are premature or have serious medical conditions.

What does a NICU nurse do?

NICU nurses provide round-the-clock care for premature or critically ill newborns in the NICU. Their duties include monitoring vital signs, administering medications, feeding infants through tubes or specialised methods, providing emotional support to families, and collaborating with other healthcare professionals to develop and implement care plans.

What qualifications do NICU nurses need?

NICU nurses typically need to have a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree, although some may enter the field with an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN). They must also pass the NCLEX-RN exam to become licensed registered nurses. Many NICU nurses pursue additional certifications in neonatal nursing to demonstrate their expertise in the field.

What are some common conditions treated in the NICU?

Some common conditions treated in the NICU include prematurity, respiratory distress syndrome, infections, congenital anomalies, jaundice, and neurological disorders. NICU nurses are trained to care for infants with a wide range of medical needs.

Is working in the NICU emotionally challenging?

Yes, working in the NICU can be emotionally challenging due to the high-stakes nature of caring for critically ill infants and the emotional toll it can take on families. NICU nurses must cope with stress, grief, and uncertainty while maintaining professionalism and providing compassionate care.