What is the Nicu, and What Role Do Nurses Play Within It?

Source: verywellfamily.com

Nearly 11,000 babies are born in the United States each day. Some parents opt for home birthing services offered by doulas and midwives, but those are rare. Most babies are born in hospitals under the supervision of doctors and nurses.

After they are born, some infants require immediate medical care. It may be because they were born prematurely, have a birth defect or a condition like underdeveloped organs, are ill, were born to an addicted parent, or endured a difficult birth. They are often placed in the NICU, or neonatal intensive care unit.

The NICU is a section of the hospital that is equipped and staffed to care for these babies. Most large hospitals have a NICU that cares for babies born within it and from other admitting facilities.

As you venture into nursing, you may want to focus on neonatal care and become a neonatal nurse practitioner – the Louise Herrington School of Nursing Online at Baylor University provides the ideal pathway with its DNP-NNP program. Neonatal nurse practitioners are highly trained and will have already gained a BSN and some years of experience. You will need to complete a doctor of nursing practice (DNP) that covers topics like embryology and developmental physiology, advanced neonatal nursing management, and high-risk and critically ill newborns and infants

You will be expected to gain some clinical experience as well, and if you enroll in a good university, they will organize your placement and supervision.

After you complete your course and get employed, you may be posted to work within a NICU. You will have specific roles that include but are not limited to the following:

Resolve complex issues that arise within the NICU

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Caring for sick infants is not easy, and complex issues often arise. The NICU nurse is trained to spot them and solve them right away.

Assist doctors and obstetricians within the NICU

Every baby in the NICU needs treatment, and the nurse works with doctors to make sure that it is delivered.

Supervise junior nurses within the ward

The NICU nurse is highly trained, and one of their roles is to supervise younger and less experienced nurses to make sure that they do their job properly. They not only train them but also assign them duties and responsibilities within the ward.

Change feeding tubes

Some babies are born without the ability to feed normally, and doctors use tubes to ensure they get proper nutrition. The NICU nurse makes sure that these tubes are correctly placed and changes them as needed.

Monitor infant status and progress

When babies are put in the ICU, they are monitored constantly to make sure that they do not deteriorate and that they are meeting their progress and developmental markers.

The NICU nurse plays a critical role in monitoring, and if there is any cause for concern, they discuss it with the doctor and decide what action should be taken.

Comfort and guide parents

It isn’t easy for parents who have a newborn child in the ICU. It can be a time of great anxiety, depression, and hopelessness.

The NICU nurse talks to every parent who has a child in their ward to comfort and encourage them, as well as apprise them of the progress of their baby.

Feed babies

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Babies in these wards need to be fed several times a day, and the NICU nurse makes sure that they are getting nutrition as prescribed by the doctor.

As they feed these babies, they talk to them, touch and comfort them. It is widely believed that the more contact a baby has with a comforting adult, the better they do.

Change diapers

NICU nurses clean babies and change their diapers, making sure they are comfortable.

Rock babies to sleep and teach them regular sleep patterns

Newborn babies have a hard time falling asleep, but with the right care and training, they can regularize their sleep patterns. NICU nurses play a role in this because they are present most of the time.

Depending on how much time they spend in the hospital ICU, by the time they go home, most babies can sleep for a few hours without waking.

Create nursing plans

The NICU nurse is assisted by junior nurses, and it is his job to create schedules or nursing plans so that there is a medic present in the ward at all times.


As soon as babies are developed and well enough, they are discharged into the care of their parents. The NICU nurse is in charge of the process and makes sure that both parents and babies have everything they need for proper care when they get home.

How busy is an NICU nurse?

Source: allnursingschools.com

If you end up working in a big hospital, you can expect to be rather busy. Many mothers give birth there every day, and you will get babies admitted to your ward every few days.

Nurses in places with high rates of drug and alcohol addiction also have busy days in the NICU. Babies who are born to addicted mothers almost always need specialized care.

You will also be quite busy if you work in a hospital that takes in babies from smaller hospitals. Because they don’t have the right equipment and trained neonatal nurses, small hospitals rely on the services of the bigger ones, which have what it takes to make infants well.

You must make some time to relax and detach when you can. Make sure to get enough sleep, catch up with family and friends, and if you have a hobby, take some time to attend to it.

Make sure that you eat a balanced diet and get some exercise so that you have enough stamina to attend to the babies in your ward.


NICU nursing is a rewarding profession for those who enjoy working with babies and would like to help them when it matters most – right at the beginning.

You can become a NICU nurse by building on the qualifications you already have. If you enroll in a doctor of nursing course, you will have the skills to work in any NICU in America.