Masters in Nursing Neonatal
There are two options for advanced practice nursing in this field: nurse practitioner and clinical nurse specialist. The Masters in Nursing Neonatal Specialist may hold a degree in either area. Neonatal nursing is in turn a specialization of pediatrics focused on the health concerns for newborns and to an extent, their mothers. A neonatal nurse becomes adept at making quick diagnoses for infants who are hours old and may just beginning to exhibit health problems or symptoms. Neonatal nurses also have been trained to manage the special equipment used to support premature babies or newborns that are having respiratory or cardiovascular problems. There are several medical areas where newborns may have initial difficulties that clear up as the baby grows stronger and older, but that must be managed carefully in those crucial first hours and days.
Many graduates with a Masters in Nursing/Neonatal Specialist degree work in a neonatal intensive care unit or NICU. These special critical care units are highly sanitized and filled with monitors, diagnostic equipment and cribs that are called incubators, or open warmers, for the infants. The babies can be isolated from possible infection, treated with special feeding equipment, and helped with their breathing by several types of respiratory support devices. NICU nurses work their shifts in scrubs and masks, much as if they are in an operating room. Working with tiny patients requires sanitary conditions and for the professionals, steady hands with a delicate touch.
There are a few nurse practitioner programs with neonatal specialization available online. The field requires several hundred clinical hours, meaning supervised hours in a NICU working as a student nurse practitioner. Nurses who enroll in an online program are responsible for making their own arrangements for those clinical hours at an approved facility. Usually the management of the specialized equipment found in a NICU is learned during the clinical practicum; for that reason it is an especially important component of the academic requirements. Learning to work with premature infants requires hands on experience, but the classes associated with this branch of medicine work well in an online format.