A neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) registered nurse specializes in the care of newborn babies that are premature or have an illness/other issues that require intensive care. They are part of the team of providers caring for the infant and must work with doctors, certified nurses assistants, and other nurses within the NICU. These nurses are trained to work with three classes of neonatal care; class III is the most severe and usually comprises the newborns in the neonatal intensive care units. An NICU registered nurse often also provides care to the families of their newborn patient. This care can be informal or formal in nature, and it usually is in the form of emotional support and providing information on the care the newborn is receiving. Newborns need around-the-clock care, so NICU registered nurses may work a variety of shifts, both day and night, that may vary from eight to 16 hours long. NICU registered nurses may work in public and private hospitals.
An NICU registered nurse, at minimum, holds an associate's degree in nursing, although many registered nurses hold bachelor's degrees in nursing. To become a neonatal intensive care unit registered nurse, most hospitals prefer that the registered nurse had previously chosen to specialize in any available neonatal care classes during their education. A nurse is required to pass a licensing examination before practicing as a registered nurse. Commonly, a registered nurse works for at least one year before they work in the NICU.