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Neonatal Nursing

This page describes the role of a neonatal nurse, and provides some information on entry requirements, skills and training.

Neonatal nursing  - role of a neonatal nurse

Neonatal nurses work either within specialist neonatal units (within maternity or children’s hospitals) or in the community.

Neonatal nurses care for new-born babies who are premature or are born sick. There are a vast number of conditions that can affect a new-born baby and require treatment from specialists within the multidisciplinary healthcare team.

Premature babies have particular problems as a result of being born too soon, in particular problems as a result of being born too soon such as respiratory difficulties that can be life threatening if not treated promptly and appropriately by the specialist team. Likewise, the nutritional needs of the sick newborn and premature babies will require specialist care.

The neonatal nurse also has the important role of supporting the parents of the baby at a time when they themselves are very anxious and stressed. As far as possible, the parents and occasionally other family members are encouraged to take an active role in the care of the baby.

Entry requirements

Registered adult and children’s nurses as well as midwives can work in this specialism. Normally after a period of six months, nurses and midwives would be encouraged to undertake continuing professional development.


Neonatal nurses require:

  • very good interpersonal skills
  • an empathetic understanding for the parents and other family members
  • an interest in new-born babies
  • a good understanding of the physiological and psychological needs of the new-born
  • the competence to work in a highly technical area
  • the ability to work effectively within a multi-disciplinary team.


Neonatal nursing programmes are part of continuing professional development. They normally contain a range of modules, which specialise in different aspects of neonatal nursing.

Programmes are delivered in partnership with local higher education institutions and health care trusts and may be available on-line giving the opportunity for distance learning.

Funding for training

Financial support is normally available through the continuing professional development budget within each healthcare trust.

Career prospects

There is currently a shortage of staff working as neonatal nurses. There are several routes for neonatal nurses to further their careers. These include opportunities in management, education, research and advanced practice. There are also opportunities to work as consultant nurses.

This article was originally published by NHS Careers