4 things you may not know about NICU nurses


Maybe it’s wishful thinking, but sometimes it’s hard not to picture neonatal nurses leaning back in a rocker, baby in arm, just cuddling the day away.

Unfortunately, that’s just not the whole picture.


Here are a few things you may not know about nurses in Neonatal Intensive Care Units (NICU):

1. NICU nurses care for critically ill and premature babies.

Specifically, they care for premature babies born before 37 weeks’ gestation and for full-term babies who have issues with low blood sugar, feeding or breathing. NICU nurses also are skilled at caring for babies who require resuscitation after delivery – about 1% of all babies born – or who are born with an anomaly of some kind.

NICU nurses assess babies’ vital signs, document and make sure babies are fed breast milk or specialty formulas, and are gaining weight appropriately. They also administer medication and develop care plans for babies based on their needs. NICU nurses help intubate and care for babies on ventilators, start IVs, provide supplemental oxygen and perform other interventions as necessary.

2. NICU nurses care for the entire family, not just the baby.

It’s very stressful to have a baby in an intensive care unit. NICU nurses provide family members with information and teach them how to care for the baby while he or she is in the NICU and at discharge. NICU nurses provide emotional support to families with critically ill or premature babies and, if parents do experience loss, are there to help families cope.

3. The majority of babies in the NICU are “preemies.”

Many of these babies are in the NICU for observation and to learn how to eat, gain weight and maintain their body temperature. NICU nurses support the developmental needs of all of their patients, regardless of how premature the babies are.

4. Most of the training NICU nurses receive is on the job.

In addition to receiving training in areas such as neonatal resuscitation and how to manage babies who are on a ventilator, NICU nurses often complete months-long orientations to learn the specifics of caring for babies who are premature or critically ill and the common disorders they might encounter.


Looking to become a NICU nurse? Click here to learn more about St. Elizabeth Healthcare.


The  Level III Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at St. Elizabeth offers:

  • Ability to provide ventilation and other life-saving services to babies born under 32 weeks of gestation
  • 24/7 neonatology & perinatology care.
  • Private NICU rooms which allows for decreased noise and lighting for delicate pre-term babies, reduced potential for airborne infections and also allows privacy for important mother-baby bonding.
  • Family-Centered Care – we encourage you to actively participate in the care of your baby. You are welcome to stay and help care for your baby 24 hours per day.
  • Specialists from Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center.
  • Staffed by a highly skilled healthcare team with specialized training to care for neonates needing expert medical care.
  • Our highly skilled team of neonatologists, neonatal nurse practitioners, registered nurses, respiratory therapists, dieticians, social workers, and pharmacists work together to provide specialized care to meet the needs of your baby.   Access to additional resources including First Steps and Every Child Succeeds programs to ensure a healthy start.