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Neonatal Nursing

The neonatal period (Neo meaning new and natal meaning birth) is the first 28 days of life. Newborn infants (neonates) who have been born preterm or at full term but are unwell, are cared for in neonatal units (also called nurseries). These infants require specialised neonatal nursing care. There is emphasis on the provision of individualised, developmentally and culturally appropriate, family-centred care.

The neonatal nurse is a registered nurse and/or midwife who through study and practice becomes an expert in the care of the preterm or ill neonate. It can be a challenging role, but is immensely rewarding and exciting.

Neonatal nurses work in a variety of areas and their role encompasses clinical, educational, managerial and research aspects. The role also integrates with other roles relating to maternal and child health and is practiced in a variety of settings. Work areas include, but are not limited to, neonatal special care unit/nursery (SCN), sometimes called special care baby unit (SCBU), neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), or nursery (NICN), postnatal ward, emergency retrieval unit, or in the community.

How to become a neonatal nurse in Australia

Practical experience is usually the first step and employment in a neonatal unit is required before undertaking postgraduate studies in neonatal nursing. Each unit will provide orientation and the opportunity to master the basic skills in neonatal care.

As for other areas of neonatal nursing, opportunities exist for management, educational and research roles, with advanced clinical specialisation as neonatal nurse consultants, neonatal nurse practitioners or as neonatal emergency transport nurses.
Some hospitals have neonatal intensive care units combined with special care units; other hospitals have special care units only with transfer to a nearby NICU for higher level treatment. A few hospitals have a combined neonatal and paediatric intensive care unit.

Neonatal care and education programs

The information given under each state may mention the locally situated provider however in the interests of fairness, equitability and access; students have the right to choose from any of the higher education providers across Australia. Please see the Organisation list for a full list of providers Australia wide.

To assist in your decision you may want to access the Standards for higher education which can be found at http://www.teqsa.gov.au/

Please see the following specific information for each state:

Information updated February 2015. This information is a general guide only and was correct at the time of publishing. ACNN accepts no responsibility for changed or incorrect information.

The ACNN Professional Officer can be contacted for further information: theprofessionalofficer@acnn.org.au