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Are You Cut Out for a Career in Neonatal Nursing? 10 Key Skills Required

For many individuals, entering a nursing role is an easy decision. If you like the idea of helping those in need and improving other people’s lives and situations, a role in the nursing field may seem like a clear-cut path to go on.

If a career in neonatal nursing sounds like the right option for you, there are numerous key skills that you must possess in order to succeed. As you will be entrusted with caring for the most vulnerable members of the community, it’s vital that you have the right personal characteristics and attributes to perform your role effectively. With the long hours and tense situations that you will find yourself in, here are some of the skills you must have to work as a neonatal nurse.

Advanced Education

To qualify as a neonatal nurse, it’s crucial that you obtain the mandatory qualifications and credentials first. A BSN (Bachelor of Science in Nursing) should be acquired alongside certification in neonatal resuscitation, which is required by the majority of neonatal positions. Studying at a neonatal nursing college like Baylor University for your DNP-NNP will teach you invaluable skills and the ins and outs of neonatal nursing, helping you to secure employment after completing the course.

CCRN Certification

One of the main responsibilities of a neonatal nurse is to care for critically ill patients. To do this, you will need to obtain a CCRN (certification in neonatal critical care nursing). Alongside your APRN license and RN, you must complete clinical practice hours too. There are two options that you can pick from to achieve your CCRN certification. The two-year option involves you spending 2 years as a registered nurse and providing 1,750 hours of support and direct care for critically ill patients, whereas the five-year option requires you to work for a minimum of 5 years, alongside 2,000 hours of direct care.

Basic Medical Nursing Skills

Neonatal nurses must have basic medical nursing skills in place to ensure their patients are well looked after. Knowing how to take patients’ blood pressure, heart rate, oxygen saturation, and breathing rate is essential, as well as knowing how to attach leads and use monitors correctly to track patients. Neonatal nurses are also required to insert catheters and intravenous lines for blood transfusions, as well as have knowledge in operating ventilators.

Attention to Detail

When treating infants, those who are prematurely born undergo rapid development, especially, so it’s vital that you have a solid understanding of each developmental stage. Neonatal nurses must identify minor deviations that could indicate significant health concerns. As babies are unable to communicate how they are feeling, it’s your job as a neonatal nurse to pay close attention to detail and spot any causes for concern.

Excellent Communication

No matter what profession you go into, verbal communication is a mandatory trait to hold. In a neonatal nursing role, you will work with a variety of professionals in the healthcare field, as well as have to answer questions and provide support for parents on changing and feeding techniques. Being able to effectively communicate will mean that you can get your message across clearly, provide clarity and reassurance, and ensure that any concerns or worries parents have are addressed, helping to put their mind at ease.

Ability to Multitask

There are numerous duties and responsibilities that a neonatal nurse is required to perform, so having the ability to multitask is essential. During an ordinary working day in neonatal nursing, you will be expected to perform several things at once, such as attending births, documenting patient history, running and maintaining equipment, and communicating with parents, so being able to think on your feet and knowing how to prioritize is key.

Physical Endurance

While it isn’t regarded as a nursing attribute, when faced with a 12-hour shift, it’s important that you are physically up to the job as a neonatal nurse. As you will be on your feet for the majority of your shift, your feet and neck may ache and become stiff, so it’s crucial that you have the stamina to perform your job at your best. While you don’t have to be a marathon runner to flourish in this role, a good level of fitness will help you stay focused and alert.

Ability to Make Quick Decisions

When caring for critically ill newborns, their lives are literally in the palm of your hands. As a neonatal nurse, there will be many tense environments you will find yourself in, so it’s important that you know how to work well under pressure and make quick decisions to benefit the patient you are treating. Small health issues can turn into a crisis in a matter of seconds, so you will need to learn how to quickly assess situations and know how to manage the issue effectively.


During your neonatal nursing career, you will be required to work as part of a multidisciplinary team to ensure the patient receives the highest level of care possible. Working as part of a team is common for all types of industries, so when engaging with other neonatal nurses and healthcare professionals, you need to possess excellent listening skills and understand other people’s points of view. When considering treatment options and care for a certain patient, you may not fully agree on a decision, but you need to have your colleague’s back and support their judgement.


To flourish as a neonatal nurse, it’s important that you have empathy and compassion for both the patient you are treating and their parents. There will be instances where parents are inconsolable, so you need to be compassionate to their situation and do everything in your power to help reduce stress levels and keep them calm.

The main duty of a neonatal nurse is to deliver excellent care and support for newborn babies who are sick or born prematurely. If you’re passionate about aiding those who are just starting out in life to get better, all the characteristics and traits listed above will help you flourish in this profession.

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