If you love babies and are looking for a new career, there are plenty of options that allow you to work with infants. But as beautiful as they are, babies are demanding little people who are very curious about the world, according to the CEO of Care Academy. To work successfully in a career based on looking after or helping children, she says:
“You need to be patient and want to help babies grow”.
Jobs with babies and infants require varying levels of experience, and most will require some vocational or even degree training, depending on what you’d like to do.
Before you decide on the right career path for you, consider the type of setting that you’d like to work in. If a healthcare setting appeals to you, you might want to consider training to become a neonatal nurse; somebody who cares for premature and sick newborns. You should also consider how much time you’d like to invest in training and schooling; becoming a successful neonatal nurse requires you to study for a degree in nursing and then take specialist training in neonates; if you want a job that you can start right now, this is not the option for you.
What Does a Neonatal Nurse Do?
Neonatal nursing is a subspecialty of nursing that works specifically with newborn infants who are born with a variety of problems. These could include birth defects, surgical problems, prematurity, infections, or cardiac malfunctions. The first month of life is the neonatal period, but the newborns that these nurses care for are often sick for several months. It includes:
- Caring for infants who experience health problems shortly after birth
- Caring for infants who experience health problems in the long-term, related to premature birth or illness after birth
- In some cases, caring for infants up until around two years of age
Most neonatal nurses will care for the babies from their birth until they are discharged.
Around forty thousand infants are born with a low birth weight each year in the US. But today, thanks to significant advances in medicine and the efforts of the doctors and nurses who provide or vulnerable newborns, survival rates have increased tenfold over the past fifteen years.
What Can I Expect from a Career as a Neonatal Nurse?
As a neonatal nurse, you can expect to make a difference in the lives of the babies that you care for, their parents and their families. In fact, you will probably stay in touch with some of the infants that you have looked after throughout their lives; many parents come back to update the neonatal nurses on their child’s progress once they have left the hospital. It’s a hugely fulfilling career role in which you get to be a voice for the smallest, sickest patients who don’t yet have one of their own.
As a neonatal nurse, you will usually be working in a hospital setting. This could be with less acutely ill infants, or with the most critically ill. You can expect to have as many as four babies at one time to look after, although this ratio will depend on the severity of their illness and the amount of care needed.
Neonatal care is provided around the clock, every day of the week – you can expect to regularly work 12-hour shifts on varying days, although 8- and 10- hour shifts, plus other flexible working options are often available.
There’s also the opportunity in some cases to move out of the hospital setting and work as a neonatal nurse in the community. You’ll be providing home care, or following up on high-risk infants after they have been discharged from the hospital.
How Can I Prepare to Be a Neonatal Nurse?
There are several steps required to get into this area of nursing. You’ll need to complete basic nursing education, which can be achieved via three routes:
- An associate’s degree: This can be obtained in 2-3 years at a community college.
- A diploma degree: You can get this through a hospital-based nursing school; however, they are being phased out in many states.
- Bachelor’s degree: The BSN (Bachelor of Science in Nursing) provides the most career flexibility. You earn it through a university or college and it generally takes four years to complete.
- Accelerated programs: If you already hold a degree in another field, you may be able to take an accelerated program where you can obtain a BSN in 1-2 years, depending on the subject of your current degree.
If you’re interested in working as an advanced practice nurse, you’ll need to pursue a master’s education. You’ll need to obtain a master’s degree, which will help you further your career and give you access to even more advanced study, like neonatal nurse practitioner programs.
What Other Jobs with Babies Can I Do?
If you’ve decided that neonatal nursing isn’t for you, or if you want to become a neonatal nurse but would like to get as much experience as possible working with babies before you graduate and set out on your career, there are several job options to think about that allow you to work with infants.
- Nanny – working as a nanny means you’ll be responsible for the day-to-day care of children in their own homes.
- Lactation consultant – if you’re a mom yourself and have experience breastfeeding, you may want to consider a career helping new moms with this part of having a new baby.
- Doula – if you’re interested in the pregnancy and birth process and want to help new moms bring their bundles of joy into the world, become a doula. Your main job will be to be there for the mom during pregnancy and birth, advocating for her during the tough moments, and giving her support when she needs it.
- Child care worker: Working at a child care center is a great way to get experience working with babies and children.
- Baby photographer: If you love babies and photography, why not combine the two and take cute newborn photoshoots?
Is neonatal nursing the right career path for you, or would you prefer to pursue other job options working with infants?