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what are the steps to becoming a neonatal nurse?

If you can add how much they make a year and the amount of schooling . Maybe some possible scholarships or the best schools. How much free time you will have for life. #medicine #counselor

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Elizabeth’s Answer

Hi Mireya!

I grew up in the San Gabriel Valley too and have worked as a neonatal nurse for more than 20 years, both in California and Washington state, where I now live.

To become a neonatal nurse, you must first complete a registered nurse (RN) program through either a 2 year ADN (associate degree in Nursing) or 4 year BSN (bachelor's of science in Nursing) program of study. For your senior practicum, you can request to be assigned to a hospital Birth Center- this will give you practice experience to apply for jobs and/or training programs after graduation.

Neonatal nurses are considered intensive or critical care specialty nurses, so they need specialized training after completing a RN Program. Larger teaching hospitals (medical centers affiliated with universities) like a UC or CSU Medical Center, will often hire new graduates and put them through a "nursing preceptorship" in a neonatal unit. Some smaller hospitals (like Queen of the Valley) may hire you only after you have worked for a year or more in a Birth Center or with infants/children. I was hired into a 3 month nursing preceptorship at Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center immediately after graduation, worked there for a year, then changed jobs to work in the neonatal unit at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. You will want to apply for a nursing preceptorship within 1 year of your graduation.

Nurses are paid top wages in California- you can search for specifics online- and neonatal nurses are always very much in demand. Most critical care nurses work 12 hour shifts- 7am to 7pm or 7pm to 7am- usually three days per week, so there is plenty of time for the rest of your life!

Feel free to message me if you have any other questions- and good luck!

Elizabeth recommends the following next steps:

Visit the website of the National Association of Neonatal Nurses ( and consider joining as a student and/or connecting with a neonatal nurse.
Consider volunteering in a hospital birth center, with a local "preemie" group, a breastfeeding group or working with new families.
Look for RN Programs affiliated with teaching hospitals that have a Level II, III or IV NICU (neonatal intensive care unit).
Apply to a neonatal nurse preceptorship after graduation from a RN Program.