Skip to main content
4 answers
Asked 748 views

What is the day to day life like for NICU Nurses?

I want to be a NICU nurse but I would also like to know what it’s like in a day in the life of one. I know it’s not an easy job but I would like to know what it’s like.

Thank you comment icon It makes you cheerful and thousands of smiles along with successful recovery of neonates. Be optimistic and move ahead if you have passion for working in NICU 🙂 Dr. Sishir Banjara

+25 Karma if successful
From: You
To: Friend
Subject: Career question for you


4 answers

Share a link to this answer
Share a link to this answer

James Constantine’s Answer

Hello Isabelle,

Overview of a NICU Nurse’s Day-to-Day Life

A Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) nurse cares for critically ill newborns who require specialized medical attention due to premature birth, birth defects, or other complications. Their day-to-day life revolves around providing compassionate care, monitoring the infants’ progress, and collaborating with a multidisciplinary team to ensure the best possible outcomes.

Admitting and Assessing New Patients

NICU nurses begin their day by receiving reports on new patients admitted during the night shift. They thoroughly assess each infant’s condition, reviewing their medical history, vital signs, lab results, and any ongoing treatments or therapies. This information enables them to develop individualized care plans and set appropriate goals for the day.

Providing Direct Patient Care

Throughout the day, NICU nurses provide various aspects of direct patient care, including:

Monitoring vital signs: They closely monitor the infants’ heart rate, respiratory rate, blood pressure, oxygen levels, and body temperature. Any abnormalities are promptly addressed and documented.
Administering medications and treatments: NICU nurses are responsible for accurately administering medications, tube feedings, and intravenous (IV) fluids as prescribed by the medical team. They also perform routine treatments such as suctioning and repositioning the infants to prevent complications.
Performing procedural care: NICU nurses may perform procedures like umbilical catheter insertions, heel sticks for blood sampling, and dressing changes. They must maintain strict sterility protocols to minimize the risk of infection.
Operating specialized medical equipment: NICU nurses are proficient in using advanced medical equipment like ventilators, incubators, monitors, and feeding pumps to support the infants’ fragile systems.
Providing developmental care: NICU nurses also focus on promoting the infants’ development through skin-to-skin contact, gentle handling, and age-appropriate sensory stimulation.
Collaborating with a Multidisciplinary Team

NICU nurses work closely with various healthcare professionals to ensure comprehensive care for their patients. This includes:

Physicians (neonatologists)
Respiratory therapists
Social workers
Case managers
Other nursing specialists (lactation consultants, wound care specialists)

Effective communication and collaboration are essential for optimizing patient outcomes and coordinating discharge planning.

Parental Support and Education

NICU nurses play a crucial role in supporting parents during their infant’s hospitalization. They provide emotional support, education on infant care, and guidance on breastfeeding or expressing milk. NICU nurses also facilitate parent-infant bonding through Kangaroo Care (skin-to-skin contact) and help parents prepare for their baby’s discharge home.

Continuing Education and Professional Development

NICU nursing is a highly specialized field that requires ongoing professional development to stay current with best practices and advancements in technology. NICU nurses often attend workshops, conferences, and continuing education courses to enhance their knowledge and skills. They may also pursue advanced certifications in neonatal nursing to demonstrate their expertise and commitment to excellence in patient care.

James Constantine Frangos.
Share a link to this answer
Share a link to this answer


A day in the life of a NICU nurse starts off with report. When you first come on your shift you receive a detailed report about your patient/s you have been assigned. Depending on how sick your patients are you can be assigned anywhere from 1-3 patients, sometimes four. NICU nurses are usually scheduled 12 hour, 8 hour or 4 hour shifts, depending on how many hours you work per week.

Report: a detailed report will consist of your patient's name, age, history about their birth and mother, what kind of respiratory support they need, how they will eat, (from a bottle or thorough a nasogastric/orogastric tube, how long the feeds run, if they get breastmilk or formula, how well they eat or if there are any concerns with eating), any cardiac concerns, how often they urinate and stool, what their urine and stool look like (that will tell us if they're dehydrated or having bowel issues), any medication their receiving. As you can see the report is very detailed, and much more detailed than this.

After report it's time to make sure all your respiratory safety equipment is working and stocked in case of an emergency. Then you will assess your baby and start the first round of care.

Care includes: full head to toe assessment, depending on what shift you work you'll give your baby a bath, change the linen, feed your baby and administer any medications. Depending on the your child's respiratory support you will more than likely need help suctioning the patient if they are intubated, or help moving them to change linen. This is when you grab a partner for safety. You will also weigh your baby at the beginning of your shift, depending on the unit's protocol. When finished you clean the room, make sure your patient is positioned comfortably and repeat this process for every patient.

On a 12 hour shift you will do this care process four times, usually every three hours. In between cares you will document the electronic medial record, help other nurses with their babies, and help critical patients keep their airway clear and help to ensure they can breath easily. You will normally sit outside your patient's room and monitor them, you will have alarms and computerized monitors that will help you know if your baby's heart rate drops or oxygen drops. This happens often in the NICU and you will team up with respiratory therapy to ensure your patient is comfortable.

In between cares you will also do rounds with the team consisting of doctors, residents, respiratory therapists, NPs, pharmacists, occupational therapy, charge nurse, and anyone else involved on the team. You will also assist parents with any questions they have, and assist in helping them hold their baby. Sometimes it takes a team to move a baby who is intubated or has other respiratory support. You will also educate your parents.

Toward the end of your shift you will grab any blood work that is needed, or you will help phlebotomy obtain blood work by keeping your patient comforatble.

At the end of your shift you will give report to the oncoming nurse.

This is just glance at what a NICU nurse does throughout their shift. It's a role with a lot of responsibility, but it's very fulfilling and you will never be bored in the NICU. There is always something to learn and many disease processes to get to know. As you grow in your NICU journey you will go to deliveries for high risk pregnancies and bring babies back to the NICU from delivery.

I hope this helps answer some of your questions! Never stop asking questions! Believe in yourself, that's half the can do it!
Share a link to this answer
Share a link to this answer

Jacob’s Answer

Working as a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) nurse is a rewarding yet challenging profession. Here's a glimpse into the day-to-day life of NICU nurses:

**1. Patient Assessment:** NICU nurses start their shift by assessing the conditions of the infants they're responsible for. This includes monitoring vital signs, checking equipment, and reviewing medical records.

**2. Medication Administration:** Administering medications and treatments as prescribed by neonatologists or pediatricians is a significant part of the job. Dosing and monitoring for any adverse reactions are crucial.

**3. Feeding and Nutrition:** NICU nurses often play a key role in feeding premature or ill newborns, whether it's through bottle feeding, tube feeding, or intravenous (IV) nutrition.

**4. Monitoring and Observation:** Continuous monitoring of infants, especially those on ventilators or with critical conditions, is vital. NICU nurses watch for any changes in the baby's condition and respond promptly.

**5. Collaborative Care:** Collaboration with the healthcare team is essential. NICU nurses work closely with neonatologists, respiratory therapists, dietitians, and other healthcare professionals to ensure the best care for the infants.

**6. Parental Support:** Providing emotional support and education to parents is a crucial aspect of the job. NICU nurses often guide parents through the NICU experience, explaining procedures and helping them bond with their infants.

**7. Documentation:** Accurate and thorough documentation of patient assessments, interventions, and responses is essential for patient care and legal purposes.

**8. Adherence to Protocols:** NICU nurses follow strict protocols and infection control measures to minimize the risk of infections and complications.

**9. Emotional Resilience:** Working in the NICU can be emotionally taxing due to the delicate nature of the patients. Nurses must cope with high-stress situations and provide compassionate care.

**10. Shift Work:** NICU nurses often work in rotating shifts, including nights and weekends, to ensure 24/7 care for the infants.

**11. Lifelong Learning:** Staying up-to-date with the latest neonatal care practices and continuing education is important for NICU nurses.

**12. Celebration of Milestones:** NICU nurses share in the joy of celebrating milestones with families, such as a baby's first feed, weight gain, or successful weaning from medical interventions.

While being a NICU nurse can be physically and emotionally demanding, the bonds formed with tiny patients and their families can make it incredibly fulfilling. It's a profession that requires resilience, compassion, and a commitment to providing the best care for the most vulnerable newborns. If you're passionate about neonatal care and thrive in a fast-paced, high-stress environment, pursuing a career as a NICU nurse can be both challenging and deeply rewarding.
Share a link to this answer
Share a link to this answer

Godfrey’s Answer

NICU basically means neonatal intensive care unit.
Nurses at NICU handle pediatric patients who require critical care ie.need for oxygen support,need for cardiac support for patients in cardiac failure, patients who have suffered severe accidents like head injury would basically require close monitoring and emergency care as their conditions may change abruptly,among other conditions that require such intensive care support.
Duties for nurse are sometimes crazy as you need to always be on the alert as you may need to provide Cardio pulmonary resuscitation at any time so you must have your CPR skills always with.
The unit requires hands-on people with continuous skills improvement.
Compared to other units or departments,this is a department that you need to alert and on the watch as patients condition can change any time.however it's an interesting department as your actions can change the outcome of the clients.