A neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) is an intensive care unit specializing in the care of ill or premature newborn infants.
A NICU is typically directed by one or more neonatologists and staffed by nurses, nurse practitioners, pharmacists, physician assistants, resident physicians, and respiratory therapists. Many other ancillary disciplines and specialists are available at larger units.
Intensive care nurses endure intensive didactic and clinical orientation, in addition to their general nursing knowledge, to provide highly specialized care for critical patients. Their competencies include the administration of high-risk medications, management of high-acuity patients requiring ventilator support, surgical care, resuscitation, advanced interventions such as extracorporeal membrane oxygenation or hypothermia therapy for neonatal encephalopathy procedures, as well as chronic-care management or lower acuity cares associated with premature infants such as feeding intolerance, phototherapy, or administering antibiotics. NICU RNs undergo annual skills tests and are subject to additional training to maintain contemporary practice.
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