Are you considering where to take your nursing career?  Are you looking for a new challenge?

Whether you’re a student nurse thinking about a placement or your first post, or a qualified nurse or midwife looking for your first steps or a career change – have you considered neonatal nursing?  (You don’t need to be a paediatric nurse to move into neonatal nursing)

Find out more – watch the videos and read below to see why neonatal nursing could be the dream job you are looking for.

Watch the video (kindly shared by Thames Valley & Wessex ODN)

#beaNeonatalNurse – join our amazing teams today 😊

Neonatal nurses care for sick and premature infants in the first few weeks of their life.

1 in 8 babies born in the UK will need care on a neonatal unit, which might be on a:

♡   Level 1 unit (or Special Care Baby Unit – SCBU) care for babies who do not need intensive care and who are usually over 32 weeks gestation.   Care can include monitoring; babies with low blood sugars; babies needing supplemental oxygen and babies that need help with feeding

♡   Level 2 unit (or Local Neonatal Unit – LNU) care for babies who need a little more support than those in SCBU and who are often over 28 weeks gestation.  Care may include respiratory support; short term intensive care;  IV fluids/nutrition via a central line

♡   Level 3 unit (or Neonatal Intensive Care Unit – NICU) care for babies needing the highest level of support.  Babies cared for in NICU include babies who need ventilation (longer than 48hrs); if they are born below 28 weeks gestation; if they have surgery; if they need cooling treatment (to try to help protect the brain after a hypoxic insult).  NICUs also care for babies from their local area that need all levels of care.

It is important to recognise that, at all levels of care,  parents and families are central in the care of their baby and a lot of the role of the neonatal nurse involves teaching, educating and support them in that care

Neonatal nursing is an exciting career with a whole range of opportunities, not only are there the different levels of care but once you achieve your neonatal qualification – Qualification in Speciality – (which usually takes about 2 years to complete) there are many exciting and varied career pathways you can take including


Community Outreach

Advanced Practice



Specialist roles

and so much more!   Check out our Education Toolkit to find out more

From the moment you start work on the neonatal unit in the North West you will receive a comprehensive induction (including preceptorship if you are newly qualified) and full support, funding and time to complete you Qualification in Speciality.

In the North West this has 2 parts; Foundation in Neonates (FiN) programme and a further module at a local university/education provider (see our webpage for more information about the FiN programme.  After that, there is a whole range of exciting opportunities to progress and develop.

Don’t just take our word for it – check out our nurses’ stories below

This short answer is anyone who is a qualified nurse or midwife!! (or soon to be one)

  • As neonates is a specialist area where you are supported to achieve your qualification in speciality you can come into it from all branches of nursing
  • Adult nurses, children’s nurses, midwives, newly qualified, apprentices and associate trained
  • If you are a student nurse, ask for a spoke or elective placement on your local neonatal unit, we have 22 in the North West!!
  • If you are already working within a trust that has a neonatal unit, contact them, and ask whether you can go and talk to them or spend some time there

Natalie, Victoria, Michaela, Sarah, Catherine, Shauny, Jo and Charmaine have kindly shared why they love working in neonatal care

Natalie’s story:

I was a care assistant for several years looking after the elderly and young disabled clients within nursing homes and occasionally within hospitals. Whilst there, I completed NVQ Level 3 in Health alongside some GCSE’s at college. I have always known I wanted to train as a nurse. As a mother of a child who was born severely premature, I spent several months visiting him whilst he was admitted to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit that is when I knew I had to become a neonatal nurse. At that time I believed that I had to train as a children’s nurse to achieve this and having had experience as a care assistant, I knew I did not want to do adult nursing. I studied Dip HE Nursing at University and once qualified, I took my first role as a staff nurse on the children’s ward where I gained valuable experience within acute paediatrics and paediatric day case surgery.

Eventually, I wrote to the Matron to ask for a transfer to NICU and after some time she agreed. Being an experienced children’s nurse, I felt confident that I would transition into my new role easily but quickly realised that neonatology was a speciality in its own right. Even though I had transferrable skills they were not sufficient within this area of nursing so I was facilitated to complete the relevant courses/modules to become qualified in speciality and gained my BSc (Hons) in Neonatal Practice and MSC Nursing, some of my fees were paid for by the Trust.

I feel fortunate to have a dual role as a research nurse and a neonatal intensive care sister, I am ideally placed to search for and practice the evidence that informs the high standards of care we provide for neonates and children.

Neonatal nurses are special because they care for the most vulnerable babies and their families and it feels great when the tiny babies become mature enough to be discharged home to their families.

Click here to listen to Victoria’s story

Michaela’s story:

Most people who ask me what my job is, have never heard of a `Neonatal Nurse`, or if they do, they often think that I cuddle babies all day. 

Most of the parents I come across at work have never heard of a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) until they stepped into it and needed it for their baby. 

I trained as a children`s nurse but did not really know much about it myself until I was placed there during my training.  

30 odd years later I am still hooked on the constantly changing pace and exciting new treatments that can improve the life’s and survival rates of our newborn babies (neonates). 

There are so many areas this job can take you into, from advanced nurse to transport, from education to research and many more. Since becoming a mother myself, supporting parents on this topsy turvy journey with many ups and downs has become much more than a job. The best part of it is seeing their increased confidence in becoming the main caregiver and pulling out slowly in the support we provide until they are ready for home. 

It`s the best feeling!

Click here to listen to Sarah’s story

Catherine’s story:

At the age of 35 I made the huge decision to change career and become a paediatric nurse. A couple of the placements were on my local neonatal unit and I loved it so much that I decided early on neonates was where I wanted to be. I can remember, as a student, standing at the end of a cot on ward round, and for the first-time anatomy theory covered in uni lectures started to make sense. I had never really understood acidosis until I was in front of a ventilated baby with a low pH, high lactate and high C02 levels and everything was suddenly so much clearer. When I qualified, I didn’t apply for every paediatric job in the area but waited until neonatal vacancies came along. The first six months were a massive learning curve, but it was worth it as I loved caring for babies and families, particularly the tiny or very un-well babies, and being part of that family’s journey was always privilege. 

From starting in my first job at my local NNU I have had lots of opportunities to progress with the amount of learning and development on offer being fantastic. Within 18 months I was qualified in speciality and a mentor and I then went on to complete a Masters’ degree which gave me the opportunity to get more involved in project, audit and research work. After two years I moved to my local intensive care unit (NICU) which was a whole new experience. One of the things I love about neonates is that you look after the whole baby so caring for a ventilated baby isn’t just about respiratory support but all the other systems as well, such as feeding, skin care, infection prevention, growth, developmental care, identifying any other medical problems and supporting the whole family.

I’ve always thought neonatal care is one of the best kept secrets in the NHS which people only really learn about when they have a baby who needs neonatal care. Three years post qualifying I got a sister’s post and worked as part of the local transport team as well as continuing to work on the unit and being a research nurse one day a week. This meant I got lots of variety and constant learning. In 2015 I returned to my original local neonatal unit as their Ward Manager. It was very different from delivering clinical care but provided the opportunity to constantly improve services leading to better outcomes for babies and new initiatives which improved the family experience and reduced separation. Four years later I moved to my current role as a Quality Improvement Lead Nurse for the Northwest Neonatal Network (NWNODN). I do miss working with babies and families on a daily basis but supporting units and being more involved with governance, data specialist interest groups and working with our parent advisory groups is a fantastic job and one which can really make a difference to the care units deliver. When I started out on my new career, just over 12 years ago, I never had any idea about all the opportunities on offer. My aim was to become a nurse in a job I loved I have achieved this alongside other goals.

I get a lot of job satisfaction and if I was starting out again, I wouldn’t change a thing.


Click here to listen to Shauny’s story


Jo’s story:

I never considered a job in Neonatal when undertaking my children’s training, I’m not sure why as I loved the placement I had during my training but no one from the neonatal unit really left unless they retired. I never thought too much about this until I started working in Neonatal and truly understood why staff didn’t want to leave. The honour and the privilege of welcoming a baby into the world and being there to offer support and guidance to parents can never be underestimated. Parents are the primary care givers to these sometimes tiny incredible humans who need and deserve the love and closeness of their parents, however separation does happen for neonatal families and one of the most important role for anyone working in the Neonatal unit is to ensure parents are recognised as partners in care, minimising separation and ensure there are opportunities for parents to be fully involved in their babies care.  One size doesn’t fit all, as a neonatal nurse you meet a vast variety of families who’s needs, beliefs and backgrounds are all very different and navigating through this with excellent communication skills is vital. Recognising that having a baby in Neonatal care can be traumatic and scary, knowing how to support not only the baby but the whole family is key to the role of the Neonatal Nurse.

I have felt fortunate within my career as a Neonatal Nurse to have had the opportunity to grow and development with the support of the Induction programme, Qualified in Speciality programme and the Enhanced Neonatal Practitioner course. I have felt educated and encouraged to take on new roles during my career and feel privileged to share my knowledge and experience with student nurses, newly qualified nurses and new starters into Neonatal Care.

Working in a profession that strives to make changes and make a difference is extremely rewarding, understanding the difference you can make in a baby and their family’s life is priceless for me and everything I wanted to be. Yes there are challenges and I have learnt to work under extreme pressures, provide good leadership skills, embrace many changes and overcome frustrations however, I feel this has only helped me not just personally but it has played a part in the Neonatal workforce. Working with an elite group of professionals who are passionate, committed and above all inspiring to care for the most vulnerable of patients and their families is nothing more than incredible.

That’s why I will always be part of Neonatal Care.

Charmaine’s story:

I have worked in neonatal care 30 years now and started my nursing career back in 1985 when I went to Sheffield to do adult nurse training. After completion of this I moved to Manchester Royal Infirmary and worked on a neuro – surgical ward for 12 months and then due to family reasons moved back to my home town of Blackpool where I worked for another surgical  (vascular and general ) surgical ward for another 12 months. At the age of 23 I thought I should gain another registration while I had time to undertake more training and enrolled for Midwifery training in Blackpool.

After completion of this I didn’t really have a passion to continue to deliver babies, although I loved postnatal and the neonatal care experience I had during my training, so I applied for a job on the Neonatal unit. I have stayed there ever since February 1992!

Initially I worked as a staff midwife and undertook 405 training (Neonatal intensive care) alongside other modules and gained an honours degree as a part time student. I progressed to a Sister in around 2002.     In July 2005 the Neonatal Outreach team was introduced in Blackpool. As I already had community experience I applied and started to work for the neonatal outreach team at its inception for 2 days per week alongside 1 – 2 night shifts per week. Five years later I took over the management of the service full time.   I have continued with this now for a further 12 years which I find rewarding and beneficial to parents and babies and the wider families. The role aims to provide a seamless service for discharge of premature and extremely premature babies alongside any babies with  surgical, cardiac, complex needs etc.

My typical day comprises of visiting babies and their families within the Blackpool, Fylde and Wyre region which is a large area to cover. I provide advice and support with feeding and nutrition, thermoregulation, skin care, medications, follow up appointments and general developmental care. We also have babies who go home on low flow oxygen which means regular checks and monitoring of each baby’s individual respiratory needs. We work alongside the paediatricians HV’s GP’s and other MDT members to ensure any problems are identified as early as possible and addressed by the appropriate team member.   We visit the babies until 6 months of age as a maximum but discharge earlier if possible. After 6 months if visits are still needed care is transferred to the children’s community team. We pride ourselves on good feedback and the approachability of our team when parents can feel after discharge they don’t know who to turn to and also our motivation and determination for high standards.   More recently we have developed a very busy Tongue tie service within the outreach service to promote breast feeding and optimum growth and development for the infant. Parents often thank us for the prompt contact from us when they are struggling with feeding issues.

I am set to retire this year after 37 years since joining the NHS. But I am returning to the team in a part time role as I simply don’t want to give up the job I love! I am looking forward to potentially another 12 years working on neonatal outreach and continue to aim to do my best for all on every working day.

Neonatal care is so rewarding as a speciality and I feel it is a privilege to be part of the baby and family journey in what for parents can be such a stressful and uncertain time with so much to learn