The Must-Have Skills Every Neonatal Nurse Needs to Master

Neonatal nurses care for newborn babies that are born premature or suffer from a condition that requires treatment. This role requires you to care for the most vulnerable patients, which in turn can be a hugely gratifying profession. To become a neonatal nurse, there are certain skills you must obtain and master first which are not necessarily taught in nursing school. With that in mind, here are some of the skills needed for neonatal nursing success.

Strong Communication Skills

Neonatal nurses regularly have contact with parents who have received devastating news about their baby’s health. This means when conversing with them, you need to establish and maintain trust, and you need to know what to say to keep their stress levels at bay. It is your duty to actively listen to the family’s worries and concerns, and clearly outline the condition of their baby. Effective communication is one of the mandatory traits that all neonatal nurses must possess. 

Attention to Detail

From the moment a baby is born into the world, they undergo rapid development, particularly for those who are born prematurely. As a neonatal nurse, you must have a solid understanding of each level of development. Neonatal nurses must pay close attention to detail and read between the lines, especially as they may uncover something which could indicate major health concerns. As babies aren’t able to communicate, a neonatal nurse tends to be the first line of defence against potential complications. Neonatal nurses must have excellent observation skills and know what to look out for to ensure their patient is safe, healthy, and well.

Breastfeeding Expert

A neonatal nurse can have a positive impact on successful breastfeeding by assisting new parents and teaching them how to care for their newborns. This means you will need to know the ins and outs of breastfeeding and provide guidance and advice about the topic. You should be able to answer any questions about breastfeeding for the parents. This can include how to pump breast milk for the baby. Neonatal nurses also promote skin-to-skin care. 


Like with any nursing role, neonatal nurses must have empathy and compassion for the patient they are treating. This area of nursing differs in the sense that you will be caring for and treating newborn babies, which can make the situation more emotionally distressing, not only for the family but yourself. If you are caring for a premature baby, you will need to liaise with the baby’s family and see things from their perspective. Of course, this will be a difficult and uncertain time for them, so being there to support the family and doing what you can to reduce stress is an essential trait for any neonatal nurse.


While any nurse should have the ability to multitask while providing excellent patient care, it is more important than ever for neonatal nurses. During a typical day, neonatal nurses are doing several tasks at once, so you will need to put your full focus and concentration into each one to ensure that everything runs smoothly and, most importantly, the patient is in good hands. As well as multitasking, neonatal nurses need to be experts at prioritizing tasks. You must be able to manage your workload effectively and sort out your duties in order of significance. 


If you ask any nurse past or present, they will all say that a large part of the job is being passionate about what they do and caring for those in need. This means if you would like to become a neonatal nurse, you need to be enthusiastic about your role and be committed to delivering the best care possible to patients. Of course, some shifts are going to be easier than others. However, a successful neonatal nurse will remain positive and upbeat throughout and do everything they can to help patients.

Emotional Stability

The work of a neonatal nurse is incredibly emotionally taxing. Seeing helpless infants in pain and discomfort, as well their distressed parents can be hard to witness. Of course, you are only human so it is bound to have some kind of effect. However, neonatal nurses must stay professional and strong during their shifts to support their patients. Sadly, not every baby will survive, so as a neonatal nurse, you must prepare for this eventuality and do everything you can to assist the parents through this difficult period. Make sure that you have a strong support network at home once you finish a shift. It can be distressing to witness a baby in ill health, so knowing you have loved ones by your side to support you can be a huge help.


In addition to caring for infants and their families, neonatal nurses work with a variety of different health care professionals. These include doctors, pharmacists, dieticians, and occupational therapists. To give the patient the best level of care, you will need to understand the importance of teamwork and fully communicate and cooperate at all times. Establishing trust and recognition within your field is essential for excelling as a neonatal nurse. 

Comprehensive Education

As well as all the must-have skills listed above, neonatal nurses must undertake on-the-job training and earn specialist credentials and qualifications. You can check out neonatal nurse practitioner programs from Baylor University that can lead you on the path to becoming a neonatal nurse. If you already work in nursing, you can study for your degree online. This allows you to learn at a time and pace that suits you best. Throughout your degree, you will learn the A-Z of neonatal nursing and what will be expected of you in this role once you qualify. 

Working as a neonatal nurse can be highly rewarding and give you a great sense of accomplishment, knowing your hard work and care have made a real difference. To succeed in this role, there are specific abilities and skills you must master before qualifying, such as those listed above.

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