Everyday Life of a Neonatologist

A neonatologist only deals with intensive care situations.
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A neonatologist's typical day can include nerve-wracking, hectic -- and fulfilling -- work. This medical specialist provides care for newborns and small infants in the neonatal intensive care unit, or NICU, of a hospital. If you can manage the emotional rigors of this line of work, being a neonatologist is especially rewarding.

Personal Therapy

    Though every neonatologist has her own routine, many turn to various types of relaxation or personal time to balance the stressful nature of their jobs. A feature on the University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center website reveals that Dr. Robin Ohls begins her day before dawn with a morning jog. After some morning routine activities, neonatologists often go to their offices or the hospital early to get settled in, to review patient status and notes and to evaluate tests and X-rays.

Meetings and Monitoring

    Usually by 8 a.m. or 9 a.m., the neonatologist is fully into her typically demanding day. Meetings with other neonatal staff and morning rounds are common starting points to further assess the conditions of the patients in the NICU at a given time. Armed with information, the neonatologist typically meets with parents of the infants to update them on their child's condition and any recommendations for treatment.


    Neonatologists oversee the care of infants in the NICU, but much of their job centers on guiding treatment rather than constant interaction with the babies. The nursing staff takes on more of the hands-on role. After reviewing each patient's conditions in the morning, the neonatologist directs staff on monitoring requirements and special treatment for each patient. This may include routine health checks of breathing, heart rate and oxygen levels or more tests and X-rays. In the more extreme cases, a neonatologist may get involved in treatment, surgeries or emergency care for critical ill infants.

Education and Training

    The pathway to becoming a neonatologist is rigorous, which likely helps prepare you for the everyday demands of the career. It can take as long as 14 years of post-high school education and hands-on training to become a fully licensed neonatologist. After an undergraduate degree and the standard four-year medical program, you complete a standard internship or residency period of three years in pediatrics. Neonatology is a subspecialty of pediatrics, or child health care. Finally, three years in neonatal fellowship is needed. In this role, you begin hands-on NICU work.

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