Several types of nurses have the privilege of taking care of the youngest occupants of planet earth -- newborn babies. Nurses who work in labor and delivery, maternity and in neonatal intensive-care units all take care of newborns. Home health nurses also see newborns for follow-up care after the babies leave the hospital.
Labor and Delivery Nurses
Labor and delivery nurses not only help mothers through labor but also take care of the baby right after birth, unless there are complications. The labor and delivery nurse generally helps the mother or father hold the baby right after delivery, weighs the baby, checks vital signs, assigns an APGAR score --which measures the baby's generally health at the time of delivery -- and helps the mother and the rest of the family get acquainted with their new arrival for an hour or so after birth. If the mother is breastfeeding, the nurse will also help her get started in the first hour.
Maternity Nurse's Duties
In many hospitals, the mother and baby transfer from labor and delivery to the maternity or postpartum floor, often called the mother-baby unit. Most hospitals no longer have a separate nursery for newborns; newborns room with their mothers, although nursery care is available overnight if the mother needs it. The maternity nurse takes care of both the mother and the baby, who are often referred to as a "couplet." The maternity does most of the teaching nervous new parents often need before taking their baby home, such as how to give a bath, how to care for the cord stump and how to breastfeed.
Neonatal Intensive Care Nurse Duties
Sick or premature newborns need specially trained nurses to help them through their first, sometimes precarious days of life. These babies go to the neonatal intensive care nursery, also known as the NICU, or sometimes as the special care nursery, or SCN. The NICU nurse's duties will depend on how sick her small charges are; assessing breathing and heart rate, administering medications, drawing blood and starting IVs, as well as checking equipment such as ventilators, warming beds and monitors, are all part of the NICU nurse's job. Neonatal nurses need a keen eye to detect subtle changes that can indicate a deterioration in a newborn's condition. Staying in touch with new parents and teaching them about their baby's care, as well as providing a listening ear and a comforting touch, are also part of the NICU nurse's job.
Home Health Nurse Duties
Home health nurses are a welcome sight for new mothers struggling to learn to care for their new baby while dealing with a lack of sleep and the insecurities that come with being a new parent. Home health nurses will not only assess the baby's general health and weigh the baby, but also check for jaundice, ask about feeding, help with breastfeeding and provide a source of support to the new parents, answering questions and demonstrating how to care for the baby. Many insurance companies allow for one visit within the first week after hospital discharge.
A registered nurse with more than 25 years of experience in oncology, labor/delivery, neonatal intensive care, infertility and ophthalmology, Sharon Perkins has also coauthored and edited numerous health books for the Wiley "Dummies" series. Perkins also has extensive experience working in home health with medically fragile pediatric patients.