If crying babies get on your nerves, a career as a baby nurse might not be your best job fit. Baby nurses work in a variety of settings, from hospital nurseries or pediatric units to doctor's offices to caring for sick infants in their homes. Both registered nurses and licensed practical nurses work with babies.
Working in the Hospital
Baby nurses work primarily in three hospital areas: the newborn nursery, which today is often part of a mother-baby unit; pediatrics; and the neonatal intensive care, or NICU units. The work environment is different for all three; on the mother-baby unit, most patients -- moms and babies -- are healthy and happy, making for a pleasant work environment. In the NICU and pediatrics unit, most babies are sick, some extremely sick. Babies need close monitoring and expert attention; many are on multiple medications and intravenous drips. Parents are upset and often demanding; they need reassurance and attention. The mood can be tense; if you like challenging environments, these units might be for you.
Working in a Doctor's Office
Babies in the doctor's office are usually generally healthy. The pace can be hectic, and dealing with concerned parents is a big part of the daily workload. Keeping the schedule running on time, soothing upset parents and handling crying babies can make the doctor's office a stressful place to work. The positive side is that you get to know your patients and their parents well -- and your small charges are rarely really sick.
Working in Homes
Baby nurses who work in their client's homes have two types of jobs. Visiting nurses often do well-baby checks after mom and baby leave the hospital to make sure the baby is thriving and that mom is handling her new responsibilities without any problems. Well-baby visits are generally happy and upbeat, with lots of time for teaching and reassuring new parents. Home health nurses also care for sick infants who need around-the-clock care. Dealing with both a sick child and his parents can make for a stressful environment; although many home health nurses grow very close to the families they work with, they're also often the first person the family lashes out against when things go wrong. Since you're working in private homes, expect your physical working environments to be anywhere from a palace to a hovel.
Babies can't tell you what's wrong with them, so taking care of sick infants is like being a detective. You need to be good at picking up clues and putting them together to form a story of what's happening. If you work in home health, you're the only professional immediately available; unlike the hospital or doctor's office, where you have other people to help unravel the mystery, at your patient's home, you're the only diagnostician on the scene. Some nurses find working as a lone ranger to be more stress than they want to handle; others enjoy the autonomy and the luxury of dealing with just one patient.
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.