Welcome to the ultimate guide on the Day in the Life of a NICU Nurse!

In this post, we define a NICU Nurse, go over a typical day in the life of a NICU Nurse, and address some frequently asked questions regarding the job.

Have you always had a passion for NICU babies?

This guide might help you decide whether to venture into this Registered Nurse specialty.

This article touch on the following:

  • A typical NICU Nurse’s day
  • NICU job description
  • NICU Nurse responsibilities
  • Neonatal nursing hours


Introduction to day in the life of a NICU Nurse

The Neonatal Intensive Care Unit is a bustling microcosm of a hospital.

The NICU’s staff, which includes health care workers who work around the clock, are exceptionally well trained to provide specialized care to newborns and families in their unit.

A Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) is where sick newborn infants are cared for.

These kids are frequently born prematurely.

Full-term babies (born around their due date) may also be admitted to the NICU if they are very sick.

Like an Adult Intensive Care Unit, the NICU in a children’s hospital is intended for the sickest pediatric patients who require intensive care.

As the babies grow and become healthier, the Physician in charge may relocate them to the hospital’s Special Treatment Nursery for continuous care.

Then, they are released and reunited with their family.

A typical NICU Nurse day and NICU Nurse responsibilities 

A typical NICU Nurse day and NICU Nurse responsibilities 

Explore what these health care providers perform in a day, aside from the general care of feeding, changing, and monitoring their patients.

You will understand what you may anticipate in the job as a NICU Nurse:

Start the day with group huddles

NICU professionals, including Doctors, Nurses, Therapists, and support workers, frequently begin their shift with a group session.

The head Nurse or attending Physician briefs the team on important information, such as the expected number of admissions and discharges throughout the employees’ shifts.

They may also discuss any concerns they anticipate with a particular patient and designate a specialty to a specific Nurse.

NICU Nurses also know the number of patients on the floor, including those on a ventilator or receiving infusions.

All this vital information is passed during the opening huddle.

Attend deliveries 

Since the job of a NICU Nurse is towards newborns, they often attend births of babies that the Doctors feel may require a stay in the NICU.

After an initial examination, the NICU Nurse may conduct some vitals and will most likely have to send the kid to the neonatal ICU.

A NICU Nurse may also be part of a skilled team that assists with the delivery and provides immediate care in a specialized delivery room with the necessary equipment, based on the intensity of the case.

Change babies’ positions

The neonates in the neonatal ICU are hardly grown to turn or walk independently.

NICU Nurses must rotate and reposition the infants to alleviate pressure injuries on their delicate skin, encourage proper muscle tone, and give the child the sensation of being in the womb.

You may gently flip the babies from side to side, stretch their arms up and down, or pull them out of their bed for a safe period.

Administer medications

Before they can gain stability and get ready for additional therapy or surgery, most NICU newborns require specialist drugs.

The drugs are also crucial in improving their medical conditions substantially.

It is the responsibility of the Nurses in this section, who must frequently monitor a baby’s reaction to medication or modify the amount according to the Doctor’s recommendations.

Lab Values

The lab values of an infant in the NICU are crucial.

They define the nature and magnitude of care that the patient requires.

Neonatal Nurses often record lab values several times throughout their shift.

It depends on any notable changes in patient status or lab values requested by a Doctor.

Because low oxygen levels are prevalent in the NICU, Neonatal Nurse practitioners must constantly monitor their oxygen levels and heart rate to spot any problems.

Consultation with doctors and other specialists

Consulting with physicians to analyze their patient’s health conditions and provide recommendations is essential for every Nurse’s day.

If their NICU patient could benefit from specialized interventions, the Nurse may need to confer with the Charge Nurse or resource team.

In addition, Doctors frequently rely on the efforts of NICU Nurses to build treatment plans.

Therefore Nurses must be able to effectively articulate any problems they’ve observed with the newborns under their radar.

Feeding time

Newborns require nutrition to develop more robust and healthier even in the Intensive Care Unit.

NICU Nurses frequently shoulder the responsibility of feeding the babies and securing the food that each child will require throughout their shift.

So that they can fully prepare, NICU Nurses analyze each child’s needs, including if the baby is on milk or formula or if they require any supplements.

Care to family members

Interacting with the baby’s family regarding their health is crucial for a NICU Nurse’s schedule.

While this most commonly refers to parents, it can also refer to any legal guardians or extended family members to whom the family has granted permission for the Nurse to deliver health updates.

Situations may require a NICU Nurse to explain a diagnosis and treatment plan to parents and provide comfort and support to struggling parents to comprehend their child’s condition.

NICU Nurses typically make time for these discussions and manage patient care, so parents and guardians can feel secure in their infant’s care.

Reports at the end of the shift

NICU Nurses often summarize to the incoming Nurse and care team as they conclude their shift.

The report includes any milestones a baby has reached, such as increasing feeding tolerance or making a bowel movement.

Each Care Nurse is free to describe their shift, any emergencies they encountered, whatever the next Nurse could expect, and the state they left off in the patient’s care.

Because the NICU is a team effort, it is usual for NICU Nurses to support one another.

One method they achieve this is by ensuring that the supply room is adequately stocked for the upcoming shift.

Neonatal Nurse hours/ NICU Nurse hours

Neonatal Nurse hours NICU Nurse hours

A Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) Nurse will confess that every day is distinct from the other.

There are common misconceptions about NICU Nurses; they are bottle feeding and changing diapers throughout the day.

They assume that working in the NICU is easy.

However, that is false.  

First, the days in a NICU vary greatly.

However, they do not lack numerous consistencies each day.

A day in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit consists of monitoring IV fluids, charting vital signs, administering medications, checking blood pressure, and documenting the various happenings during the shift.

Other than attending to the patients you are assigned to, you will find the NICU Nurse Practitioners assisting with high-risk deliveries in the delivery rooms.

Your shift starts with uncertainty.

You are unsure of what lies ahead in your shift, but you are hopeful the day will end with a sense of achievement.

Let us take a peek into the NICU Nurse hour:

6:45 a.m.

  • Your interim shift has ended

The Nurse will hand over a report as they hand off the patients to whom they are assigned.

Worth noting is that not all infants admitted to the NICU are born prematurely; you will also find some full-term babies but with some disorders.

Hence, the basis of your day plan will draw from your routine feeding times, administering medications, changing diapers, and checking vital signs.

7:00 a.m.

  • Before starting, you must review all the babies’ medications and their last dosage
  • Confirm Physician orders
  • Conduct routine scrutiny on babies to ensure the settings of the ventilators, IV fluids, and oxygen are accurate
  • If you are assigned an infant who is not on oxygen and IV fluids anymore (feeder and grower), weigh up their schedules for feeding and taking medications

The Neonatal Intensive Care Unit adheres to strictness regarding checking vital signs, feeding, and medication schedules.

The goal is to minimize disruptions time for babies or interference with getting into their incubators.

Babies must stay in a neutral-thermal environment and receive proper nutrition to attain growth.

8:00 a.m. 

  • Babies who have attained the feeding and growing stage must feed every three hours, and this is the time to deliver most care

It would be the best time to do a head-to-toe assessment, confirm vital signs, change the diaper, administer medication and feed them.

  • Similar to most newborns, neonates feed every three hours – many babies in the growers’ nursery are fed using a nasogastric tube through their noses – another fraction feeds using bottles  
  • Spend time helping parents comprehend their babies
  • Answer all their questions, and encourage them to hold their newborns
  • Many neonates may be subject to standard medications such as vitamins, iron, antibiotics, and caffeine during their feeding time

9:00 a.m.

  • Usually, at 9 a.m., you will be through with the first feeding round
  • Immerse in documenting the situation of the feeders and growers after every three hours

However, for sick infants, documentation is hourly.

  • Review any new orders from the Physician – these may include feeding increases, new labs, etc
  • Cater to visiting family members
  • Answer calls from other departments or the infants’ parents

11:00 a.m. 

  • Conduct the routine assessment – check if the diapers need to be changed, read vital signs, and prepare for feeding again
  • You will be required to make frequent assessments of the patients since the vitals can change drastically


  • With all the excitement in the unit, NICU Nurses get a chance to recharge during their 30-minute lunch break – you can utilize this period for relaxing and socializing with coworkers

It is your time to unwind from the unit’s busyness.

12:30 p.m.

  • Usually the hours following the lunch break experience a quiet down of the unit’s atmosphere

However, it is at this time that you may be summoned for an emergency delivery – if not you can utilize this time to change the patient status.

  • This is a good time to teach parents about primary infant care – they can also be present as your offer patient care to the young ones

4:00 p.m.  

  • Neonatologists make their closing routine check before their shift ends – It is also at this time and based on their evaluation that they may write new orders or advice on changing the applicable treatment plans

6:45 p.m. 

Shift documentation is completed at this time.

  • Embark on stocking the cribs with supplies – draw some assignments for the nurse taking over the next shift
  • After the final assessment, providing the necessary patient care and completing final documentation, you can embark on preparing for the shift change report
  • The shift closure involves exchanging the shift reports with the incoming nurses – the essence is to ensure there is continuity of care received by the neonates


Conclusion on day in life of a NICU Nurse

Being a baby NICU Nurse is one of the most rewarding jobs in the nursing industry.

Might it be a bit stressful and demanding?

Considering the possibility of night shift and possible complications, this is a yes; but which job doesn’t have its pros and cons.

Check whether you meet the requirements and be the newest Neonatal ICU Nurse in the country.


FAQs on NICU Nurse

What does a NICU Nurse do?

A NICU Nurse’s tasks entail attending to infants’ basic requirements, such as diaper changes and feeding. They are also in charge of arranging treatments with the NICU Physician. In addition, NICU Nurses attend to premature babies and sick newborns and their parents and family members by comforting and supporting them.

Do Neonatal Nurses deliver babies?

The answer to this question is subjective. NICU Nurses’ job descriptions are mostly limited to the NICU units. However, the need for their services might be in the delivery room once the baby is born. It is for the specialists to determine the need for a NICU Nurse.

How many hours do NICU Nurses work?

NICU Nurses work twelve-hour shifts or eight-hour shifts, depending on the healthcare facility. Although some NICU Nurses work mid-shifts, it’s more common for them to work from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. or the other way around. Typically, they work for three or four days per week.

What is the hardest part about working in the NICU department?

Families can form close bonds with NICU Nurses. Nurses who work in the NICU assist parents by providing support and teaching them how to bond with their newborns. Nurses can become almost family members in various instances. However, this is the tricky part; not every infant survives.

Is becoming a NICU Nurse hard?

Working in this setting requires something extra; knowledge doesn’t cut it. On certain days, the NICU unit can be hectic and stressful, while on others, it’s all about documentation and smooth days. The hard days are however rewarded with the joy in the parents’ faces and family.

Is being a NICU Nurse stressful?

The Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) is a specialized environment. In addition, the patients that Nurses deal with are highly fragile and sensitive. Nurses also have to deal with the emotions of parents.
Mental health issues and physical burnouts are to be expected among nurses.

What is a Day in the Life of a NICU Nurse?

The majority of the days are spent giving prescriptions, and blood products, tracking IV fluids, recording vital signs, intake/output, additional charting, and recording everything during the shift. The NICU Nurse attends all high-risk deliveries in addition to your allocated patients.



NICU Nurse Natalie

Daily Nurse


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