Welcome to another exciting article comparing a Pediatric Intensive Care Unit to a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.

After reading this piece on PICU vs NICU, you will better grasp the distinction between a PICU and a NICU, the types of patient care available, and more.

This article discusses the following and more:

  • PICU vs NICU – Overview
  • Patient Categories
  • Patients’ Care Levels
  • PICU vs NICU Nurses
  • Working in PICU vs NICU

So, let’s roll!

PICU vs NICU – Overview

PICU vs NICU - Overview

From MRIs to MREs, MDs to DOs, and what a view, the medical industry is recognized for its acronyms.

PICU and NICU are two abbreviations frequently used in a children’s hospital.

The NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit) is a section of the hospital dedicated completely to the treatment of infants.

Children are referred to the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) when they require the highest pediatric care.

The terms PICU and NICU are often wrongly interchanged.

A Neonatal Intensive Care Unit-NICU is a hospital section for newborns who have recently been born and are experiencing complications.

The NICU admits newborns born prematurely (23-24 weeks is deemed viable) up to 40 weeks of gestational age.

The PICU, or Pediatric Intensive Care Unit, on the other hand, admits infants not admissible to the NICU, as well as all other children up to 18 years (some up to 21) or whatever age the pediatric hospital decides to admit.

Moreover, patients with chronic conditions (cystic fibrosis or special needs children) may stay at their children’s hospital well into their 20s, blurring even this age cut-off.

Patient Categories

PICU VS NICU Patient Categories

To provide specialized care for the little patients, the NICU combines innovative technology with qualified health care personnel.

These are the most common types of babies admitted to the NICU:

  • Untimely (born before 37 weeks of pregnancy)
  • Have a birth weight lower than 5.5 pounds
  • Have a medical problem that necessitates extra attention

Preterm birth affects over half of all babies born in the United States, and many of these kids have low birth weights.

Multiples, such as twins, triplets, and other multiples, are frequently admitted to the NICU because they are born earlier and smaller than single-birth kids.

Babies with medical difficulties such as heart problems, infections, or birth deformities are also cared for in the NICU.

For newborns who aren’t as sick but still require specialized nursing care, NICUs may feature intermediate or continuing care areas.

The Pediatric Intensive Treatment Unit (PICU), on the other hand, is a hospital department that provides the highest degree of medical care to unwell children.

The PICU differs from other parts of the hospital because it allows for specialized nurse care and constant monitoring of vital signs such as heart rate, respiration, and blood pressure.

The PICU is for extremely ill children who require intensive care and whose medical needs cannot be handled on the hospital’s main medical floors, such as children with:

  • Severe breathing problems from asthma
  • Serious infections
  • Certain heart conditions
  • Complications from diabetes

Patients’ Care Levels

The description of patient care levels in a PICU is patient-centered, but it can also describe a unit.

A high dependency unit, for example, is a level 1 critical care space for children who require more attention than can be supplied on the ward (HDU).

Many district general hospitals (DGHs) will be able to deliver level 2 care without difficulty for a length of time.

On the other hand, levels 3 and 4 care are usually exclusively provided by specialized PICUs.

In the NICU, the description refers to the unit’s capabilities.

As previously stated, some DGHs will be able to give level 1 care for a limited time but will only be required to manage level 2 patients for a limited time.

These children are moved to NICU centers that specialize in neonatal intensive care.

The table below explains each level of patient care:

PICU vs NICU Nurses

PICU vs NICU Nurses

A NICU Nurse’s tasks include caring for infants’ basic requirements, such as diaper changes and feeding, and arranging medical treatments with the NICU Physician.

Other responsibilities include:

  • Premature and critically unwell newborn infants receive round-the-clock care
  • Taking care of an infant’s basic needs, such as feeding and changing diapers
  • Inserting intravenous lines, performing testing, and delivering drugs
  • Providing medical assistance to the NICU Physicians during surgeries and treatments
  • Using and modifying specialized medical equipment
  • Developing nursing strategies and assessing the efficacy of treatments
  • Assisting parents and family members who are worried about their sick newborns
  • Supporting parents and family members while also training them to care for their infant at home

On the other hand, PICU Nurses are in charge of assessing, treating, and monitoring young patients 18 years or younger suffering from acute, life-threatening illnesses.

Pediatric ICU Nurses collaborate with other healthcare professionals to provide age-appropriate care. Common nursing responsibilities include:

  • Measuring blood pressure
  • Monitoring oxygen levels
  • Tracking urine output
  • Inserting IVs
  • Changing wound dressings
  • Delivering antibiotics
  • Modifying ventilators
  • Evaluating test results

Because every symptom matters, PICU Nurses must record patient information concisely and precisely.

Pediatric Intensive Care Nurses also address caregivers’ queries and educate them on managing their child’s health condition.

It is critical to follow all HIPAA (the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) requirements and safety standards.


Both the PICU and the NICU can improve pediatric and neonatal care quality if well-organized and can efficiently treat severe consequences of high-burden diseases, including diarrhea, severe malaria, and respiratory distress, with low-cost therapies.

As a result, working in a PICU or NICU is satisfying and fulfilling.


Do NICU Nurses hold babies?

Your responsibilities as a Nurse in the NICU will be centered on newborn babies. NICU Nurses only work with newborns, while PICU Nurses may work with young babies. NICU nursing may begin in the birth room or at the mother’s bedside, depending on the circumstances.

What is the distinction between a NICU and Neonatal Nurse?

Although it is commonly considered that Neonatal Nurses and NICU Nurses have nearly identical jobs, this is not necessarily the case. Nurses who work with critically unwell infants are known as “Neonatal Nurses.” The term “NICU Nurses” refers to Neonatal Nurses who work in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.

Is being a NICU Nurse worth it?

Caring for sick children and supporting their families can be quite gratifying. However, there are many advantages to working as a Neonatal Nurse and the rewarding patient care profession. According to the BLS, Registered Nurses working in NICU earned median annual pay of $71,730 in 2018.

Are PICU and NICU Nurses in high demand?

Nurses in the NICU and PICU play one of the most critical roles in our healthcare system. Therefore, NICU and PICU nursing is not only high-demand specializations but also rewarding career choices for prospective Registered Nurses who enjoy caring for infants to improve their health and get them home.

Is NICU nursing competitive?

Getting a job as a Nurse in the NICU is extremely difficult. Those who want to work in the NICU should be proactive in looking for possibilities to help them when they are ready to start their nursing career; they can accomplish this in many ways.

Which is better, PICU or NICU?

A Pediatric Intensive Care Unit is different from a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit in that it treats newborns and children below 17 years (pediatric = children). A NICU (neonatal = newborn infants) is a hospital that focuses primarily on the care of newborns that require extra attention (Tender, loving care).


PICU vs NICU Intensive Care Levels

Intensive Care Unit Classification

NICU Nurse Job Description

PICU Nurse Job Description

All Posts

career employers editorial process

Here at career employer, we focus a lot on providing factually accurate information that is always up to date. We strive to provide correct information using strict editorial processes, article editing and fact checking for all of the information found on our website. We only utilize trustworthy and relevant resources. To find out more, make sure to read our full editorial process page here.

Leave a Comment

How Career Employer Collects Its Data

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Nulla quam velit, vulputate eu pharetra nec, mattis ac neque. Duis vulputate commodo lectus, ac blandit elit tincidunt id.