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If I want to become a neonatal nurse, would I have to work with adults first to gain experience or can jump right to NICU?

June 22nd, 2022

So I’m not a NICU nurse, but I am an adult critical care nurse. I always tell people that the old adage that you need to be a floor nurse (or anything) before getting into speciality isn’t necessarily true. Some people want to go that way, but I firmly believe you can learn how to be a nurse on any unit, not just an adult medical floor. The nursing process is the same no matter where you work; if you have an orientation program you’ll learn it in the NICU too.

What the adult medical floor DOESN’T have is the specialized equipment, processes, and exposures that you need to be a good NICU (or ICU or ED or whatever) nurse. If your goal is NICU, then get right in there and learn it. I don’t think you’ll have much trouble getting hired into it, especially at medical centers with a nurse residency/fellowship program.

Get it!

June 22nd, 2022

I have been a NICU nurse for 28 years, NICU educator for approx 12 years. Used to be a new grad was never even considered for ANY ICU. These days, new grads can get into a level III NICU based on what I believe are two important criteria. 1) Does the unit have an internship program 2) How well you interview. In the interview, relay your enthusiasm for being a NICU nurse, saying 'It's true, I don't have experience, but I also do not have any poor habits or pre set attitudes about being a NICU nurse. I am a clean slate, ready and so excited to learn. And so wanting to be a part of a team that gives excellent care to babies and their families'. A positive attitude, a willingness to learn and work well with others, goes a long way in nursing. Good luck!

June 22nd, 2022

I’m currently a new grad, with my very first job being in the NICU! I oriented with several other nurses, some without experience like myself and others who transferred from medsurg and ED. We were all oriented in the same manner, and the nurses with adult experience said that they felt like they were brand new nurses all over again. So yes, you can definitely jump right into NICU!

June 22nd, 2022

I am a new grad and my first job was in NICU! It mainly depends on the hospital system and their needs. Mine was in need of nurses and hired on lots of new grads and people with minimal baby experience. They were open to teaching us and helping us succeed! I would say apply to the job!!

June 23rd, 2022

I have worked in a level 3 NICU for 27 years. I did begin my career on a med/surg unit. I soon realized that was not my passion. After a year I worked in a newborn nursery for 6 months and then transferred to the NICU. To answer your question…we have had many new grads start in our unit over the years. The orientation process prepares you for the NICU. As with all units it is up to the person to ask questions and immerse yourself into learning all you can. NICU units are not for everyone but if it is your passion it is very rewarding!!

July 4th, 2022

From my experience, I have seen where larger medical centers will hire a new grad nurse and take them into a specialty such as NICU and ED. Personally, I believe it is best for a new grad to begin in med surg. This gives the new nurse a good base knowledge skills on assessments and the overall skills for just about any specialty. Many of my fellow nurses I have worked with over the last couple decades have also verbalized similar beliefs.

August 29th, 2022

There are many hospitals that have NICU Internships that will hires new grades. Personally I’d recommend working in Nursery for a bit first. It’s much easier to recognize the abnormal when you what “normal” is.

March 20th, 2023

It is better to jump right into the NICU. I started my career in the NICU right out of nursing school. There is very little that will translate into the adult world. The NICU is a world unto itself.

October 13th, 2022

Absolutely not, I went straight into the NICU after graduation. Honestly they love new grads because they aren't set in their ways yet and are pretty moldable.

August 25th, 2022

You can absolutely get hired into nicu. Ive been a nicu nurse for seven years now and did a nurse residency program with my first hospital that provided amazing training and classes. So, it was my first job out of school. There is zero reason to work with adults or med surg. Everything in NICU is entirely different than almost any other field and very little is covered in nursing school. So, I encourage you to pursue a job at a good hospital with a good training program and at least a level 3 NICU.

July 31st, 2022

You might want to make sure to start in a very busy NICU with a good long orientation. You need to see a very wide variety and volume of babies and equipment and therapies to gain solid experience. Rule of thumb in any unit: one year to feel competent, more to feel proficient, 10 years til you're an expert. I have seen seasoned RNs and ICU RNs quit NICUs for feeling out of their element. Find a good mentor to trust and talk with often.

June 29th, 2022

I came in the NICU as a graduate nurse. My head nurse said she would rather hire new grads than nurses with other patient experience. That way they learn the NICU from day one. I stayed for 30 years, but I do wish I had changed NICUs for a more rounded NICU nurse.

June 23rd, 2022

If you start at a Pediatric Hospital you may be more likely to be able to start as a NICU nurse If you work in a community based hospital they may have different requirements Of course it will depend on staffing needs. Just be upfront with the HR person you speak with regarding your interests

March 17th, 2023

I am a NICU nurse and started right after I graduated. Now I was a PCA all through school so I knew quite a bit, but was hired as an RN right after I graduated. I know the units I have worked on hire RN’s from other areas you will just have a longer on boarding time. Good luck and it is the best nursing job out there!! ❤️👣💙

March 7th, 2023

No. Babies change very quickly. You will be a better adult icu nirse if you get good with nicu babies.

February 14th, 2023

I would say that it would be great to have at least nursery experience so you can get an idea of what a NORMAL infant like like before diving into shock/ premature babies. I did L&D for 12 years and then have been in NICU for 16 years! And I'm now in school to become a Women's Health NP! Good luck on your nursing path!!

December 1st, 2022

No need to have adult experience first. Neonates are their own specialty. So different from everything else.

November 14th, 2022

No. My entire career as an RN has been in NICU. I did have Extern experience on a pediatric floor, but working adults prior to NICU is not a requirement. Jumping straight into NICU might make learning the in’s & out’s a bit easier because NICU world is very specific & our normals and practices can be unique to our unit specifically!

July 14th, 2022

It depends on the hospital. The hospital I work at allows new grads to become NICU nurses and you complete a new nurse residency program and have to stay for 18 months as part of the contract. Other hospitals require you have a year under your belt and some require that you have been a NICU nurse for 1-2 years depending on the position they are hiring for.

June 26th, 2022

Hi! I’ve been a NICU nurse for three years and I started as a new grad! No adult experience. I did a new grad residency program.

July 6th, 2022


July 24th, 2022

Get experience first! The best nurses have some with adults!