- Doctors: The attending doctor, also called a neonatologist, has completed years of education and training specifically in neonatal care. He or she leads the entire NICU team, is usually the most knowledgeable about preemie care, and is in charge of major medical decisions. The neonatologist is the person to talk to about ‘kangaroo care,’ or skin-to-skin contact.
- Doctors-in-training: Other types of doctors you might see in the NICU are fellows, residents, or medical students. These are medical professionals who haven’t yet completed training to become a doctor.
- Medical directors: Medical directors lead and supervise all of the doctors and doctors-to-be in the NICU. Sometimes, a doctor might not be available right away when you need to ask question. In those cases you can speak to the medical director.
- Neonatal nurse practitioners: These nurses have advanced degrees and are extensively trained to care for newborn infants who need special attention; they are experts in neonatal care and help come up with care plans for the babies in the NICU. Parents can ask these nurses any questions about their baby’s health and tell them preferences they might have regarding their baby’s care.
- Physician assistants: A neonatal physician assistant (NPA) has the same training as a physician assistant, except that his or her education is specific to infant care. The NPA works under the physician to help design care plans and assist with certain medical procedures; he or she can usually prescribe medication, too.
- Registered nurses and licensed practical nurses: You’ll probably interact with these nurses the most. They interact a lot with the babies in the NICU, and will get to know your preemie very well. They’re also probably a parent’s best source of up-to-date information about their baby’s care.
- Charge nurse or shift coordinator: This staff member is in charge of scheduling shifts for the nurses and checking patients in and out of the hospital. If, for whatever reason, you have a problem with a member of the NICU team who is caring for your baby, you can share this with the shift nurse.
- Other staff members in the NICU: Some other people that you’ll probably meet are certified nurse assistants (CNAs), health care coordinators, social workers, respiratory therapists, dietitians, lactation consultants, case managers, and parent support coordinators.
The NICU can be an overwhelming place for a parent, and at times, you may feel out of your element. The staff of the NICU understand that having a baby who needs extra medical care is a major life event, and can be traumatic for parents. They want to help you feel as comfortable and informed as possible, so don’t hesitate to use them as a resource!
- “A Guide to the Newborn Intesive Care Unit (NICU).” Intermountain Healthcare. Intermountain Healthcare, 2011. Web.
- “Is a Career in Neonatal Nursing Right for You?” National Association of Neonatal Nurses. National Association of Neonatal Nurses. Web.
- “NICU Medical Team.” HealthyChildren. American Academy of Pediatrics, November 21 2015. Web.
- Lori Ives-Baines. “Parents’ Involvement and Role in the NICU.” BabyFirst. Dragerwerk AG & Co., 2014. Web.