Several highly trained medical professionals in a variety of roles provide specialized care to babies and families in the NICU.
An attending physician, a neonatologist who is specially trained in the care of newborns, is the doctor in charge of your baby’s care while in the NICU. Consulting physicians have specialized training and expertise in a particular field of medicine such as cardiology.
Medical students in the NICU are in their fourth year of medical school. A resident is a physician who has graduated from medical school and is receiving clinical training in a specialty, such as pediatrics, anesthesia, family medicine or obstetrics. Neonatal fellows are physicians who have completed a pediatric residency program and are now undergoing advanced training to become a neonatologist.
Neonatal advanced practitioners or mid-level practitioners are either advanced practice registered nurses (APRN) or physician assistants (PA-C) who specialize in neonatal care. They perform exams and procedures, diagnose and treat illnesses, and write orders and prescriptions for babies under the supervision of an attending physician.
Primary or NICU nurses have extensive training and provide the day-to-day care for newborns and parents and coordinate discharges. Each baby is assigned a primary nurse. A patient care assistant (PCA) works under the supervision of a NICU nurse and is responsible for taking vital signs, feeding and bathing. Nurse managers and assistant nurse managers are trained pediatric nurses who manage the NICU and staff. A resource nurse may be in charge of the NICU for a shift.
Lactation consultants are nurses who have specialized breastfeeding training and work with parents to make breastfeeding as successful as possible. Registered dietitians (RD) may make recommendations on infant nutrition and monitor a baby’s growth.
Developmental specialists work with a baby’s family and care team to monitor how a baby responds to the environment and what helps your baby to cope with changes. They may also assist with feedings and educate parents about newborn development. Babies with breathing difficulties benefit from respiratory therapists who maintain the respiratory equipment at the bedside. Occupational, physical and speech therapists are available when rehabilitation services are needed.
A case manager or discharge planner is a pediatric nurse who helps coordinate home care for infants such as ordering medical equipment or arranging other necessary services. Clinical educators are nurses who coordinate the education of the staff and families at Connecticut Children’s. Social workers support families with coping strategies and resources and may connect families to community programs or financial assistance resources.
Health unit coordinators are medical secretaries who help manage NICU communications by answering phones and monitoring and directing visitors.