How to become a NICU or Neonatal Nurse – RN Careers (2023)

How to become a NICU or Neonatal Nurse – RN Careers (1)

Bykrystina ostermeyer

Updated: Aug 19, 2021

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Introduction to Nursing in the NICU

The NICU NB is often the unsung hero of labor and the delivery unit. When mothers-to-be arrive to deliver their newborns, their first interaction is with the L&D nurses, who help the obstetricians deliver their children into the world. However, if something goes wrong, the NICU RN steps in and takes care of the sick newborns.

NICU nursing is an exciting and exciting area of ​​nursing. NICU nurses are responsible for caring for and comforting newborns who have health issues or need additional care due to prematurity, low birth weight, or other conditions. NICU nurses may also be responsible for teaching parents about their child's condition and how they can help at home. If you are interested in becoming a NICU nurse, read on to find out more!

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What is a NICU nurse?

The NICU RN takes care of newborns in critical condition after delivery. These babies can be in the NICU for a variety of reasons, from premature birth, inadequate lung development, birth to mothers who are addicted to drugs or alcohol. According toNational Association of Neonatal Nurses, “Neonatal nursing generally covers babies who have problems soon after birth, but it also covers the care of babies who have long-term problems related to prematurity or illness after birth. Some neonatal nurses can care for babies up to about 2 years of age. Most neonatal nurses care for babies from the moment they are born until they are discharged from the hospital.”

Neonatal nurses talk to parents about breastfeeding and infection control, check vital signs, assist with procedures like blood transfusions or eye drops for newborns with eye infections. They position babies for feeding time by holding them upright and propping them up in a special chair or propping them up on an angled armrest. However, the neonatal nurse's work is not limited to these tasks; They work closely with physicians to ensure that each phase of care is performed as accurately as possible, including helping physicians configure the equipment to be used.

What does a NICU RN do on a daily basis?

The daily work of the RN NICU depends on its patient load. In an ideal world, the NICU would have few or no patients, but this is often not the case. The NICU nurse must be prepared for any type of problem that may arise. In addition, the type of care provided depends on the level of the NICU where the NB is inserted. According toChildren's Hospital of the Rocky Mountains, there are 4 levels of care in the NICU:

  • Level I: Basic newborn care: these hospitals care for full-term, healthy babies. If a baby needs advanced care, they will be stabilized and transferred to the appropriate level of care in the NICU.
  • Level II: Advanced Care for the Newborn:these hospitals are equipped to care for babies born prematurely, at 32 weeks or more of gestation. They may also care for babies with certain serious health conditions.
  • Level III: Neonatal Care Subspecialty: These hospitals are equipped to care for babies born before 32 weeks of gestation and other critical illnesses. They are equipped to provide respiratory support and generally have pediatric subspecialty availability as needed.
  • Level IV: highest level of newborn care: these hospitals are similarly equipped to the level III NICU, but also have pediatric surgeons and anesthesiologists. They can provide surgical intervention for severe congenital conditions.

At all levels of newborn care, the NICU nurse is responsible for providing safety to their patients. This includes (but is not limited to) vital signs, patient assessment, feeding, medication administration, ventilator assessment, and family education.

Where do neonatal nurses work?

Neonatal nurses, also called neonatal intensive care (NICU) specialists, work primarily in hospitals that care for babies less than 36 weeks gestation.

In the United States, most neonatal nurses work on medical teams that exclusively care for babies weighing 1,000 grams or less. They monitor the baby's nutrition, growth and development, and treatment protocols as needed during their stay in hospitals such as the NICU. These nurses are also experienced with life support systems, including ventilators, cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and endotracheal intubation tubes. Using these tools is part of what neonatal nurses do to save a baby's life when he can't breathe on his own, even after clear fluid has been removed from his lungs or when he doesn't have a strong enough heartbeat. NICU nurses also work with babies who are suffering from infections or bleeding in the brain and adjust treatment plans according to the baby's needs.

How do I become a NICU RN?

Generally, the minimum education requirement for the NICU RN is aDNA grade. Some hospitals may require aBSN degree, depending on the severity of the patients involved. After graduation, it is possible to find internships in intensive care in the NICU. For example,Baylor Health Systemoffers paid internships to recent nursing graduates. Their NICU program is 16 weeks, progressing from stable preterm care to advanced care. Pursuing these opportunities is a quick way to become a NICU RN. Learn about similar nursing career options such asNeonatal Nurse,Women's Health Nurseodelivery nurse.

Once employed in the NICU profession, there are continuing education opportunities within supervisory organizations to help nurses maintain their certification requirements for board recertification through successful completion of nationally standardized exams for recertification.

How do I become a neonatal nurse?

To become a neonatal nurse, you must first complete your nursing degree and pass the National Board Licensing Examination (NCLEX-RN) to become licensed as an RN. Having passed this exam, you can now pursue higher education with an emphasis on postgraduate nursing or general postgraduate studies with the aim of eventually obtaining a Master of Science. Some universities offer online master's degrees in these areas of study, and others offer on-campus programs. An average course load will generally be six to nine credits per semester. read aboutHow to become a neonatal nurse.

What skills are needed to be a neonatal nurse?

The NICU is a high-stress environment and neonatal nurses must be able to handle stress well. They must also enjoy the fast pace of work while maintaining safety awareness for all patients in their care. NICU nurses need good communication skills to keep parents informed about how the baby is doing, as well as other NICU staff members. NICU nurses need patience, compassion and emotional maturity to deal with the death of babies in their care.

A neonatal nurse must be compassionate. In the NICU, there are many cases of premature babies who need treatment soon after birth. Providing care under these circumstances often puts nurses at high risk for burnout and burnout. Nurses need a lot of patience working with families whose lives have been disrupted by having a critically ill baby or experiencing the unexpected loss of a baby due to stillbirth or death shortly after birth. Hospitals that care for high-risk pregnant women may have some staff turnover that is also reminiscent of the pediatric unit, as it is a particularly emotional environment that constantly deals with deaths, problems that go beyond what others experience.

What is the job outlook for NICU nurses?

HeOffice of Labor and Statisticspoints out that between 2014 and 2024, nursing as a whole should grow by 16%. Unfortunately, there will always be critically ill newborns, so we can determine that the need for the RN NICU would increase at a similar rate.

Neonatal Nurse Salary

NICU salaries are difficult to determine as they vary significantly from unit to unit. The size of the hospital, the location of the facilities, and the cost of living in that area all influence how much someone earns. Compensation also differs for nurses who work part-time versus full-time. In general, the salary starts at around $32.98 per hour for recent college graduates in rural areas and can reach upwards of $100,000 per year in major metropolitan cities with higher living costs.

NICU nurses may work in a NICU or be "floaters" who move between units. NICUs can range from very small to large, with many different specialties. There are NICUs that specialize in a single subject such as oncology, surgery, neurology, etc. NICU salaries will depend on location, NICU size, NICU experience and specialty.

NICUs in larger teaching hospitals may command higher salaries than NICUs that are part of a small community hospital or private practice. Larger NICUs may also offer better benefits such as retirement plans, vacations, paid leave, etc., because these nurses spend more hours on call. NICUs in teaching hospitals will have higher salaries because they are expected to provide instructors. More experienced NICU nurses also earn a higher salary than those just starting out, and NICUs specializing in oncology, surgery or neurology may also pay better.

According topay scale, the average salary for neonatal nurses is around $32.98 per hour. This rate may increase if the nurse has a BSN degree or advanced education as a NICU transport RN. According to Zip Recruiter, the state-by-state neonatal nurse salary is as follows:

stateAnnual salarypaid monthlyweekly paymenthourly wage
New York$ 119.052$ 9.921$ 2.289$ 57,24
New Hampshire$ 115.545$ 9.629$ 2.222$ 55,55
Vermont$ 109.375$ 9.115$ 2.103$ 52,58
Wyoming$ 106.169$ 8.847$ 2.042$ 51,04
West Virginia$ 103.437$ 8.620$ 1.989$ 49,73
Massachusetts$ 103.341$ 8.612$ 1.987$ 49,68
pennsylvania$ 102.937$ 8.578$ 1.980$ 49,49
hawaii$ 100.873$ 8.406$ 1.940$ 48,50
Montana$ 100.211$ 8.351$ 1.927$ 48,18
Washington$ 99.921$ 8.327$ 1.922$ 48,04
Arizona$ 99.181$ 8.265$ 1.907$ 47,68
Connecticut$ 98.901$ 8.242$ 1.902$ 47,55
New Jersey$ 98.853$ 8.238$ 1.901$ 47,53
Indiana$ 98.545$ 8.212$ 1.895$ 47,38
Rhode Island$ 96.866$ 8.072$ 1.863$ 46,57
Alaska$ 95.833$ 7.986$ 1.843$ 46,07
Georgia$ 95.676$ 7.973$ 1.840$ 46,00
Dakota do Norte$ 95.393$ 7.949$ 1.834$ 45,86
Wisconsin$ 95.206$ 7.934$ 1.831$ 45,77
Tennessee$ 95.132$ 7.928$ 1.829$ 45,74
Nevada$ 95.080$ 7.923$ 1.828$ 45,71
Minnesota$ 95.006$ 7.917$ 1.827$ 45,68
Maryland$ 94.548$ 7.879$ 1.818$ 45,46
Ohio$ 94.438$ 7.870$ 1.816$ 45,40
Alabama$ 93.439$ 7.787$ 1.797$ 44,92
Nebraska$ 92.985$ 7.749$ 1.788$ 44,70
Utah$ 92.876$ 7.740$ 1.786$ 44,65
Dakota del Sur$ 92.607$ 7.717$ 1.781$ 44,52
Louisiana$ 92.137$ 7.678$ 1.772$ 44,30
Virginia$ 91.766$ 7.647$ 1.765$ 44,12
Oregon$ 91.283$ 7.607$ 1.755$ 43,89
Kentucky$ 90.975$ 7.581$ 1.750$ 43,74
California$ 90.662$ 7.555$ 1.744$ 43,59
New Mexico$ 90.506$ 7.542$ 1.740$ 43,51
Iowa$ 90.255$ 7.521$ 1.736$ 43,39
Florida$ 90.173$ 7.514$ 1.734$ 43,35
Kansas$ 90.076$ 7.506$ 1.732$ 43,31
Carolina do sul$ 88.931$ 7.411$ 1.710$ 42,76
Colorado$ 88.688$ 7.391$ 1.706$ 42,64
Delaware$ 88.379$ 7.365$ 1.700$ 42,49
Oklahoma$ 86.421$ 7.202$ 1.662$ 41,55
Idaho$ 84.870$ 7.072$ 1.632$ 40,80
Maine$ 84.556$ 7.046$ 1.626$ 40,65
Mississippi$ 84.402$ 7.033$ 1.623$ 40,58
Arkansas$ 83.350$ 6.946$ 1.603$ 40,07
Michigan$ 83.209$ 6.934$ 1.600$ 40,00
Illinois$ 82.899$ 6.908$ 1.594$ 39,86
Texas$ 81.912$ 6.826$ 1.575$ 39,38
Measurements$ 81.371$ 6.781$ 1.565$ 39,12
North Caroline$ 75.783$ 6.315$ 1.457$ 36,43

What is the professional outlook for neonatal nurses?

With approximately 2.3 million newborns born in the United States each year and a shortage of qualified personnel to care for them, the outlook for neonatal nurses is bright. By 2024, it is estimated that there will be 53% more vacancies than qualified applicants for these positions. Some hospitals have resorted to hiring Australian neonatologists because they cannot find American patients willing to work high-intensity rotations with 12-hour shifts every day for four weeks at a time!

In addition to all the job openings generated by retirement or people looking for other careers, new health care reforms are expected to create even greater demand for trained professionals, such as neonatal nurses, as doctors and hospitals try to provide better coverage and , while offering higher quality care than

The US Bureau of Labor Statistics says job prospects for neonatal nurses will remain "very good". However, they also point out that hospital budgets have been cut and therefore hiring rates may not necessarily increase in line with other jobs. In general, it seems that the only way for a neonatal nurse to significantly affect her career is to establish herself as a leader in neonatal care. This can be done through volunteer opportunities or job tracking.

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How to become a NICU or Neonatal Nurse – RN Careers (2)

How to become a NICU or Neonatal Nurse – RN Careers (3)

krystina ostermeyer

Krystina is an RN with a mixed background. She has worked in a telemetry unit, an allergy/immunotherapy clinic and is currently working in diabetes education, pursuing her Certified Diabetes Educator (CDE) certification. She's come a long way toward her Bachelor's degree, starting her nursing career as an LPN and graduating from a local college. First he got his DNA, then the Excelsior College BSN.

Sources: 50 State Boards of Nursing, university websites, US Department of Education, Bureau of Labor Statistics.Classification methodology.


How to become a NICU or Neonatal Nurse – RN Careers? ›

Becoming a NICU Nurse

To become a neonatal intensive care nurse, you first must be a registered nurse (RN) with either an Associate's Degree in Nursing (ADN) or a Bachelor's of Science in Nursing (BSN).

Can you be a NICU nurse as an RN? ›

Becoming a NICU Nurse

To become a neonatal intensive care nurse, you first must be a registered nurse (RN) with either an Associate's Degree in Nursing (ADN) or a Bachelor's of Science in Nursing (BSN).

How many years does it take to become a NICU nurse? ›

Share this Article. It takes 4-6 years to become a NICU nurse. Neonatal nurses need a college degree and a state-issued license. Certifications can help professionals qualify for more career opportunities.

What is the fastest way to become a neonatal nurse? ›

Neonatal Nurse Education

Earning an ADN and passing the NCLEX-RN exam provides the quickest path to a neonatal nursing career, requiring two years or less. However, RNs with at least a BSN will find more employment opportunities and higher salaries.

Is it hard to get into NICU nursing? ›

Most large NICU's will hire new grads or those with limited experience. When you interview, make sure you express just how badly you desire to work as a NICU nurse. It's competitive, so make yourself stand out. Always follow up with a thank you letter, and reiterate your desire for the position.

Can I be a NICU nurse straight out of college? ›

Neonatal nurse education and training

You may be able to find a neonatal nursing role straight out of school, but there's also a good chance you'll need to first build experience if you're looking for a NICU position.

Is it worth it to become a NICU nurse? ›

Working as a NICU nurse can be very rewarding career. It gives you the chance to improve and save the lives of infants and newborns and comfort their families. Being able to make a positive difference in the lives of others can be very rewarding and beneficial.

What is the hardest part of being a NICU nurse? ›

Emotionally Stressful

Working in a NICU is an extremely high-pressure job. The NICU nursing staff is responsible for the lives of tiny, unstable babies, and you may be required to leap into crisis mode at any moment.

How many days a week do neonatal nurses work? ›

A full time NICU RN may work three, 12-hour shifts in a seven day period. On-call shifts may also be required for NICU RNs. Since intensive care units are open 24 hours a day and 365 days a year, NICU nurses may be required to work during weekends and holidays.

What is the lowest salary for a neonatal nurse? ›

Neonatal nurse salaries typically range between $41,000 and $122,000 a year.

What is the highest paying neonatal nurse? ›

While ZipRecruiter is seeing annual salaries as high as $207,500 and as low as $25,000, the majority of Nicu Rn salaries currently range between $112,500 (25th percentile) to $160,000 (75th percentile) with top earners (90th percentile) making $190,000 annually across the United States.

Which state pays neonatal nurses the most? ›

According to them, the highest paying state for neonatal nurses is New York, with an annual salary of $108,499, and the lowest paying state is North Carolina, with a yearly wage of $78,345.

Do neonatal nurses deliver babies? ›

Since NICU nurses care for newborns, they often attend deliveries for babies that doctors believe will require a NICU stay. Upon delivery, a NICU nurse can perform some vitals and can need to transport the child to the neonatal ICU after an initial assessment.

Do L&D nurses deliver babies? ›

Labor and delivery nurses, also known as “L&D nurses,” help deliver healthy babies and get mothers through the process of pregnancy safely.

What do I need to know before starting NICU? ›

10 Tips for Being a New Grad Nurse in the NICU
  • Always Stay Curious. ...
  • Ask Questions Always. ...
  • Understand the WHY Behind What You're Doing. ...
  • Remember it's Normal to Feel Overwhelmed. ...
  • Ask for Help if You Need it. ...
  • Ask for What You Need. ...
  • Be Gentle With Parents While Having a Backbone. ...
  • Ask Providers for Education.

Can new grads start in NICU? ›

Yes, new grad nurses can get hired in the NICU, but it's hard. With that said, there are various ways you can increase your chances of getting hired. Before all of that, ask yourself whether or not you're ready to take on the role of a NICU nurse and if this new job is the right choice for you.

What does neonatal nurse do? ›

A neonatal nurse is a nurse that works specifically with newborn babies typically in their first month of life. Most often, neonatal nurses work with infants who face specific challenges right after birth including birth defects, heart problems, prematurity, and more.

What is the easiest nursing specialty in the hospital? ›

Occupational Health

One of the easiest nursing jobs to get into is in the field of occupational health. Occupational health nurses work in large industries, HMOs, and factories to treat work-related injuries and onsite illnesses. This type of nurse is employed to keep the workers on the job.

What is the hardest type of nurse to be? ›

Most Stressful Nursing Positions
  • Intensive Care Unit (ICU) nurses. ICU is an extremely high-pressure environment and these nurses work with patients who have significant injuries and disease with added morbidity risks. ...
  • Emergency Department nurses. ...
  • Neonatal ICU. ...
  • OR nursing. ...
  • Oncology Nursing. ...
  • Psychiatric Nursing.
Jan 27, 2021

How many hours does a NICU nurse work a week? ›

Typically, neonatal nurses work around 40 hours per week.

As NICUs and hospitals need nurse support every day, this can include weekends and holidays. For 12-hour shifts, they work 3 days a week, but those days may change weekly, monthly, or quarterly.

How many levels are there in neonatal nursing? ›

​​Levels of Neonatal Care. The American Academy of Pediatrics​ categorizes hospitals into four levels based on the care a facility can provide to newborns. These levels of care correspond to the therapies and services provided.

Do neonatal nurses get to hold babies? ›

You get to hold babies and feed babies and love babies and you only work 3 days a week!” “While I DO think I have the best job in the world, it's not for the above reasons. Very rarely do I actually get to hold a big juicy baby and if I do, it's a short-lived moment. In reality, the NICU is intense.

Is a neonatal nurse a stressful job? ›

Also, NICU nurses typically have more “downtime” because sleep is such a critical component of an infant's growth and recovery. However, while you might experience less physical stress, being a NICU nurse tends to be emotionally demanding, especially given this population is so vulnerable.

What type of baby nurse makes the most money? ›

Nurse-Midwife salaries are among the highest because, like many other advanced nursing roles, RNs wishing to become a Certified Nurse-Midwife must earn a minimum of a Master's degree in nursing (MSN). They're also required to obtain national certification from the American Midwifery Certification Board.

What are the lowest paid RN jobs? ›

Licensed vocational nurses (LVN) and licensed practical nurses (LPN) are some of the lowest-paid nursing roles, but that is due to the fact that the educational requirements are less than most other types of nurses.

What nurse makes the least money? ›

Licensed vocational nurses (LVNs) and Licensed practical nurses (LPNs) have the least education requirements among nurses and therefore tend to make lower incomes than other nursing specialties. LVNs and LPNs can increase their income by getting an associate degree or a bachelor's degree in nursing.

What is the best state to live in as a NICU nurse? ›

Best States For a Neonatal Nurse

Our research found that Washington is the best state for neonatal nurses, while Washington and California are ranked highest in terms of median salary. Washington has a median salary of $93,014 and Washington has the highest median salary among all 50 states for neonatal nurses.

Where is the highest paid RN? ›

Highest-paying states for registered nurses

California tops our list of the highest-paying states, where registered nurses make $124,000 per year on average. Following it is Hawaii, at $106,530, and Oregon at $98,6300.

What percent of RNs have BSN? ›

The percentage of registered nurses who hold a bachelor's of science in nursing or higher is at an all-time high with a national average of about 56 percent, up from about 49 percent in 2010.

Where do the majority of RNs work? ›

Registered nurses are in high demand in both acute care and community settings, including private practices, health maintenance organizations, public health agencies, primary care clinics, home health care, nursing homes, minute clinics, outpatient surgicenters, nursing school-operated clinics, insurance and managed ...

Where pays nurses the best? ›

Switzerland: Nurses in Switzerland have some of the highest salaries in the world, with an average annual salary of around $85000. Canada: Nurses in Canada earn an average annual salary of around $75000. Germany: Nurses in Germany have an average salary of around $65000.

What is the difference between an OB nurse and a neonatal nurse? ›

Obstetrics nurses care for patients during labor and delivery. They also specialize in prenatal care, postpartum care, and lactation support. While neonatal nurses focus on caring for newborns, obstetrics nurses primarily work with expectant and postpartum patients.

What are baby nurses called? ›

2. Neonatal nurses. Job description: Neonatal nurses are typically the next specialized group to enter the picture of infant care after labor and delivery nurses. This type of nurse specializes in the care of newborn infants.

What is the difference between a neonatal nurse and a pediatric nurse? ›

Pediatric nurses and neonatal nurses both have essential roles in providing healthcare to children. Pediatric nurses care for children of all ages, while neonatal nurses help infants who require specialized care.

Why is neonatology so difficult? ›

One of the hardest things to manage in this career is stress. The birth of a newborn baby is a highly emotional event, and parents will be at their most emotionally charged and vulnerable. In the case of an emergency, parents can become belligerent, upset or terrified, and need to be managed along with the newborn.

Is it hard to get into labor and delivery nursing? ›

L&D is also a notoriously competitive specialty, but with solid credentials and a professional resume and cover letter, it's not impossible. With that said, working in labor and delivery won't be the right fit for every nurse.

What is the difference between an L&D nurse and a mother baby nurse is? ›

Mother Baby Nurse vs Labor and Delivery Nurse

A labor and delivery nurse is actively involved in the laboring and birthing process. A mother baby nurse is actively involved immediately after birth to monitor for any immediate postpartum needs.

Is L&D nursing hard? ›

Being a labor and delivery nurse is no easy task. It requires a lot of patience, skill, and knowledge to take care of new parents during one of the most critical times in their lives.

Can you work in NICU right after nursing school? ›

Yes, new grad nurses can get hired in the NICU, but it's hard. With that said, there are various ways you can increase your chances of getting hired. Before all of that, ask yourself whether or not you're ready to take on the role of a NICU nurse and if this new job is the right choice for you.

What would a NICU nurse be considered? ›

Generally speaking, working in a NICU is considered level three nursing care (level one is care for healthy infants, and level two is for less serious neonatal cases).

What is the most a NICU nurse can make? ›

How Much Do Nicu Nurse Jobs Pay per Year? $90,000 is the 25th percentile. Salaries below this are outliers. $145,500 is the 75th percentile.

What is a nurse for babies called? ›

2. Neonatal nurses. Job description: Neonatal nurses are typically the next specialized group to enter the picture of infant care after labor and delivery nurses. This type of nurse specializes in the care of newborn infants.

What do NICU nurses do with babies? ›

The responsibilities of a NICU nurse include caring for infants' basic needs, such as diaper changes and feeding, and coordinating the infants' medical treatments with the NICU physician. The NICU nurse also offers comfort and support to premature and ill newborns and their parents and family members.

What is the difference between NICU nurse and nursery nurse? ›

Job duties

Nursery nurses commonly interact with their patient's families, updating them on their current condition. NICU nurses may also conduct routine screening and assessments and perform more complex treatments and procedures.

What RN makes the most money? ›

The Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist consistently ranks as the highest-paid nursing career. That is because Nurse Anesthetists are highly skilled Registered Nurses who work closely with medical staff during medical procedures that require anesthesia.

What is the lowest salary for a NICU nurse? ›

Given the most recent data, the median annual salary for a NICU Nurse in the US is $71,267.04. In high-earning states, NICU Nurses can make between $80,000 to over $100,000. In the lowest-earning states, NICU Nurses can earn between $55,000 to $69,000.

How many vacation days do neonatal nurses get? ›

Most healthcare facilities have strong vacation and paid time off (PTO) policies, with nurses getting seventeen paid vacation days on average after their first year and up to twenty-six on average after twenty years.

Why do you want to be a NICU nurse? ›

Working as a NICU nurse may provide opportunities for career advancement. For example, some NICO nurses may become mentors or begin teaching medical students. Another option may be to pursue leadership roles within the hospital. Other NICU nurses may further specialize in a particular area of care.

Do RNS work 3 days a week? ›

Many nurses work just 3 days a week. Although it seems like a pretty relaxed and manageable schedule, they work 12-hour shifts on each of those days. Those long shifts can be draining and taxing on the nurse's mental and physical health—it's far from an easy schedule.


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