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Understanding the Role of Neonatologists: Is this Career Right for You?

Understanding the Role of Neonatologists: Is this Career Right for You?

Nothing is more exciting (and nerve-wracking) than the journey to bring a new life into this world.

However, childbirth is often marred with many complications, with many babies being born premature, with low birth weight, acquiring a dangerous infection, or anatomical complications.

Since newborns (also known as neonates) require extensive care, doctors must have expertise in dealing with neonatal health.

A pediatrician is not enough to provide medical care for the days immediately after birth.

This is where you need a neonatologist, a medical practitioner specializing in the care and medicine of newborn babies.

Here’s all you need to know about the work these specialists do so you can make an informed decision regarding whether neonatology suits you as a career:

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What Does Specialized Newborn Care Entail

For the first 28 days of its life, a baby is considered a neonate.

This phase is considered critical as infants undergo significant physical and medical changes.

These changes help them learn to live in the outside world, which has an entirely different environment than the womb.

Key developmental milestones include learning to breathe, regulate temperature, and feed.

Newborns have a weak immune system, so they are also very susceptible to infections.

Neonatology is even more important when it comes to premature births, where a baby is born before 37 weeks of pregnancy.

In these cases, you need to support the baby medically as their organ systems are not fully developed. Similarly, the newborn does not have enough surfactant in their lungs and cannot breathe in respiratory distress syndrome (RDS).

Many also newborns often get neonatal jaundice as a result of high bilirubin levels, and neonatologists are required to manage their jaundice.

Many babies are born with congenital defects, where their development in the womb is impaired due to various factors.

Such babies have a low chance of survival without medical interventions, and immediate surgery may be required. Neonatologists ensure such babies have an optimistic prognosis.

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How to Become a Neonatologist

If you’re interested in providing care to newborn babies, you can either become a specialized doctor or a neonatal nurse. The nursing route requires you first to get your degree in nursing.

Then, you must gain neonatal nursing experience and obtain certification to work toward becoming a neonatal practitioner.

Alternatively, you can also get a Doctor of Medicine (MD) degree and then complete a residency program in pediatrics.

After you are done with residency, you can get additional training through a three-year fellowship program in neonatal-perinatal medicine.

You can then pursue board certification in neonatal-perinatal medicine through a pediatrics board.

The Soft Skill Set You Require in Neonatology

The best neonatologist has soft skills rather than necessarily knowing the best medicine.

It is not just specific training and knowledge that a doctor needs; they also need to comprehend the significance of providing families with emotional support and direction.

A neonatologist must possess skills like the ability to communicate effectively, empathy, and reassurance. They must also be able to address the parents' worries and anxieties.

Since newborn care necessitates multidisciplinary teams that include neonatal nurses, respiratory therapists, nutritionists, and other specialists, neonatologists need to be collaborative workers.

End note

Neonatologists are fundamental in pediatric care: you probably owe your health to the neonatologist who provided you with medical care in your first 28 days.

Newborn babies are also prone to infections and, if born preterm, are not developed enough to survive without interventions. In all of these conditions, neonatologists ensure the survival and good health of the baby.

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