Hi, Ashley! I am a nurse who works with babies who are sick or premature and who require intensive care; we *do* most certainly have an official "designation"- Neonatal nurse. ;>) Nurses in the 'well-baby' nursery are also called Neonatal nurses, but as the above poster mentioned, they are often called 'Well-Baby' or 'Mother-Baby' nurses as well. I agree with some of what the other posters said; I'll throw in my own two cents here, too.
First of all, this area of nursing can be tremendously rewarding, and many, many nurses are so happy with their jobs that it may even be difficult to come upon an opening! I've found that the large majority who go into Neonatal nursing never leave that area of nursing, which can make job hunting a bit of a pain at times. Of course, there are also those who find it isn't for them, or who wouldn't come near the nursery if you paid them! I am sure that given the opportunity to work or spend clinical time on any level nursery will help you decide if you actually want to work there.
As all nursing is, working with babies can be terrifically hard work and emotionally overwhelming, but personally, I am extremely content with my choice to work where I do, and wouldn't trade it for any other unit in the world. It usually doesn't take long on these units to figure out if you want to stay. I rotated through a Level II nursery for a bit during nursing school, and by the time I had graduated knew that was where I wanted to work without a doubt. I know that everyone has a different opinion about which route to take, but only you can examine your personal situation, goals, and desire and choose the best option.
I, myself, do suggest that IF it's feasible for you that you consider becoming a CNA prior to entering nursing school. (That is, if time, finances, etc. allow such a decision, and if you want a taste of what is to come as a nurse.) I worked as a CNA on a Mother-Baby unit while I was in nursing school, and personally it only confirmed what I had an inkling about- that I wanted to be a nurse and that I wanted to work in the Maternal-Child area in some capacity or another. It was very hard work, and though it was certainly limited by my own limited experience and knowledge, it provided many opportunities for me to learn and connect with other healthcare professionals. I met other CNA's, some of whom were in nursing school and some of whom had made it their careers. I met other nurses, lab techs, respiratory therapists, radiology techs, and clerical workers, all of whom had a fantastic insight to the career I was considering, and all of whom had an opinion (which I took with a grain of salt) as well as a plethora of personal experience that I tried to hear about as often as possible. I asked trillions of questions, and was always observing the way they interacted with each other, the physicians, the patients...it was a great learning experience and I would recommend it highly. I learned medical terminology, hands-on-procedures, charting, anatomy, you name it. I learned how to function as part of a team, and I had an opportunity to participate in nursing without the responsibility of being a nurse.
You could check in your area about paths to becoming a CNA (Certified Nursing Assistant) or PCT (Patient Care Tech)- they call it by different names in different areas. Some courses take only six to eight weeks, the longest I've seen take six months and are taught by a community college. As a CNA, I worked on a unit in which the postpartum and nursery areas were combined, and often the moms would keep their babies in the room with them. My duties were exactly what was mentioned above, as well as technical stuff like discontinuing IV's, starting and removing catheters, doing perineal care for the moms, helping them walk and transporting them various places, assisting with breastfeeding, etc. CNA's are vital to nurses- they are the eyes we use when we can't be everywhere at once, and they are also our hands when our own are full. If this is a possibility for you, I encourage you to undertake it. At the very least, it will show you where you DON'T want to work and lead you away from nursing. It may very well be your entry into nursing- giving you knowledge and a part-time job while you're in school.
Nursing school is HARDHARDHARD. Our dropout rate was sky-high- some of our classes were cut in half by midsemester of the first term! If you are not sure you want to go into nursing (and this board is a great start, but remember that many people come here to vent and so you may end up with a slightly skewed perspective from just listening to us!) this is a great way to work in healthcare and give you a bit of time to decide.
If you do this, or if you are sure you want to go into nursing without a doubt, then we come to the whole 'What kind of nurse do I want to be?' issue. LPN vs. RN. There are many, many threads on this board discussing just this issue, and I highly recommend to you that if you haven't already, take some time to read them. In between some of the heated arguments, there is valuable information about the differences between the two, and many pro's and con's you can consider when making your own decision. I won't rehash all that here- but after you read them and if you still have questions, feel free to ask and I'm sure you'll get plenty of replies!! ;>)
I am an RN with an ADN; I went to nursing school for two years in addition to a number of years in a regular university where I was not yet studying nursing. My program, if started right away (I switched majors), would have taken about three years total to complete. In our area (Louisiana), LPN programs are generally about 16 months, plus a bit extra to complete pre-requisites like Math, English, etc. BSN programs take four years to complete, and this was not an option for me for many reasons.
Whatever you decide, please remember that you will be a valuable asset to the healthcare community, irregardless of degree or title. In my hospital, LPN's are not allowed to work in the NICU, but they can hold jobs in the Newborn nursery. There is very little they cannot do there.
You asked about pay... Basically, LPN's get paid less than RN's. How much varies; it can be as little as $2, but in my area, it is about $5-6/hr less than RN's. In the nursery, the work LPN's and RN's do is very close, so the pay gap may be a block for you. RN's in general get paid anywhere from 14-22$/hr (or so) to start. You can then add specialty pay (i.e., for working NICU) per hour, as well as shift diffs (i.e., extra money per hour for working evenings, nights, weekends, or holidays) to that.
It's really impossible to tell- every place is different- but you may try looking in the classified ads, at online job postings from local hospitals, or by asking nurses in your area what they get paid. If you ask someone, be sure they clarify what their base pay is- that is, the pay they get without the diffs added to it. This is the minimum money you will be making per hour to do your job- all the rest is extra.
Good luck to you!
Let us know if you need any more help. ;>)