Most nursing programs
are weak in their teaching of normal and abnormal physiology of the newborn, so I'm going to help you out a little.
In older children and adults, elevated bilirubin levels are often an indicator of abnormal liver function. But there are many ways in which newborn physiology differs from that of older children and adults, and this is an excellent example. In a healthy, normal, term newborn, mildly elevated bilirubin levels are expected and occur because of the breakdown of excess red blood cells, which is a part of the transition from fetal to extra-uterine life. Can you explain how and why the breakdown of red blood cells would cause mild, temporary jaundice?
In addition to this normal (physiologic) jaundice, there are other factors which can cause the breakdown of too many red blood cells, causing excessive (pathologic) jaundice, along with anemia. Can you name those factors? What serious (life-threatening) condition can occur if pathologic jaundice is not effectively treated in a newborn? These might make good "Risk for" nursing diagnoses.
Look in your textbooks or on-line to find a chart which helps to determine, based upon the baby's gestational age, birthweight and day of life, whether a particular bilirubin level is a cause for concern requiring treatment, or whether the baby can be safely monitored without treatment.
How is jaundice in the newborn treated?