Differences between US v UK NICUs


  • Specializes in Neonatal nursing (paediatric trained).

I've trained in the UK and work in a Level 2 NICU. However, I'll likely be moving to the States in a couple of years (I'm American anyway, so just need to sort the foreign trained nursing side of things), and I plan on staying working in a NICU.

So, for anyone who's worked on a NICU in the UK and then went to the US to do the same (or vice versa), what are the differences you've noticed?

Also, I know that here in the UK, if you're interested in a hospital (particularly if they're hiring at the time), they'll let you have a look around and have a word with you. I'm visiting in a month's time - do you think it'd be worth contacting prospective NICUs in the area I'll likely move to in a year or two to see if I could have a look around and a chat?

Thanks in advance!


23 Posts

hi:) I have only worked here in the US, in a level III NICU, community. I do not see anything wrong with contacting the nurse recruiters and asking for a look around. In my research, I do know that there are quite a few differences with our units versus UK units.

Kangaroo care, and family centered care are happening over here, however not as structured yet as yours probably are.

You all have Forever friends I believe, which is comparable to our March of Dimes programs...maybe you could look at the March of Dimes website and that will give you a little information... www.marchofdimes.com

Good luck to you...and welcome :)



142 Posts

Specializes in Neonatal nursing (paediatric trained).

Thanks, Christine. Yes, my unit encourages kangaroo care. As for family-centred care, it was really emphasises throughout my training, and I even had to write a 200 word essay at my job interview about what family-centred care is and why it is so important on a neonatal unit.

I'm not sure what Forever Friends is, actually (apart from some teddy bears that they sell in shops), but I remember always hearing about the March of Dimes when I still lived in the States. I think that perhaps Bliss is the UK equivalent. I've saved the March of Dimes link, as I know I should have a good look.

Have you, or anyone else, heard whether things are more sophisticated (care, equipment, etc.) in either country? Are nurses more autonomous in one country when compared to the other? Any other sort of differences you've heard of? Do you have to do a neonatal course after qualifying as a nurse in the US (we are expected to if we intend to stay in a NICU)?

Thanks again!


23 Posts

Hi there :)

As far as autonomy....we are very autonomous here...again I work in a community level III NICU, so our docs are more laid back than the big tertiary centers, and teaching hospitals. We have 2 great neo's...but...you got to be on your game, because although they are on call 24 hours...they are not at the hospital. Do you work in a teaching hospital?

I know in the UK, as well they have visiting nurses...in our area, we do not do this, but I do run the high risk follow up clinic where kids come back every 6 months for 3 years for follow up and referrals.

Technology...I am sure that are close to each other....ventilator care, etc should be about the same.

I did go to a 6 week training at University of SF and had a preceptor for 3 months after that, as well as was sent to advanced practice nursing course, and intubation/transport certs but this was after 1.5 years in the NICU.

What area are you from? I have a friend who is from England...she worked over there, and here and is now at a HUGE tertiary hospital in San Diego...if you wanted to ask her, she would love to email you I am sure...if you wanted to PM me, I will give her your email with q's for her. She is very experienced, 30 years I believe in the NICU.

Courses are offered by the different area hospitals, I know our NANN courses were offered to other nurses interested...the universtiy hospitals have out reach programs, for sure I know that UCSF has one that I attend every few months.

Also, you should check out www.nann.org this is the national assoc. for NICU nurses, there are refererance books and info here, a great, great resource.


142 Posts

Specializes in Neonatal nursing (paediatric trained).

My hospital's a teaching hospital in that we have nursing students, medical students and student midwives; it's not a university hospital. We have three neonatologists who rotate on a weekly basis.

I work (and did a bit of my training) in a Level II unit (although we were a Level III before units in the UK were divided into neonatal networks [http://www.neonatal.org.uk/]) in outer west London, but I'm from the States.

We do an advanced neonatal nursing course if we intend to continue working on a NICU. I think it's about nine months long in total, and it's diploma or degree level. I don't know yet if I'll be able to do mine in September 2009 or if I'll have to wait until February 2010. I'd really like to do it sooner rather than later, as not only would it help my practice here but should help my practice and advancement when I move. But if the move comes first, I may not be able to take the course here in time.

I'll have a look at NANN. Very useful info!

I'll PM you my e-mail address - if you'd be happy to pass all my queries on this thread to your friend, that'd be much appreciated!

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