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How to get into NICU nursing from scratch?

Men   (413 Views | 5 Replies)
by LetMeNICU LetMeNICU (New) New Pre-Student

44 Profile Views; 3 Posts

Hello everyone,
I have enjoyed lurking on this board quite a bit and have learned a lot from various discussions here...thank you for that.
I've recently decided that I want to pursue a second career in nursing (I'm 43) and specifically want to work in the NICU.
Many years ago my oldest son was born at 32 weeks and was in the NICU for 4 weeks after my (now ex) wife was on bedrest in the hospital for 4 weeks.
The nursing staff made a huge impact on me and I've always admired the hard work and compassion they showed not only to the babies but also to the families who were experiencing intense crises periods of their life.  I also have several family members in other parts of the country who work in NICUs so I'm somewhat familiar with the work environment and stresses associated with the specialty.
When the opportunity arose recently to make a career change the choice felt obvious.
I feel really drawn to being able to serve people in that way specifically and I think it's something that I could excel at.
I am just now in the planning stages of making this move but I'm very determined and am wondering what folks might suggest I do specifically to make myself a more desirable candidate to end up in the NICU.
I have a BA and am planning on applying to a few ABSN programs in my area but my current cumulative GPA (from 20 years ago) isn't great so I might not get accepted and would therefore apply to a couple ASN programs and then transfer to an RN to BSN afterwords.
I was thinking about starting with a CNA 1 and 2 first so I can get some practical experience and potentially volunteer (or maybe even find a job) in NICU, Postpartum, or L&D (I'm not sure how volunteering works exactly).
Then I'd start in on my prereqs while hopefully getting some experience along the way.
I'm in the fortunate position that I won't have to work very much during my course of study so I really want to focus on what will prepare me specifically for NICU work...whatever that may be.
I would really appreciate any advice on any specific courses, certifications, or other things I could be doing to give myself an advantage by the time I become an RN/BSN....especially anything specific to being an 'older' male trying to get into the specialty.
I do have a few connections at one of the hospitals in my area that I plan on nurturing, even if only for advice.
Thanks for your help and suggestions.

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Enarra has 8 years experience as a BSN, RN and specializes in Ambulatory Primary Care.

122 Posts; 297 Profile Views

Hey there, you have a solid plan my suggestion with low and old GPA is enroll in a community college retake all prerequisite classes  less than an A and then apply to nursing school.   That’s how I was able to get into the nursing school of my choice.  Best of luck!

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LovingPeds has 10 years experience as a MSN, APRN, NP and specializes in Pediatrics; Maternal-Child Nursing Education.

93 Posts; 667 Profile Views

I agree with Enarra. Taking the time to retake some of the classes which might improve your GPA or which are core to nursing (A&P, Micro, Health Assessment, etc.) will improve your odds of getting accepted.

As far as volunteering, you'd have to reach out to your specific hospital to find out their requirements and what they allow as a volunteer. The NICU here accepts CNAs and has a preference for CNAs in nursing school as they can transition into NICU nurses who are already familiar with the unit at the start of their orientation. Some states will let you apply for your CNA certification after your first semester in nursing's Fundamentals in Nursing class. You can check with the requirement in your state.

As far as certifications, NRP (Neonatal Resuscitation Program) is the resuscitation algorithm used in the NICU. If you are hired by a facility as a NICU nurse, they will provide this training for you. If you are struggling to be hired or wanting to improve your resume with newborn specific certifications, you can take it on your own. My suggestion would be to wait until your last few semesters in nursing school as the terminology and methodology will make more sense. The certification is only good for two years anyway so it would be best to wait until closer to graduation. I teach L&D, neonatal, and peds. I've been in the process of setting it up for my students to take NRP when they take my class in their next to last semester because it helps a lot in understanding the concepts of those first few hours and specifically addresses premature infants in ways that you don't get from the average L&D/Peds text book and may not have the opportunity to see in clinical.

When I returned to school for my BSN, I took an elective that addressed premature infants and the NICU. I spent the semester learning the science behind common NICU interventions, environmental factors which affect the NICU patient (over-stimulation, etc.), pain management, etc. It was an online class which I did through distance learning. You could check with universities around your area to see if any similar electives are offered and what their requirements are to take them.

These are some things that show you are serious about NICU.  Both make valuable discussions during your interview process, as well as, only benefit your NICU patients.

Don't let being an older male cause you to doubt your ability to achieve this. One of the best respiratory therapists in the NICU here is an 'older male'. Your own experience and what it meant to you will also greatly appeal to employers. Some of the best employees in some fields are the ones who had a personal experience that touched them and who desire to be able to support someone else the same way.

Good luck!

Edited by LovingPeds

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3 Posts; 44 Profile Views

Thanks for the feedback!
Some really great insights...thank you for the encouragement.

To be clear, my BA (double in Philosophy and Systematic Theology) is a tad under 3.0 but doesn't have any of the nursing prereqs at all (the handful of classes I bombed were high level philosophy and theology classes)...so any of those prereq classes (Anatomy, Micro, Stats etc) I would be taking for the first time now at a community college before applying to an ABSN.
I feel fairly confident that I can do well in all my necessary course work that applies to my nursing degree.  My concern was dragging a lower old cumulative GPA around even if I got 4.0s on all my prereqs for nursing school.
I just assumed that the old lower grades would prevent me from getting accepted in an ABSN program even if I aced all the new classes because my 'new' cumulative GPA would still be fairly low even with a couple semesters of 4.0s ...and they do seem to put a lot of weight on your cumulative GPA not just the prereq GPA.
Maybe I'm wrong about that...not sure....I don't really have a sense of how competitive those programs are.

Regardless of what program I end up in I definitely plan on self educating with NICU in mind in addition to my regular courseload....so thanks for the idea about possible distance learning electives focused in this area.

Much appreciated...

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LovingPeds has 10 years experience as a MSN, APRN, NP and specializes in Pediatrics; Maternal-Child Nursing Education.

93 Posts; 667 Profile Views

11 hours ago, LetMeNICU said:

I just assumed that the old lower grades would prevent me from getting accepted in an ABSN program even if I aced all the new classes because my 'new' cumulative GPA would still be fairly low even with a couple semesters of 4.0s ...and they do seem to put a lot of weight on your cumulative GPA not just the prereq GPA.
Maybe I'm wrong about that...not sure....I don't really have a sense of how competitive those programs are.

Depends on your area and the program. I went RN-BSN with a rock bottom GPA because I didn't take college seriously for the first two years and bombed a lot of classes by just not showing up. My MSN program looked at the GPA for the last 60 hours. It depends on the program and their written admission requirements which you can usually find on their website.

The competitiveness of programs depends on your area. Some areas have a wealth of schools to choose from making them they're 'easier' to get into due to supply and demand. Other areas have fewer options and even though the admission standards are about the same, they are harder to get into due to the higher number of qualified applicants applying per school. It is very area-dependent.

Edited by LovingPeds

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NICU Guy has 5 years experience as a BSN, RN and specializes in NICU.

2 Followers; 3,708 Posts; 33,368 Profile Views

I went through an ABSN program and graduated with my BSN at a month shy of my 48th birthday. My first new grad nursing job was NICU. So, you are essentially following my path to NICU.

The one thing that I felt helped me get a NICU job was that during my final semester we had a 125 hr Capstone class. It consisted of one on one preceptorship with a nurse in a specialty you are interested in. I chose a NICU placement at a Level IV NICU. I spent thirteen 12 hour shifts with my preceptor.

The NICU I work at hires primarily new grads. Many of our new hires are either former Capstone students, Summer Externs (paid 6 week job shadow during the Summer), or PCAs on our unit that went through nursing school.

Getting a NICU job as a new grad may be very difficult. I applied to 50-100 job openings and had only two in person interviews. I was very fortunate to get my job. I had the ability to move anywhere that would have offered me a job. You may not have that luxury.

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