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Male ICU nurse transition to NICU?

Specializes in ICU, Informatics.

-I'm coming up on a year of experience as a nurse in a fairly busy mixed adult ICU. I was wondering what the transition into the NICU is like. Do they usually want people with mother-baby or L&D experience, or does ICU experience work for them?

-Also, what is the environment like for males in the NICU? I had a positive experience in nursing school in L&D (I attribute a lot of this to the fact that one of the charge nurses is male and was very well respected). However, as a CNA I floated to the women's services floor, and while most of the staff and patients were great, some of the staff made it a living hell.

llg, PhD, RN

Has 43 years experience. Specializes in Nursing Professional Development.

A lot of men have had successful careers in NICU. In fact, a lot of the early leaders in the National Association of Neonatal Nurses were men.

More troublesome (though no reason not to do it) is the transition from adult ICU to NICU. The physiology is so different. The treatments are different. The histories of the development of adult ICU's and NICU's are so different that they have developed completely different cultures. It can be a very difficult transition for a nurse to make. A lot of what you learned in ICU will have to be discarded and replaced with NICU-relevant ways of thinking. Some people respond to that challenge better than others.


Has 9 years experience. Specializes in Neonatal ICU (Cardiothoracic).

Hi Stephen,

I have worked in a NICU for almost 5 years. Coming in with ICU experience will be valuable in terms of time management and critical thinking. Other than that, NICU is a steep learning curve, whether you're a new grad or experienced nurse. L&D or postpartum doesn't really help you at all.

The transition should be a relatively painless one. We always welcome more men in NICU. It makes for an interesting dynamic, and I personally enjoy the relationships I've made at work, and the patient population I care for.

The biggest difference going from adults to neonates is the size. Your meds, feeds, equipment, VS ranges etc, will all be radically different. Your list of diagnoses and comorbidities will be much shorter, allowing you to focus on a few diagnoses seen in NICU, and the many additional treatment considerations that we see in supporting the term and preterm infant.

Best of luck! And welcome aboard!



Specializes in ICU, Informatics.

Good info, thanks

prmenrs, RN

Has 42 years experience. Specializes in NICU, Infection Control.

As an adult ICU nurse, you are used to sizing up a pt almost on 1st glance--you get a "gestalt" of the pt's condition. When you move to the NICU, the frame of reference you used in the adult world is just plain GONE! That can be really scary for someone who's used to be on top of the situation pretty much all the time. You need to expect some discomfort for a while (took me 6 months).

Also, many NICUs have more than one level of care being given in the same unit. You'll have the sickest kiddos known to mankind in one area, and "feeder-growers", recovering premies, term babies recovering from surgery, babies w/drawing from mom's bad habits, newborns in the hospital for more or less "minor" problems like bilirubin, "r/o sepsis" on antibiotics for several days. And then the fun of trying to get a cranky newborn to like mom's boob.

You will get more use out of your knowledge of physiology than you thought possible--and those lessons happen real fast.

All that said, imho, it's worth the effort. Babies are just plain awesome. On some the worst days/nights, you can still sit in a rocker w/a baby sleeping in your arms (you might have to borrow someone else's pt!).

There's a brand new Merenstein and Gardner coming out next month: http://www.amazon.com/Merenstein-Gardners-Handbook-Neonatal-Intensive/dp/0323067158/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1269493127&sr=8-1 . I can only suggest that you get a copy, and see if you can shadow someone in a NICU for part of a shift to see if it seems like a good fit.

Best Wishes.


Has 6 years experience. Specializes in Public Health.

I made a similar transition almost a year ago. I went from an ICU with adult and pediatric patient populations to a level III NICU. As Steve already mentioned, it is a steep learning curve. Even with my pediatric experience, I still learned a lot while on orientation. Your frame of reference shifts, and you really have to fight the urge to panic with a heart rate of 150, lol! Definitely be open to learning as much as you can once you transition to the NICU. Once off orientation definitely volunteer to take the sickest babies (as long you're comfortable doing so).

As for being male in a NICU, I've never had any issues. I think if you present yourself in a professional manner, and show that you're a competent nurse, your gender is a non-issue.

Best of luck!

Also, I recommend this book by Kenner & Lott: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1416029427


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