What Travel Nurses Encounter on a PICU or NICU Assignment

picu and nicu nurse experiencesBy Andrya Feinberg, contributor

Travel nurses who work in the pediatric intensive care unit (PICU) or neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) care for the day-to-day needs of the most vulnerable children, relay communications between the doctors, specialists and support staff to others, and offer support and reassurance during challenging times. 

These specialized units often rely on Onward Healthcare’s travel nurses to provide top quality care and provide a strong support system for children and their parents.

These critical care units have similarities, as well as some differences. Babies who are born prematurely, with severe difficulties during the delivery, or show signs of problems immediately following birth are normally admitted to the NICU. 

Other babies and children (up to 17 years of age) that require intensive care for breathing problems, heart problems, serious infections or other serious illnesses are normally admitted to the PICU. NICU nurses and PICU nurses tend to specialize in one patient population or the other, but may have occasion to work in a related unit. 

[FIND top travel NICU jobs and PICU jobs around the country with Onward.]

What NICU or PICU Nurses Encounter 

In the NICU and PICU, children may have specific feeding schedules, receive specialized medications, and need help breathing. There are often feeding tubes, heaters, IV lines, monitors, and other equipment or machines connected to them. Travel nurses who have the specialized skills and experience in other facilities can be an incredible asset for the NICU or PICU hospital staff. 

Family-centered care is a vital aspect of the job for both neonatal nurse travelers and PICU travel nurses. You can be a tremendous resource for parents to turn to with questions and concerns. In an environment that can overwhelming, scary and uncomfortable, you can explain what is happening or needs to be done in order to keep children stable and healthy. Your knowledge and compassion can be a calming factor and a key ingredient in their child’s recovery.

Some issues nurses may encounter

There are many different illnesses, situations, infections and life events that travel nurses encounter in the neonatal ICU or PICU. Some relate to the mother’s health or the family’s life situation, and how it may impact the child’s health, including:

•    Teenage mothers: Teenage pregnancy is often associated with inadequate prenatal care and poor neonatal outcomes, such as stillbirth or low birth weight. This is because teenage pregnancies typically are discovered later and these expectant moms are often anxious, overwhelmed, and confused--which leads to a delay in seeking prenatal care. Teenagers aged 15 - 19 have a higher risk of delivering a baby that has a very low birth weight, is premature, or anemic. (Source: WebMD.) Teenage parents may also need more education than other parents when it comes to understanding the care and treatment of their child.

•    Older mothers: There is an increased risk of miscarriage, stillbirth or birth defects for mothers who are over 35 years of age. As women get older, the incidence of chromosomally abnormal eggs increases significantly, increasing the risk of miscarriage and some birth defects such as Down syndrome. Yet, older mothers who had trouble conceiving and have undergone in vitro fertilization (IVF) have a higher risk of delivering multiple-order births, such as twins, triplets and quadruplets.* Low birth weight and related complications often appear in multiple-order births.

•    Drug- or alcohol-addicted mothers: When babies are born to drug-addicted mothers, they can suffer from neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS). NAS is the condition that babies experience when they are withdrawing from exposure to narcotics. At birth, the baby’s dependence on the drug continues, yet the drug is no longer available, making the baby’s central nervous system suddenly become over stimulated, resulting in often painful withdrawal symptoms. NAS can also lead to premature birth, seizures, birth defects and poor intrauterine growth. Fetal alcohol syndrome is a problem related to mothers who drank during pregnancy that can have long-lasting effects on a child throughout his or her life.

*Source: WebMD

NICU nurses and PICU nurses are tasked with providing compassionate care to all children and their families, despite any personal feelings they may have about what led to the child’s current situation.

Advancing your career with travel PICU and NICU jobs

Travel nursing jobs in the NICU or PICU are rewarding, empowering, and at times challenging. And Onward Healthcare’s travel nurses with these critical care skills are in high demand. Our NICU nurses and PICU nurses are ready to step in to support hospital staff with an understanding of the physical, mental and emotional needs of these children and their families.

We have short-term assignments in top facilities across the country, and provide competitive pay, free housing, bonuses, health insurance, retirement plans and other travel nursing benefits.

Are you a passionate travel nurse, dedicated to caring for critically-ill children? Be part of the Onward team, committed to saving babies’ and children’s lives, and find your dream travel nursing job today!


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