This article discusses the primary team of caregivers who are involved in the care of your infant in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). The staff often includes the following:
ALLIED HEALTH PROFESSIONAL
This health care provider is a nurse practitioner or physician assistant. They work under the supervision of a neonatologist. An allied health professional may have more experience in patient care than a resident, but will not have had the same amount of education and training.
ATTENDING DOCTOR (NEONATOLOGIST)
The attending doctor is the main doctor responsible for your baby's care. The attending doctor has completed fellowship training in neonatology and residency training in pediatrics. Each fellowship most often lasts 3 years. This doctor, called a neonatologist, is a pediatrician with special training in caring for babies who are sick and require intensive care after birth.
Although there are many different people involved in your baby's care while in the NICU, it is the neonatologist who determines and coordinates the daily plan of care. At times, the neonatologist might consult with other specialists to help with your baby's care.
A neonatology fellow is a doctor who has completed a residency in general pediatrics and is now training in neonatology.
A medical student is someone who has not yet completed medical school. The medical student might examine and manage a patient in the hospital, but needs to have all of their orders reviewed and approved by a doctor.
NEONATAL INTENSIVE CARE UNIT (NICU) NURSE
This type of nurse has received special training in caring for babies in the NICU. Nurses play a very important role in monitoring the baby and supporting and educating the family. Of all the caregivers in the NICU, nurses often spend the most time at a baby's bedside, caring for the baby as well as the family. A nurse might also be a member of the NICU transport team or become an extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) specialist after special training.
A pharmacist is a professional with education and training in the preparation of medicines used in the NICU. Pharmacists help prepare medicines such as antibiotics, immunizations, or intravenous (IV) solutions, such as total parenteral nutrition (TPN).
A dietitian or nutritionist is a professional who is educated and trained in nutrition. This includes human milk, vitamin and mineral supplements, and preterm infant formulas used in the NICU. Dietitians help monitor what babies are fed, how their bodies respond to the food, and how they grow.
A lactation consultant (LC) is a professional who supports mothers and babies with breastfeeding and, in the NICU, supports mothers with expressing milk. An IBCLC has been certified by the International Board of Lactation Consultants as having received specific education and training as well as passing a written examination.
Residents are doctors who have completed medical school and are training in a medical specialty. In pediatrics, the residency training takes 3 years.
- A chief resident is a doctor who has completed training in general pediatrics and now supervises other residents.
- A senior resident is a doctor who is in the third year of training in general pediatrics. This doctor generally supervises the junior residents and interns.
- A junior, or second-year, resident is a doctor in the second of three years of training in general pediatrics.
- A first-year resident is a doctor in the first year of training in general pediatrics. This type of doctor is also called an intern.
Physicians from other specialties, such as pediatric cardiology or pediatric surgery, may be part of consultant teams involved in caring for babies in the NICU. For more information see: NICU consultants and support staff.
Newborn intensive care unit - staff; Neonatal intensive care unit - staff
Kilbaugh TJ, Zwass M, Ross P. Pediatric and neonatal intensive care. In: Miller RD, ed. Miller's Anesthesia. 8th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2015:chap 95.
Levin DL, Todres ID. History of pediatric critical care. In: Fuhrman BP, Zimmerman JJ, eds. Pediatric Critical Care. 4th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Mosby; 2011:chap 1.
Update Date 11/3/2015
Updated by: Kimberly G. Lee, MD, MSc, IBCLC, Associate Professor of Pediatrics, Division of Neonatology, Medical University of South Carolina, Charleston, SC. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.