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A website for young nurses and the young at heart in Aotearoa

Neonatal Nurse Specialist

Fiona Dineen

I have been nursing for a total of 23 years since I left school at 17 years of age. I started my training in my hometown of Derry in Northern Ireland, as a diploma/Project 2000 student which took 3 years to complete and qualified as a general trained nurse, in 1994.

Hospital work was hard to get when I qualified, so my first job was in an old people’s home for 3 months and I then secured a job in a gynaecology ward. I stayed there for 3 years, got good experience with my basic nursing skills and at this time I studied part-time, getting my BSc Hons in nursing with management. At this point the world was my oyster and I was ready to take it on.

One of the major attractions for me with nursing is how versatile it is. Nursing can be done any where in the world and the shift work allows you to have time off. Nursing can really take you anywhere and what I mean by this is, as a career there are so many different avenues to take and areas of speciality you can focus on, with additional training.

With my travels I ended up in New Zealand in Wellington where I got a job as a staff nurse in the neonatal unit. I fell in love with the job and I was lucky to be in a unit that had great training and support. Here I concentrated on my training in neonates and I worked my way from feeding and growing babies to intensive care/ transports.  Alas I met a kiwi, fell in love and after being in Wellington for 4 years I moved back home to Ireland.

I got a job in the local neonates and the following year got onto the training scheme to be an advanced neonatal nurse practitioner (ANNP) where in 2003 I obtained a BSc Hons in Neonatal Nurse Practitioner/Advanced Neonatal Nurse Practitioner at Southampton University. I came back to my local neonatal unit in Derry and worked as an ANNP for 7 years. I also commenced my masters in neonates. Then decided to move back to Wellington in 2010 and I am currently a neonatal nurse specialist (NNS) in Wellington hospital.

My role as an NNS is the same as an ANNP in the UK or in America as it’s known as neonatal nurse practitioners (NNP) or if you have your training/masters/portfolio/interview recognised with either your NZ hospital and/or NZNO you can be given the title of NNP. To shorten a long story what the role entails, can vary slightly from hospital to hospital and countries, but basically perform the same duties.

In NICU, Wellington Hospital I work as part of a team, on the registrar rota, which involves covering NICU, postnatal, delivery suite and transports. The role involves individualised assessments, then delegates and prioritises the treatment of the neonate. I am accountable for my actions and those under my supervision, by using our extended practice skills which includes;

      • Resuscitation
      • Newborn examinations
      • Discharge examinations
      • Insertion of ETT and ongoing management of ventilation
      • Peripheral IV therapy
      • Umbilical line insertion
      • Chest drain insertion, needle aspiration
      • Supra pubic bladder aspiration and catheter insertion
      • Lumbar puncture
      • Neonatal transports
      • Daily review of continuing care to include charting of daily fluid, electrolyte and nutrition requirements
      • Ordering of laboratory tests, evaluating results these and prescribing further treatment
      • Requesting of radiological studies and interpreting, to aid diagnosis/treatment management 
      • Charting of Crystalloid.

Continuously evaluating the treatment prescribed and changing as the baby’s condition evolves. The role also allows research, auditing, education in neonates and organising conferences and workshops.

My advice for new grads is to get a few years experience and get a good grounding in nursing. Then go travelling and work as a nurse as you travel, great experience, it will help you decide what area you want to do your nursing in. If education comes your way, take it, especially if it’s being paid for. But most of all enjoy the experience of what could be a very fruitful and fulfilling career/calling. Aim high and good luck.