A neonatologist is a physician trained to examine and treat high-risk newborns with complex issues. They primarily work in neonatal intensive care units (NICUs) and special care nurseries in hospitals.
The word “neonatology” loosely translates to “science of the newborn.”
What kind of training do neonatologists need?
To become a neonatologist, a physician completes the same education and training through medical school that all medical doctors complete, plus specialized training through residency and fellowship programs. Many neonatologists also participate in follow-up developmental pediatric programs as part of their training.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), becoming a neonatologist requires:
- At least four years of medical school.
- Three years of residency training in general pediatrics.
- Three years of fellowship training in newborn intensive care medicine.
- Certification from the American Board of Pediatrics and by the Sub-board of Neonatal-Perinatal Medicine.
What do neonatologists do?
“Most neonatologists work in a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit but they may also work in a well newborn nursery or in a developmental clinic,” said neonatologist Ann Heerens, M.D., MBA, practice medical director for Pediatrix® Medical Group. “You may also see a neonatologist collaborating with obstetricians or counseling families prior to the birth of an infant.”
In general, neonatologists coordinate and manage the daily plan of care for newborns born prematurely or critically ill. They also diagnose and treat infants with birth defects, developmental issues or illnesses.
More specifically, neonatologists:
- Care for infants during cesarean or other high-risk deliveries where the mother or baby has medical issues, such as breathing issues or infections.
- Stabilize and treat infants with life-threatening medical conditions.
- Ensure that critically ill infants receive proper nutrition.
- Consult and collaborate with other clinicians, including obstetricians, pediatricians, family physicians, respiratory therapists and nurses.
- Work with and support families throughout their child’s hospital stay.