Neonatologist's job description

Written by melissa weaver
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Neonatologist's job description
Neonatology is a medical speciality that focuses on providing care to newborn babies. (newborn image by Fabio Barni from

Neonatologists are medical doctors that specialise in providing care to newborn infants. They typically provide care to newborns that have been born prematurely and those suffering from birth defects, injury, illness and life-threatening conditions. Neonatologists typically work in special care nurseries or newborn intensive care units in community hospitals, children’s hospitals and university medical centres.


A neonatologists must complete medical school and become a doctor of medicine. Medical school typically takes four years to complete after the completion of a bachelor's degree in premedical studies or a health-science related area. After medical school, neonatologists must complete a three-year residency training program in general paediatrics and a three-year fellowship program in newborn intensive care. Neonatologists receive training on how to handle situations that are complicated and that pose a great deal of risk to newborn babies. Neonatologists must also gain certification from the American Board of Pediatrics and the Neonatal-Perinatal Medicine sub-board.


Neonatologists must have a genuine passion for providing care to the smallest of patients. They must be able to work long hours and work effectively under stress and pressure. Patience, compassion, sensitivity and self-motivation are necessary characteristics. Neonatologists often deal with sensitive and life-threatening situations, and emotional stability and good decision-making skills are vital. They must have good communication skills and be able to interact with many parents and caregivers of newborns. Neonatologists must also have excellent medical skills such as manual dexterity to perform surgery on very small newborns and the ability to diagnose a variety of medical conditions.

Job Duties

Neonatologists diagnose and provide treatment for a variety of conditions that occur in newborns including birth defects, illness and breathing difficulties. They stabilise newborn patients who are seriously ill and ensure patients receive necessary care, including adequate nutrition and medication. Children are considered newborns from birth until they are four weeks old; neonatologists provide care to newborns that are under four weeks of age and to those who require extended stays in newborn intensive care units and special nurseries. They often provide long-term care to infants who are born prematurely. Neonatologists also provide assistance in delivering babies that require special medical attention. These physicians use a variety of specialised equipment that is designed for very small newborn patients. Neonatologists often consult with a variety of other physicians, such as paediatricians, family practice physicians and obstetricians, to ensure the best possible care for newborns.

Career Outlook

The employment of all physicians and surgeons is predicted to grow much faster than average for all professions, increasing 22 per cent from 2008 to 2018, says the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The constantly growing population and increased demand for care for premature infants will fuel the job growth of neonatologists.


According to, in June 2010, the average annual salaries for neonatologists with one to four years of experience is between £94,618 and £125,364; five to nine years of experience pays between £98,783 and £148,686; 10 to 19 years of experience pays between £97,500 and £141,961; and 20 or more years of experience pays between £130,000 and £189,850. Average annual salaries often vary greatly depending on location and employer.

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