Job Outlook and Salary Info for NICU Nurses in the Midwest


NICU nurse job outlook and pay

By Lee Soren, contributor

The most vulnerable time in a child's life is the neonatal period and the survival of small and sick newborns is heavily reliant on critical care received in the hours immediately following birth. Although the good news is that the number of newborn deaths is decreasing in the United States, the Peterson-KFF Health System Tracker shows that parts of the Midwest are still experiencing higher-than-average infant mortality rates.

To care for at-risk babies and prevent the unnecessary loss of life, Midwest facilities are in need of skilled NICU nurses. This creates plenty of opportunities for neonatal travel nurses to explore this often-overlooked region of the country.

What does a NICU nurse do?

NICU nurses work in a hospital's neonatal intensive care unit, monitoring and caring for babies who were born prematurely or who were born with birth defects or medical issues that require surgery or treatment. Some NICU nurses may also provide home healthcare for patients after they've been released from the hospital.

Job responsibilities of NICU nurses may also include:

  • Assisting with births
  • Monitoring, evaluating and overseeing all infants in the NICU
  • Performing tests and analyzing results
  • Administering physician-prescribed medications, therapies and treatments
  • Educating parents on general infant care and on care related to the treatment plan
  • Maintaining NICU equipment

What education and experience does a NICU nurse require?

To become a NICU nurse, you must be a licensed RN with an associate's or bachelor's degree in nursing. Certification can be obtained through the National Certification Corporation.

To become certified, you must have an active RN license and a minimum of two years' recent experience caring for neonatal patients in a critical care unit. You should also have put in at least 2,000 hours working with critically ill neonatal patients over the course of your career.

NICU nurses should also have current knowledge of the life-saving equipment used in the neonatal intensive care unit, including incubators, ventilators and feeding pumps.

How much do NICU nurses earn in the Midwest?

Although salaries can vary based on education, experience, state and facility, the average RN salary across the United States is $71,730 annually or $34.48 per hour, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Travel nurses generally earn higher rates.

The Midwest demonstrates significant variability in the average annual wages for RNs, with Iowa, South Dakota and Kansas on the low end of the salary spectrum and Minnesota standing out on the high end. In 2018, the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows RN wages in South Dakota averaging $58,340 annually or $28.05 per hour. In Minnesota, pay for RNs averaged more than $20,00 higher at $78,920, which is approximately $37.94 per hour.

Salaries for travel nurses also vary considerably from facility to facility, ranging from a low end of $1,201 weekly, which averages to slightly more than $30 per hour to a high of $1,948 or just shy of $49 per hour based on a 40-hour workweek. Bear in mind that travel nurse salaries may factor in travel-specific reimbursements and benefits.

What is the job outlook for NICU nurses in the Midwest?

In general, the job outlook for RNs in the United States is promising. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects job growth to be around 12% through 2028, which is higher than the anticipated growth for most occupations.

Although numbers aren't available specifically for NICU nurses, several Midwestern metropolitan areas stand out for their high employment rates of registered nurses in general. These include the Chicago/Naperville/Elgin metro area and the Detroit/Warren/Dearborn metro area. Travel nurses may want to look more closely at these areas when searching for NICU assignments in the Midwest.

Advances in neonatal care and what they mean for NICU nurses

As medical knowledge, techniques and technology improve, advancing neonatal care, it's likely that the survival rates for high-risk infants will continue to climb, leading to an increased need for skilled NICU nurses in the Midwest and throughout the country. Search's database of positions to explore the plethora of travel NICU nurse assignments available in the Midwest and other areas of the country.


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