How To Increase Your Chances of Being Hired in the NICU

Every couple of months, I use my Instagram stories to ask my followers which nursing topics they would like to know more about and recently, the #1 question I’ve been asked is: How can I increase my chances of being hired into the NICU? So, the second installation of my NICU series is all about getting hired. You can read Part 1 of my NICU Series here.

NICU Series Part 2: How To Increase Your Chances of Being Hired in the Neonatal ICU


Understand two very important things:

A) Being a nurse in the NICU is not babysitting and it is not “just holding babies all day.” These babies are SICK. They require a lot of medical care, attention to detail, and critical thinking. As NICU nurses we are assisting with intubations, monitoring surgical incisions, completing medication calculations, titrating serious IV drips (fentanyl, versed, dopamine, milrinone, cistracarium, etc), and the more veteran nurses are even inserting PICC lines into these tiny tiny humans. While we do provide play opportunities for babies and yes we dress them in cute clothes, decorate their cribs, and make them cute little hats, this is not a day care, it is an ICU, so please approach it as such. It is intense both emotionally and mentally.a few day´s old preemie in hospital lying in an incubator

Needle for antibiotics given to a baby 33 weeks and 5 days old in the hospital.
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B) That being said, the NICU is not a place of constant sadness. I would say it is happy at least 95% of the time! Before I actually spent time in the NICU, I thought I would be coming home from work crying myself to sleep every night and I was so wrong! It is nothing like that. Most of the time it is filled with little miracles.

Pre-shift shenanigans with my fellow NICU nurses Shaina and Lauren!

9 Tips On Making Yourself More Marketable

Tips with an asterisk (*) next to them are tips directly from NICU nurse managers! Responses in blue pertain to my own journey from nursing student to NICU nurse.

  1. While in nursing school, try to land a job as a Nurses Aide or Student Nurse Tech on a Mother/Baby unit like NICU, postpartum, labor & delivery, at a children’s hospital, or at a children’s summer camp. Don’t worry if you don’t have any pediatric experience; they will provide on the job training.
  2. If no Nurses Aide or Student Nurse Tech jobs are available, consider looking for a job as a part time secretary in a NICU. This will still allow you to build relationships with the NICU staff and increase your chances of being hired as a staff nurse after you graduate.
  3. Include pediatric clinical experience from nursing school on your resume. I had student clinical experience in NICU, antepartum, and postpartum. I listed these experiences on my resume under the “Work Experience” section being sure to note clearly that it was student experience. 
  4. *Complete a Capstone project involving pediatrics and discuss it on your resume. I did my Capstone on Postpartum Rooming-In and listed it on my resume under “Research.”
  5. *Use a cover letter with your resume/application to express why you want to work in NICU. I have to confess that I hate writing cover letters, but I write them and include them with my job applications nonetheless *sigh.*60946867803__765D003B-0DA8-4B01-92B6-500883A55411
  6. *During your interview, when the interviewer asks why you want to work in the NICU, do not say “Because I love babies and just want to hold them all day!” One of my previous managers told me that this is a huge red flag and she will most likely skip over any candidate who makes a statement like this.
  7. *Ask for the interviewer’s card during your interview and send a thank you email afterward (within 24 hours after your interview).
  8. If you are still having trouble getting a NICU position, consider a postpartum position first. This is what I did. After not receiving any calls status post applying to the three NICUs in my area, I applied to the postpartum unit instead. I was hired into postpartum almost immediately (with no prior Mother/Baby experience). After a little over a year of postpartum experience, I reapplied to the NICU and this time I was hired!
  9. My #1 trick: I use this trick myself and it’s actually how I got my current NICU position. Of course my experience and education (I have attended great schools and worked in some amazing hospitals) makes for an amazing resume and obviously contributed to me being hired, but I think the key was getting my resume on the recruiter’s desk in the first place! I was one out of hundreds of applicants, so what made them read my application? My secret: I searched and applied to every NICU job that interested me in my chosen area. After I applied, I went to LinkedIn and searched “Nurse Recruiter for _____ hospital” for every hospital I had applied to. I followed every Nurse Recruiter associated with my hospital of choice and then I sent them each one message via LinkedIn messaging. I kept my messages short and to the point, for example: “My name is Shantae, I graduated from ____ school in 2012 with my ___ degree and I have been a Registered Nurse for ___ years.  I have worked in cardiology, postpartum, and NICU. I am currently seeking a position as a ___ nurse at _____ Hospital in the ____ department. I have began the application process and my application number is ___…” I then ask if they have a time that we could speak by phone and I wish them well! This technique landed me three interviews in one week, which subsequently led to three job offers. It worked for me and I hope it works for you!
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Remember, you are interviewing them just as much as they are interviewing you. Ask for a tour of the unit before or after your interview. Ask to arrange an opportunity to shadow a nurse on the unit for at least 4 hours. Ask the interviewer questions about things that are important to you, your happiness, and your work/life balance. Do they offer free CEU classes? Tuition reimbursement? Are nurses able to be a part of Grand Rounds? Opportunities for research? Does the hospital have a diversity and inclusion team? After working on a unit where minorities made up less than 2% of the entire staff, I learned that the diversity and inclusion question is paramount for me (if you are asking yourself why does diversity and inclusion among staff matter: Click here for an article by Cleveland Clinic, for research by Stanford click here, and for research by The American Medical Association and The Institute of Medicine click here ). If you get the chance to shadow or tour the unit before you are offered a position, make a mental note of the diversity you observe. It’s not just about what you can offer them, but WHAT CAN A HOSPITAL OFFER YOU?

In the wake of COVID-19 and mandatory 24/7 masking in the hospital, my unit gave us photo pins to wear on our shirts so that our patients’ parents can see a smiling face.

A Peek Inside The NICU

NICU baby is tended to in his isolette

The blue light: Phototherapy lights to treat my jaundice// Over my eyes: Eye shields to protect my eyes from the bright blue lights// The green plastic above my top lip: Tubing that is providing oxygen through my nose to help me breathe// The orange tube coming from my mouth: A feeding tube to help me eat// On my chest: Wires that attach to my heart monitor that keep track of my heart rate and my breathing// Wires on my belly: A monitor to keep track of my temperature and make sure that I am kept warm. | Getty Images
On my left hand and arm: An IV to provide me with fluids. The white thing you see wrapped around my arm is called an “arm board.” It is not a cast or a bandage. It is just to protect my IV so that it works properly and to keep me from pulling the IV out. | Getty Images


3 Comments Add yours

  1. Nab Ally says:

    Am zainab from Tanzania…I am still a student at nursing school,but am sure this information will be helpful to me after completing my studies.Thank you so much

  2. Melissa says:

    This was very informative thank you

  3. Deandra Lewis says:

    I’m so glad I came across this blog and this information! I’m currently a student in Michigan and I’m done in May I was always told that I had to get a med surg job first on night shift after I graduate but this brought me hope that I might be able to get a postpartum job or L&D after graduation
    Thank you !!!

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