Each year, somewhere between 400,000 births in the United States are preterm, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Thanks to the exceptional work of neonatologists across the country, 95 percent of the preterm babies survive.
While pediatricians are wonderful and can solve most of the common health problems newborns experience, neonatologists deal with the most complex cases.
Those physicians who make the decision to become neonatologists commit to three years of residency training in general pediatrics, three years of additional training in newborn intensive care and becoming certified by the American Board of Pediatrics and the Sub-board of Neonatal-Perinatal Medicine.
In return, they experience these three amazing benefits:
As recently as two decades ago, a neonatologist would not have been able to fathom just how successful–medically and economically–the profession would become.
Since the first neonatologist achieved board certification in the 1970s, the profession has become critically important to both children who are born prematurely and the hospitals in which they are delivered.
In the United States, more babies with an extremely low birth weight (that which is less than 3.3 pounds) are born than in any other developed country, according to the Future of Children.
These children are at increased risk for debilitating medical conditions, learning disabilities and death.
But thanks to the expanding role of the neonatologist and neonatal intensive care units across the country, survival rates have increased dramatically. In 1960, for example, less than 10 percent of extremely low birth weight babies lived to their first birthday. Today, that percentage is higher than 60.
The medical success of neonatologists has driven hospitals to invest heavily in their NICUs and physicians. Both afford the neonatologist the ability to enjoy medical and economic success.
For physicians who want to be on the cutting edge of medical research, neonatology offers ample opportunities.
According to the National Institutes of Health, pediatrics (and infant mortality) is consistently among the most well-funded medical research area in the United States.
Due to the complex nature of both the clinical work and the research, many neonatologists are invaluable when it comes to finding better ways to deliver critical care to babies who are born prematurely, with low birth rates or medical conditions that put their lives at risk.
Having opportunities to practice medicine as both a clinician and a researcher is one of the key benefits that becoming a neonatologist delivers.
Neonatal intensive care units have become incredibly important to hospitals. Not only have they helped neonatologists achieve medical success, but they have helped hospitals find solid financial footing.
None of these outcomes would be possible if not for the teamwork that takes place in the NICU. The neonatologist works closely with a charge nurse, a clinical nurse specialist, a neonatal nurse practitioner, a neonatal physician assistant, a social worker, registered nurses, technicians, respiratory therapists and other neonatologists.
Many neonatologists say that the teamwork and camaraderie that exists in the NICU is unlike anything that takes place in other parts of the hospital. There are bonds that can only form when healthcare professionals come together to help children survive–and those bonds make being a neonatologist incredibly rewarding.
Are you interested in a Neonatology career with Elliot Health System?