Exploring Difference Between Neonatal and Surgical Nursing

Exploring Difference Between Neonatal and Surgical Nursing

  • Summary

Neonatal and surgical nursing are two of the leading categories in healthcare nursing field. While neonatal nursing field mainly deals with healthcare and well-being of newborns or infants, the surgical nursing deals in mainly involved in taking care of infants and adults before, during and after surgical procedures.  With the increase in premature births and other health-related issues of infants in today’s world, the importance of neonatal nursing is evident. In a similar way, surgical nursing had made its mark in health care field since the start of surgical procedures. Professionally, both of these professional careers differ from each other. Neonatal nursing comprises of a clean nursing job which is mostly concerned with the well-being of newborns whereas surgical nursing involves exposure to blood, body parts and body fluids.  Both of these nursing fields have their own pros and cons. Neonatal nursing is easy and less stressful as compared to surgical nursing. On the other hand, surgical nursing is physically less tiring and emotionally more rewarding as compared to neonatal nursing. When it comes to the choice of the most suitable nursing fashion from neonatal nursing and surgical nursing then the decision can be taken while keeping in view the priorities of individuals and pros and cons of both of these nursing professions.

2.      Introduction

The topic of this report is “Difference between neonatal and surgical nurse”. The purpose of the study is to find out positive and negative aspects of both of these nursing careers, compare these nursing careers and decide which one is good and better for what sort of people, to pursue as career goals.

In old times, nurses were seen as assistant to doctors comprising of merely technical skills and task-based duties. Now a day, with advancement in nursing education and healthcare technology, nurses have tuned out to be better educated and capable of advanced practices such as practitioners, clinical specialists, and certified midwives and certified registered anesthetists. Based on that, in the modern era of the health sector, nursing is considered one of the highly paid and productive careers.

When it comes to nursing, then two main fields of nursing are neonatal and surgical nursing. This report will first define basic terminologies related to both of the aforementioned nursing careers followed by a detailed comparison of pros and cons of these nursing careers. In the end, the report will be concluded by giving suggestions and recommendations the choice of nursing careers out of the given options.

2.1.   Neonatal Nursing

In the field of nursing, neonatal nursing deals with the handling and care of newborn infants born with a variety of diseases and problems such as prematurity, birth defects, infection, cardiac malformations and surgical problems. Its name is derived from the word “neonatal” which is defined as the first month of life although in the majority of cases the newborns remain sick for months (Boxwell, 2010).

2.2.   Surgical Nursing

Surgical nursing is also known as perioperative nursing. This particular field of nursing is involved mainly in taking care of the patients before, during and after the surgeries. Surgical nurses work along with the senior surgeons and surgical teams in order to make sure that the patients undergoing surgery are receiving best possible care (J. M. Black & Hawks, 2005).

3.      Importance of Neonatal & Surgical Nursing in the medical field

A survey conducted in the United States revealed that about 11.4% of all the pregnancies end in early deliveries(Jodi Dolezel, 2016). Every one out of ten babies born in the United States is preterm. With the increase in the number of premature births and other health-related issued of newborns and infants, the importance of neonatal nurses have increased. Taking care of infants in neonatal intensive care units (NICUs) is not an everyday and easy task. Taking care of premature and critically ill infants, checking their vital signs, administration of medications and tests along with teaching the families regarding the health care of their babies are some of the main point highlighting the importance of neonatal nurses in healthcare organizations.

In an operating theatre or surgical room, the smoothness and success of the surgery are not merely dependent on the skill sets and expertise of the surgeon rather it is dependent on the assistance of surgical nurses as well. According to Stanford Healthcare, more than 48 million surgical inpatient procedures were performed in the United States in 2009(“Surgery Statistics,” 2010). Of course, the success of such large amount of surgical procedures would not have been possible with the necessary assistance of surgical nurses. Monitoring of patients’ vital signs during surgery, passing of right instruments to the surgeons and running surgical equipment during surgery are other tasks of prime importance during surgical procedures and all of these tasks are performed by surgical nurses to bring a successful outcome in the end. Hence, the importance of surgical nurses in healthcare field can’t be denied.

4.      Difference between Neonatal and Surgical Nursing

Neonatal and surgical nursing can be compared based on the various basis. With respect to a professional career to pursue, the main difference lies entirely in the fact that neonatal nursing majorly involves non-surgical tasks i.e. the tasks which do not involve operations whereas surgical nursing deals entirely in the surgery related tasks. In simple words, neonatal nursing comprises of professional procedures which are related to caring and healthcare of infants and newborns whereas surgical nursing comprises of activities which take place in surgical rooms and operation theatres, whether these are to be performed on infants or adults.

5.      Pros & Cons of Neonatal Nursing

Like other nursing fields, neonatal nursing has its own pros and cons. As a profession, neonatal nursing is considered as less stressful job due to the fact that it majorly deals with taking care of infants which are easy to handle as compared to adults. Also, neonatal nursing is considered as one of the most stable and self-satisfactory nursing jobs. In the United States, from 2006 to 2016, there a growth rate of 23% has been observed among neonatal nurses (B. Black, 2016). In short, neonatal nurses enjoy emotional fulfillment.

Apart from its pros, there are some cons of neonatal nursing as well. For example, being a neonatal nurse involves dealing with situations under pressure. Since newborn babies are considered one of the most unstable patients so neonatal nurses have to face an overwhelming pressure at work. The increased physical demand of the neonatal nurses further adds to their exertion since they have to continuously move from one place to another within the workplaces. Normally, neonatal nurses work 12 hours a day on rotation due to which they have to work on tight work schedules.

6.      Pros & Cons of Surgical Nursing

Being one of the oldest profession in nursing, surgical nursing, as a profession, comes equipped with pros and cons as well. Pros of becoming a surgical nurse include the variety of daily activities. For example, if one day a surgical nurse is serving in neurosurgeon’s team and on some other day the same nurse will be serving on the ortho-surgeons team. From 2014 to 2024, according to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there is an expected increase of 16% in surgical nurses in healthcare organizations. Some of the other plus points of surgical nursing include the emotionally rewarding job as well as the ability to work in any geographic area(“Becoming a Surgical Nurse,” 2015).

The highly rewardable job of a surgical nurse can be sometimes physically tiring as well. Surgical nurses have to deal with a lot of workloads each day. Their job at healthcare organizations is physically as well as mentally tiring (Parahoo, 2014). The main part of surgical nursing based on which majority of the individuals make their nursing choices while comparing it with surgical nursing is the possible exposure to blood, body fluid and infectious diseases. Surgical nurses, under emergency situations, have to work night shifts on weekends and holidays(Win Pound, 2016).

7.      Advantages of Neonatal Nursing over Surgical Nursing

Based on job descriptions, neonatal nursing and surgical nursing cannot be compared on fair grounds but still, there are some factors which can assist the individuals in the selection of a professional career in nursing field. The major advantage of neonatal nursing over surgical nursing is that in neonatal nursing, one does not have to deal with the exposure to blood, body fluids and infectious diseases. As compared to surgical nursing, the neonatal field is a blood free and emotionally satisfying job which comprises of taking care of infants (Brown, Edwards, Seaton, & Buckley, 2017). It does not matter how much severe the healthcare problems of infants be, those still will be easy to tackle as compared to healthcare issues involving surgical procedures such as open heart surgeries.

8.      Advantages of Surgical Nursing over Neonatal Nursing

Surgical nursing can be professionally better as compared to neonatal nursing in many ways. First, surgical nursing involves deals with assistance providing procedures in operation theatres and surgery rooms. Once learned, these procedures as very simple to follow as compared to neonatal nursing in which the procedures vary with respect to the nature and problems of newborns. Also, stress-wise, surgical nursing may comprise of a highly stressed time during surgery but after that, the job of a surgical nurse becomes pretty stress-free as compared to that of a neonatal nurse who has to circle around a whole day from one part of building to another.

9.      Comparison of Neonatal Nursing and Surgical Nursing

A comparison summarizing the salient features of both of nursing fields is given as under:

Description Surgical Nursing Neonatal Nursing
Educational requirements Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) Nursing Diploma, Associate of Science in Nursing (ASN) or Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN)
Examination to pass National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN) National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN)
Certification requirements Certified Nurse Operating Room (CNOR) certification exam through the Competency and Credentialing Institute Critical care neonatal nursing certification exam through the American Association of Critical Care Nursing
Places of work ·         Hospitals


·         Ambulatory Surgical Units

·         Physicians’ Offices

·         NICUs in hospitals
Average Annual Salary $42,000 – $56,000 $45,000 – $58,000
Professional Anticipations ·         Scrub Nurse


·         Circulating Nurse

·         Operating Room Nurse

·         Outpatient Surgery Nurse

·         Neonatal Intensive Care Nurse


·         Neonatal nurses may get higher positions in healthcare organizations with experience and qualification

Primary data taken from (“Neonatal Intensive Care Nurse,” 2016) and (“Perioperative (Surgical) Nurse,” 2016)

10.  Which one to choose as a career?

A detailed discussion on neonatal and surgical nursing has already highlighted the positive and negative aspects of both of these nursing fields. The choice of individuals in selecting most suitable one out of these two nursing professions depends on multiple factors. The ability to deal with blood, body fluids and body parts in a comfortable manner is the first deciding criteria. After that comes the salary expectations. Neonatal nursing is more salary competitive as compared to surgical nursing. Last but not the least criteria for deciding among aforementioned nursing professions is the emotional fulfillment and workload or stress. Surgical nursing is more stress-free than neonatal nursing but less emotionally fulfilling. So, the decision of whether to go for one nursing field or the other is entirely dependent on the priorities of the individual.

11.  Conclusion

In the field of nursing, two of the major fields are neonatal nursing and surgical nursing. While neonatal nursing deals with the healthcare and well-being of newborns, surgical nurses provide assistance to surgical teams working in operation theatres. Importance of neonatal nursing and surgical nursing is evident from multiple facts.  Neonatal nursing comprises of clean nursing job in which major focus is on healthcare issues of infants whereas surgical nursing involves exposure to blood, body fluids and body parts. Both of these nursing fields have their own essence in the medical field. Professionally, neonatal nurses are more paid as compared to surgical nurses and have more emotionally satisfied or stress-free jobs. On the other hand, surgical nurses enjoy variety in tasks and nursing jobs bearing reduced workplace pressure. Based on numerous factors discussed, the choice of nursing profession is based on the priorities of individual opting these.

12.  Recommendations

For the individuals going through the process of opting a career out of surgical and neonatal nursing, it is recommended to first meet and interview the nurses of respective professions in order to have a real-time idea of problems and hurdles faced by the nurses belonging to aforementioned fields. Individuals must record practical pros and cons of both of these fields and compare those with their priorities to finalize the nursing field they want to opt in future.


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