14 Questions to Ask if You Want to Be a New Grad NICU Nurse

14 Questions to Ask As a New Grad NICU Nurse
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Graduating from nursing school and passing the NCLEX are some of the biggest accomplishments as a new grad RN.  Unfortunately, the stress of finding a job can sometimes cloud the excitement of having the title of “RN” behind your name.  If you are wanting to work in the NICU after graduation it’s competitive, stressful at times, and chances are you’ll get a lot of “no’s” before you get one “yes”.  By the time you do get the green light to interview for a job in the NICU what do you even ask?  Here is a list of questions to bring with you to the interview and why you want to ask each one if you want to be a new grad NICU nurse.


Are you a new grad/nursing student?  Read:

6 Essential Tips for New Nurses

How to Become a Neonatal Nurse

10 Tips for New Grad NICU Nurses


The exact questions to ask in your interview if you want to become a new grad NICU nurse…


Q:  How many beds does the unit have?

Before you interview you need to ask yourself what kind of environment are you looking for?  Do you want a NICU that is more low-key, has fewer beds, and less staff?  Or do you want a big NICU with tons of staff and lots going on?


Q:  What does my orientation process look like?

How long will your orientation be?  How do you ensure that you will get to see many different things?  Will you be taking classes, be strictly on the unit, do you float around to learn other units as well?


Q:  Tell me about resources and support for new grads.

Will there be opportunities for extra classes and skill check-offs?  Once you’re off orientation will you have a “resource” nurse as a go-to?


As a new grad, you want to make sure that you’re working on a unit that will support and uplift you.  Make sure to read 10 Red Flags to Be Aware of When Applying for Nursing Jobs to better have an idea of the kind of unit you want to work on!


Q:  What level NICU is this?

NICUs range from level I to IV with IV being the highest level of care and I being newborn nursery type care.  Again, what kind of unit are you looking to work on?  Do you want to take care of critically sick patients?  Do you want to mostly take care of “feeder growers”?  If you plan to become a travel nurse at any point you may want to get the most experience possible which means you’ll want to work on a level III or IV unit.


Read More:  The Difference Between Different Level NICUs (and Why it Matters)


Q:  What’s your patient population like?

Is the hospital in an underserved area?  Do you get patients from different states?  What is typically seen in the unit?  (I once worked in a hospital in Phoenix where nurses had to take self-defense classes before starting because the hospital was located in a rough area of town.  Would this make you uncomfortable? )


Q:  At what point in my orientation will I be able to care for critically ill babies?

In the NICU neonates are classified as a level II or level III type care.  Level II babies are feeding and growing while level III is typically on respiratory support and much more sick.  During orientation do you begin with level III babies?  Do you start with level II and work towards level III?  How do you ensure that you’ll be set up for success once you’re on your own?


Q:  Is this a teaching hospital?

A teaching hospital typically has fellows and residents that are at the bedside learning.  Is this the type of environment you want to be in?


Q:  What is your cancellation policy?

This is important to know because at what point are you allowed to be canceled?  When I was a new grad I was canceled almost once a week every week for the first six months.  This hindered my chances of learning and gave me little to no confidence when I was at work.


Q:  How much time will I accrue for paid time off (PTO)?

Typically you will accrue one day off (12 hours) per month worked.  At what point are you allowed to start using your PTO?


Q:  Is this a birthing hospital?  How many deliveries do you have per year?

Birthing hospitals are unique in the sense that you may get to attend neonatal births and transfer them to the unit yourself.  In many Children’s hospitals, there is typically not a birthing suite so every baby comes from an outside hospital.


Q:  How do emergencies work?

Is this a random process?  First come first serve?  Are you assigned as an emergency contact each night?  What kind of experience will you be getting with emergencies?


Q:  Is this a surgical unit?

Do you want to work in a NICU that performs surgeries?  If you don’t then each kid that gets sick and needs surgery will be transported to a different hospital which makes your patient population look different.


Q:  Do you have a transport team?

Again good to know because in the future do you want to be a transport nurse?  Having a transport team opens up different opportunities than not having one.


Q:  What is the floating policy?

Will you be floated to different floors?  Mother/baby, newborn nursery, PICU, CICU, etc.  If so is there a rotating schedule amongst staff members or as a new grad are you the first to float every time?  How often do you typically have to float your nurses?


Remember, you’ve already made it so far!  You’ve graduated from nursing school, passed the NCLEX, and are on your way to your dream assignment!  Not only are you being interviewed, but you’re interviewing the hospital.  You want to be a fit for them as much as you want the hospital to be a fit for you.

Working as a new grad NICU nurse is hard work.  Many hospitals don’t hire new grads and the ones that do are oftentimes incredibly competitive.  If you don’t get an interview don’t give up!  Start on another unit and once you have some experience under your belt, apply again!


For more insight into the NICU, you may find these articles helpful…

A Day in the Life Of a NICU Nurse

10 Things I Wish I Knew Before Becoming a Neonatal Nurse

Behind Closed Doors – What I Wish You Knew About the NICU

Being a NICU Nurse Has Taught Me


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Kylee is a Neonatal Intensive Care (NICU) nurse passionate about making travel affordable and accessible to nurses. Inspiring nurses to travel both near and far, Kylee began Passports and Preemies in 2017 while volunteering in Skopje, North Macedonia as a way to reach nurses and advocate for the prevention of nurse burnout by traveling. Kylee is the original creator of the “8 Day Vacay” – a vacation geared towards nurses who aim to take advantage of the potentially 8 days off between work weeks with no need to use PTO.

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