Neonatology is the medical speciality of taking care of newborn, sick and premature babies. It is a subspecialisation of Paediatrics.
A Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) is a special area of the hospital that is devoted to the care of critically ill babies. Typically a NICU is completely separated from the nursery for healthy newborns, (the nursery is always located near the rooms for the mothers). The staff for the NICU and the staff for the newborn nursery are completely separate as well.
In most hospitals, babies are only admitted to the NICU directly from the delivery room, the newborn nursery, or from another hospital’s NICU or nursery. For reasons of infection control, if a baby has become sick at home and come back to the hospital, the baby will probably be admitted to a paediatric ward or paediatric intensive care unit rather than the NICU. Of course, exceptions can be made if the baby has a problem that definitely requires the constant attention of a neonatologist.
Babies usually stay in the NICU until they are ready to go home, even if that takes several months. This is different to an adult or paediatric intensive care unit, where the patient will leave the unit as soon as they are stable and do not need help with their breathing and constant monitoring. For this reason, NICUs are often divided by walls or partitions into several distinct regions: a true “intensive care” area where the nurses and doctors spend most of their time at the babies’ bedsides, an “intermediate care” area for babies that are still on IVs (intra-venous medication) or extra oxygen, and a quieter area for the “growers.”
In most neonatal intensive care units, about half of the babies that are admitted to the unit are usually full-term babies (born after 37 weeks) and the other half are premature babies - babies that were born too early (before 37 weeks gestation).
Premature babies are not really “sick” but the various systems and organs of their body are not yet fully developed, which can lead to a host of problems that require expert interventions and constant monitoring.
Schooling & School Subjects
National Senior Certificate meeting degree requirements for a degree course
Each institution has its own entry requirements.
Note: Competition to enter medical studies is stiff and there are usually many applicants with excellent grades who naturally would be given preference.
MBChB degree at UP, UCT, UFS, Wits, US, UL, UKZN:
Registration with the Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA) is mandatory for this occupation. Registration as an Independent Medical Practitioner with the HPCSA will only be permitted once all the necessary criteria have been met.
Specialisation in Paediatrics (Subspecialisation - Neonatology)
To specialise in this area, a number of years of additional study will be required.
Consult the HPCSA website for the most up-to-date information relating to this area of specialization. This information can be found in the relevant sections under the Professional Board for Medical and Dental (and medical science) professionals.
Refer to the medical faculty of the relevant university for additional information.
Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA)
P O Box 205
Tel: (012) 338-9300 Fax: (012) 328-5120
Newborns Groote Schuur Trust
Floor H46, Old Main Building
Groote Schuur Hospital
Suite 67 Postnet x11
Tel: (021) 404-6023 Fax: (021) 404-6023