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Tiny babies sometimes need a bit of extra help to survive. They may be underdeveloped, and unable to keep warm or breathe without machines. Or, they may have defects in their hearts, lungs, or other systems that must be monitored and repaired.
These babies receive care from Neonatal Doctors in a specialized portion of the hospital. A Neonatal Doctor may work with the same baby for months until the child is well enough to head home.
When babies are born with medical problems, they become patients of Neonatal Doctors right away. As a Neonatologist, you’re often one of only a handful of people who have touched that little baby after birth. You perform a thorough examination to determine the baby’s health problems, and you direct Neonatal Nurses to set up machines to monitor it and deliver treatments. Speaking with the mother’s Obstetrician may also help you understand if something went wrong at birth that contributed to the baby’s condition.
Then, you speak with the parents of the baby. Often, they’re frightened and exhausted, and you do your best to explain difficult medical concepts in terms they can understand. Once you’ve answered the parents’ questions, you determine a treatment plan for the baby and monitor the baby’s care.
Very sick babies may need a village of experts to help them heal, including Pediatric Respiratory Therapists, Surgeons, and Dietitians. You must keep detailed notes of every treatment you perform and every measurement you take. The work you do may impact the work of the other professionals on the team, so you strive hard to keep everyone informed.