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THE SECRET LIFE OF THE BRAIN
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Program 1: The Baby's Brain ...
The brain changes by strengthening neural connections in response to stimulation and pruning connections due to deprivation. It is a remarkably plastic structure that can adapt to compensate for interference in normal development, but only so far.

Career Focus

Developmental psychologist Heidelise Als, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Boston, is conducting an experiment with premature babies, caring for them in an environment that mimics the conditions of the womb. Will these babies develop differently than other preemies treated in the standard way? Preliminary results show that preemies in Als' program have caught up with or surpassed their full-term peers, but will these results hold over time and in other programs replicating her techniques?

Career Focus

Nursing requires at least an associate's, and usually a bachelor's degree, as well as state licensing. Staff nurses can specialize through courses offered at their hospitals and by being mentored by experienced nurses. Graduate programs offer specialized training and additional opportunities for advancement.

Margaret Conway-Orgel, president of the National Association of Neonatal Nurses, is a neonatal nurse practitioner (NP) at the Medical University of South Carolina, one of the top 10 children's hospitals in the country. Since 1985, when she obtained her master's, she has noticed much more acceptance of NPs by neonatal physicians. At first resistant, doctors now appreciate the role of NPs in knowledgeable care and case management for preemies and as liaisons with families. Ms. Conway-Orgel has witnessed the advances in treatment and understanding of what pre-term babies need and the dramatic success due to the new approaches. Her greatest satisfaction is watching babies in the NICU grow strong enough to go home.

Job prospects are very good. There is a serious shortage of nurses and will be for some time. In 2001, there will be 800 job openings for neonatal nurse practitioners and only 70 new masters' recipients in that specialty.

Check out this list of nursing career resources.


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