A labor and delivery nurse primary purpose is to help women during labor and childbirth. They monitor both the baby and mother during the four stages of delivery and are responsible for assisting doctors and coaching mothers during the birthing period and supporting the mothers with breastfeeding afterwards.
A labor and delivery nurse differs from a nurse midwife in that they are primarily focused on the pre- during and post birth procedures, while nurse midwives deliver general women’s healthcare, such as performing physical exams. As such, nurse midwives can be primary caregivers and may attend to mother at home or in other settings, while labor and delivery nurses work on the hospital labor floor and take care of patients as they revolve through during the day and night to give birth.
A labor and delivery nurse may have varied responsibilities depending on what type of facility they work at. Typical tasks may include:
- Educate and prepare new parents before, during, and after delivery of their baby
- Monitoring the baby’s heartbeat during labor
- Monitoring the mother’s blood pressure during labor
- Identify possible complications as they arise
- Help administer epidurals and other medications
- Perform diagnostic tests as needed
- Perform tests on newborns
- Monitor newborns after birth
- Keep detailed records of the birth process
- Aid new mothers as they adapt to breastfeeding
- Consult with physicians or midwives regarding the mother and baby and their conditions
Labor and delivery nurses work in a fast-paced hospital environment, and tend to many patients throughout their shift, so they have to be able to move smoothly from one task to another in a timely manner. Ideal candidates will have the following skills:
- Able to multitask
- Communicate well both face-to-face and on the phone
- Empathetic towards those in pain and under stress
- Detail oriented
- Able to make quick and accurate decisions
- Work well with others
- Able to keep detailed records
- Able to instruct others
- Stamina to work long hours
Where Labor and Delivery Nurses Work
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics 2016-17 Occupational Outlook Handbook, these are top industries for employment for labor and delivery nurses:
General Medical and Surgical Hospitals
Offices of Physicians
Nursing as a whole is expected to see a robust occupational growth through the next decade.
Labor and Delivery Nurse
Labor and Delivery Nurse
The projected growth for registered nurses is 15 percent, which is about twice the national growth projection for all occupations and encompasses almost 437,000 new job positions. Nursing as a whole is unique because one can enter the field as a Registered Nurse (RN) with minimal education and continue their Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) education while making a decent wage.
Top states for employment:
In 2016 the median wage for an RN was $68,450 with the highest 10 percentile earning a median annual wage of over $102,990. The higher tier typically represents registered nurses with a master’s degree and more job experience.
Lowest 10 percentile
Highest 10 percentile
Top employment states with wages:
|State||Annual Mean Wage|
Education and Certification
The first step in becoming a labor and delivery nurse is to become an RN. While you can take the national test to register as a nurse with an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN), most labor and delivery nurses hold at least a Bachelor of Science in Nursing Degree (BSN). Here are the basic steps you’ll need to take to become a labor and delivery nurse:
- Begin your BSN degree.
- Concentrate your studies on obstetrics by taking elective classes in labor and delivery.
- Once you earn your degree, take and pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN).
This is required for all who aspire to become a Registered Nurse.
- Take and pass the certification test in the state you plan to work in.
- Apply for an entry level position as a Registered Nurse, working in the Obstetrics area of practice.
- Become certified in Inpatient Obstetric Nursing by taking the certification test given by the National Certification Corporation to become a Certified Labor and Delivery Nurse.
This generally requires meeting the professional criteria and passing a rigorous exam.
- Apply for a position within your new specialty area.
Keep in mind you may have to start in a lower position until you gain experience working on the job as a labor and delivery nurse.
Some labor and delivery nurses choose to continue their education to the master’s degree level or higher. A labor and delivery nurse may become a nurse practitioner who specializes in gynecology and obstetrics, a certified nurse midwife (CNM), a perinatal educator, or a lactation consultant.
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