Labor and Delivery Nurse

Labor and delivery nurses assist pregnant women throughout the childbirth experience, from early labor through delivery and the immediate postpartum period. Labor and delivery nurses coach mothers through difficult contractions, offering encouragement and advice on pain management. They also monitor both the baby and the mother’s tolerance for labor, and stay alert for any potential medical complications that can occur. Labor and delivery nurses administer medications, including epidurals, and assist physicians or midwives with the actual delivery. Following the birth, their care extends to the newborn and mother’s needs. Labor and delivery nurses also help new mother-baby pairs with the baby’s first breastfeeding.

Labor and delivery nurses usually spend a significant amount of time with laboring mothers, and regularly form strong bonds with new families in their care. These nurses generally work in a joyful environment, celebrating the arrival of new babies and witnessing the miracle of birth.

The nursing profession is projected to grow significantly over the next decade. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics anticipates a 16% increase in the number of available nursing jobs by 2024.

What Does a Labor and Delivery Nurse Do?

A labor and delivery nurse must be knowledgeable about the four stages of childbirth: antepartum, intrapartum, postpartum, and neonatal. During each stage, nurses monitor the mother’s vital signs and the baby’s heart rate, watching for potential problems. In addition to administering medications, starting IV lines, and measuring contractions, the nurse shares her knowledge with the laboring mother and family. In the event of a cesarean delivery, these nurses are trained in OR procedures and to assist with the surgery.

While doctors and midwives are generally only present during the time of the actual birth, the labor and delivery nurse is present throughout the labor, birth and postpartum experience and serves as a liaison between a laboring woman and her medical team.

Most nurses work 12-hour shifts, allowing them to be present for most if not all of their patients’ birth experiences.

Labor and delivery nurses learn much of the specifics of their craft on the job, and only need to be state-licensed registered nurses. Many working RNs hold two-year associate degrees or nursing diplomas, though many in the industry are starting to require nurses to complete four-year bachelor of nursing (BSN) programs for entry-level positions.

While official certification isn’t required, you can pursue many credentials and certifications such as an Inpatient Obstetric Nursing (RNC-OB), Neonatal Resuscitation Program (NRP), Neonatal Advanced Life Support (NALS), Pediatric Advanced Life Support (PALS), and the STABLE program.

What Does it Take to Become a Labor and Delivery Nurse?

Skills

Assertiveness

Nurses must be able to quickly switch between a supportive role and a directorial one. Labor can change directions very quickly, and the labor and delivery nurse must be alert for signs of change. Laboring mothers, particularly first-time ones, need a nurse who knows when and how to take charge.

Patience

As any mother knows, labor can be long and difficult. Nurses in the field must be prepared for long stretches of relative inactivity, and to help mothers with all types of personalities through a painful experience.

Stoicism

Unfortunately, there is a dark side to labor and delivery. Perhaps as a cosmic foil to the joy of childbirth, labor and delivery nurses must be also prepared for a heartbreaking outcome. Not every delivery goes smoothly, and nurses in this specialty must be able to handle complications or loss.

Empathy

Labor and delivery nurses see women from all walks of life. In this environment, nursing professionals must resist the urge to draw conclusions or pass judgment on these women during a vulnerable time in their lives.

Critical Thinking

Most labors progress as intended and without complications. When they don’t, however, the labor and delivery nurse should be able to draw on their knowledge and experience to calmly and accurately assess the situation.

Communications

Education is an integral part of any nurse’s job, but particularly for the labor and delivery nurse. Nurses must share a lot of information with new mother during and especially after the birth: those with strong communications skills can teach their patients what they need to know quickly and effectively.

Labor and Delivery Nurse Salary Information and Job Outlook

How much do labor and delivery nurses make?

$46,390+$59,370+$72,350+$85,320+
Labor and Delivery Nurse: Average Salary by State This map presents average annual salary for the occupation Labor and Delivery Nurse in each state in the U.S. Average Annual Salary in HI: $88,230 HI Average Annual Salary in AK: $85,740 AK Average Annual Salary in FL: $62,720 FL Average Annual Salary in NH: $65,790 NH Average Annual Salary in MI: $67,180 MI Average Annual Salary in VT: $64,320 VT Average Annual Salary in ME: $63,320 ME Average Annual Salary in RI: $75,510 RI Average Annual Salary in NY: $77,110 NY Average Annual Salary in PA: $66,570 PA Average Annual Salary in NJ: $78,330 NJ Average Annual Salary in DE: $70,160 DE Average Annual Salary in MD: $72,210 MD Average Annual Salary in VA: $63,880 VA Average Annual Salary in WV: $56,390 WV Average Annual Salary in OH: $62,490 OH Average Annual Salary in IN: $58,900 IN Average Annual Salary in IL: $68,030 IL Average Annual Salary in CT: $76,370 CT Average Annual Salary in WI: $65,590 WI Average Annual Salary in NC: $60,030 NC Average Annual Salary in MA: $85,770 MA Average Annual Salary in TN: $57,030 TN Average Annual Salary in AR: $56,480 AR Average Annual Salary in MO: $58,040 MO Average Annual Salary in GA: $62,350 GA Average Annual Salary in SC: $59,670 SC Average Annual Salary in KY: $57,980 KY Average Annual Salary in AL: $56,470 AL Average Annual Salary in LA: $60,230 LA Average Annual Salary in MS: $56,560 MS Average Annual Salary in IA: $54,020 IA Average Annual Salary in MN: $71,450 MN Average Annual Salary in OK: $57,830 OK Average Annual Salary in TX: $68,590 TX Average Annual Salary in NM: $65,790 NM Average Annual Salary in KS: $56,800 KS Average Annual Salary in NE: $57,550 NE Average Annual Salary in SD: $53,970 SD Average Annual Salary in ND: $58,120 ND Average Annual Salary in WY: $60,790 WY Average Annual Salary in MT: $61,810 MT Average Annual Salary in CO: $69,600 CO Average Annual Salary in ID: $60,320 ID Average Annual Salary in UT: $61,100 UT Average Annual Salary in AZ: $71,300 AZ Average Annual Salary in NV: $80,240 NV Average Annual Salary in OR: $82,940 OR Average Annual Salary in WA: $78,540 WA Average Annual Salary in CA: $98,400 CA

  • Median Hourly Wage: $28
  • Salary: $56,858

Source: Data taken from Payscale and The Bureau of Labor Statistics. Accessed: September 2016.

Nurses are in Demand

2M 3M 4M 2010 2015 2020 2.74 Million Jobs 3.45 Million Jobs
  • 712,000 New Jobs
  • 495,500 Replacement Jobs
  • 10.2 Million by 2020
  • 26% More Nursing Jobs Expected to Be Created between 2010 and 2020

Source: Data taken from The Bureau of Labor Statistics. Accessed: December 2015.

Meet a Labor and Delivery Nurse

Additional Resources

Labor and Delivery Nurse Job Boards

Continuing Education for Labor and Delivery Nurses

Online Labor and Delivery Nursing Programs

Working RNs who hold a two-year degree can take advantage of the numerous online RN-to-BSN completion programs that are available. First-time students are encouraged to complete the BSN. While there are no online nursing programs that specialize in labor and delivery at the associate or baccalaureate level, either degree qualifies graduates to sit for the NCLEX-RN state licensing examination. There is no current mandate for either degree, but that is expected to change as the industry shifts toward a baccalaureate degree as minimum preparation for a career in nursing.

After RN licensure and some on-the-job training, a labor and delivery nurse may pursue additional credentials in obstetric nursing. For those nurses truly called to a career path in labor and delivery nursing, the master of science in nursing qualifies graduates for advanced practice certification in midwifery.

If you are an accredited, not-for-profit institution that offers an online labor and delivery program and that isn’t listed, please contact us with details about your program, a link to your program page and proof of accreditation.

Labor and Delivery Programs

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