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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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+
- Median Hourly Wage: $28
- Salary: $56,858
Nurses are in Demand
- 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
Labor and Delivery Nurse Blogs
Continuing Education for Labor and Delivery Nurses
Certification Resources for Labor and Delivery Nurses
Labor and Delivery Nurse National Organizations
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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