Part One What is an OB Nurse?
Obstetric (OB) nurses, also known as perinatal or OB/GYN nurses, are healthcare professionals who provide reproductive health care to women and their infants before, during, and after pregnancy and delivery. Their goal is to keep expectant mothers healthy by monitoring the mother and fetus’s health throughout their pregnancy. OB nurses also respond to acute situations when necessary.
Many people think an OB nurse's main job is to help deliver babies. But this job is so much more than that! OB nurses work collaboratively with obstetricians to counsel women attempting to conceive, provide care and monitoring during pregnancy, assist with labor and delivery, and help women and infants recover after childbirth.
Whether it’s the first contact with a pregnant woman in labor or a relationship built throughout the pregnancy, OB nurses provide essential and personalized care.
Part Two What Do OB Nurses Do?
Obstetrics nurses care for women from the start of pregnancy, during labor and delivery, and immediately after. In some cases, OB nurses also work with women trying to conceive with fertility treatments and teach women how to use birth control.
OB nurses have the opportunity to provide hands-on, one-on-one care to women and their families during one of the most critical times of their lives.
OB nurses work collaboratively with obstetricians, midwives, advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs), and other healthcare professionals in a fast-paced and exciting environment.
OB Nurse Job Duties
- Provide instructions, advice, and guidance to pregnant and postpartum mothers.
- Assist the obstetrician during prenatal exams and routine visits.
- Assist with childbirth in labor and delivery rooms.
- Care for both the mother and the infant after delivery, monitor vitals for both, clean, weigh, and attend to the infant, and help the new mother as she recovers from labor
Where Do OB Nurses Work?
OB nurses work in several types of healthcare facilities, such as:
- Private obstetric and gynecologic physician offices
- Hospital maternity wards
- Birthing centers
- Outpatient clinics
Part Three OB Nurse Salary
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the average salary for registered nurses is $75,330 annually or $36.22/hr. However, ZipRecruiter reports that OB nurses in the United States earn a median annual salary of $91,798 or $44/hr. ZipRecruiter also states that OB nurse income can range from as low as $22,500 to as high as $171,000!
It is essential to keep in mind that compensation is also determined by education level, years of experience, the type of facility, work location, and whether an OB nurse works full-time or part-time.
Highest Paying States for OB Nurses
ZipRecruiter reports that the states that pay OB nurses the highest salaries in the country include:
- Washington: $112,810 annually or $54.24/hr
- Maryland: $110,900 annually or $53.32/hr
- Nebraska: $108,634 annually or $52.23/hr
- New York: $108,056 annually or $51.95/hr
- Virginia: $107,208 annually or $51.54/hr
OB Nurse Benefits
OB nurses can also optimize their income by working overtime and supplementing their salary with employee perks such as:
- Paid time off
- Sick leave
- Health insurance
- Tuition reimbursement
- Sign-on and referral bonuses
- Onsite childcare
In addition, some employers offer a higher hourly wage or other bonuses for nurses who obtain a bachelor’s degree in nursing (BSN) than nurses with an associate’s degree in nursing (ADN). Getting a master’s degree in nursing (MSN) will also offer a higher annual salary and employment opportunities.
Talk to your employer about the benefits that are available to you. In some cases, OB nurses can even negotiate more competitive compensation packages during the interview process.
Part Four How to Become an OB Nurse
In order to become an OB nurse, you’ll need to complete the following steps:
1. Become a Registered Nurse
Upon graduation, all registered nurses must pass the National Council Licensure Examination- Registered Nurse (NCLEX-RN), administered by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing. The NCLEX-RN exam is mandatory to earn licensure and legal practice as a registered nurse.
2. Gain Experience
Nurses who wish to become OB nurses must apply to work in an OB unit in a hospital. University hospitals and many other medical facilities in the U.S. offer new graduate programs for nurses who want to work specifically as OB nurses.
3. Get Certified
After working for a minimum of two years or 2,000 hours in labor and delivery, obstetrics nurses can sit for the Inpatient Obstetric Nursing Certification (RNC-OB) exam.
It is a 3-hour test containing 175 questions about OB nursing, including the best practices for labor, cesarean-section births, pharmacology, and other OB topics. National certification will help you become a better OB nurse and make you even more marketable to employers.
Part Five What Is the Career Outlook for OB Nurses?
The U.S. is experiencing a nursing shortage that has affected every nursing career area and made nursing one of the most in-demand professions.
The BLS projects that employment for nurses is projected to grow 9 percent between 2020-2030. They report that there will be about 154,500 new openings for nurses every year to replace nurses leaving the profession.
The American Nurses Association anticipates that there will be more open positions for nurses in the United States by 2022 than almost every other profession.
Part Six What are the Continuing Education Requirements for OB Nurses?
Continuing education ensures that nursing professionals are up-to-date on advancements in medical technology, techniques, and knowledge.
One of the best ways to ensure that nurses have all the tools and understanding is through continuing education unit (CEU) requirements.
Though not every state has mandated continuing education, the requirements of those that do are administered by each state's Board of Nursing, which oversees the licensure, re-licensure, and certification for RNs and licensed practical nurses (LPN) or licensed vocational nurses (LVNs).
Most states have a CEU requirement that must be completed every two to three years to maintain active licensure. If your state does not have a specific requirement for continuing education, many employers do. Check with your state's and employer's requirements to ensure you are up-to-date. Information on continuing education requirements in the state where you intend to practice can be found here.
Continuing education classes that can refresh and expand an OB nurse’s knowledge include courses in:
- Breastfeeding basics
- Fetal alcohol exposure
- Ethics for nurses
- Late-preterm infants
- Managing preterm labor
- Apnea of prematurity
- Perinatal infections
- Preventing perinatal HIV transmission
All specialty certifications from the National Certification Corporation (NCC) require the completion of CEUs every three years.
Those credentialed in specialty areas must earn 15 hours of continuing education in their credentialed specialty area. An agency recognized by NCC must accredit all continuing education content.
Part Seven Where Can I Learn More About Becoming an OB Nurse?
One of the best resources for learning more about the profession is the Association of Women’s Health, Obstetric and Neonatal Nurses (AWHONN). This is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to improve and promote the health of women and newborns and strengthen the nursing profession as a whole.
For general information on careers in nursing as well as on related nursing areas, the following organizations may also be helpful:
- American Nurses Association
- National Student Nurses Association
- Academy of Neonatal Nursing
- American College of Nurse-Midwives
Part Eight OB Nurse FAQs
Do OB nurses deliver babies?
- Though OB nurses have extensive knowledge about labor and delivery, an obstetrician or midwife delivers a baby. OB nurses assist the physician or midwife and provide care to the mother and baby.
What is the difference between an OB/GYN nurse and a labor and delivery nurse?
- OB nurse is a term that encompasses the care provided prenatally, during labor and delivery, and postpartum to both mother and infant. A labor and delivery nurse is an OB nurse that specifically assists and provides care during labor and delivery.
Do OB nurses perform ultrasounds?
- Ultrasonographers conduct ultrasound studies. In some circumstances, an OB nurse that works in an obstetric setting may perform a limited ultrasound, but this is not the same as a basic or standard ultrasound.