Labor and delivery (L&D) nurses are unique among the different types of nurses because they have a very specific job: to help deliver healthy babies and get moms through the process safely. In essence, they are doing what some might consider the most important nursing job of all – bringing new lives into this world.
For anyone who's interested in becoming a labor and delivery nurse, the good news is that position will always be in demand, whether it's in a hospital, birthing center, or clinic. By gaining experience as a Registered Nurse and then specializing in L&D, you can choose this fulfilling and gratifying career track.
Part One What Exactly Is A Labor And Delivery Nurse?
L&D nurses begin as Registered Nurses (RN) and may become Advanced Practice Registered Nurses (APRN) such as OB/GYN Nurse Practitioners, but ultimately, they pursue some level of specialty training to help women deliver babies. According to DiscoverNursing.org, some of the primary responsibilities of an L&D nurse include:
- Monitor both the baby’s and mother’s vital signs, including heart rate and blood pressure
- Time contractions
- Identify and assist with handling complications
- Help administer medications and epidurals
- Aid in inducing labor
- Coach new mothers throughout the duration of the labor and delivery
- And, of course, there’s also a lot of hand-holding, encouragement, and comforting going on in birthing rooms as well.
Part Two What do L&D Nurses Earn?
The median annual salary for all RNs is $67,490, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, as of May 2015, the most recent data available. Labor and Delivery nurses will fall within that range, with some earning more, depending on the location and type of institution. Those with advanced skills and experience can earn more as well.
Some L&D nurses also decide to take their careers on the road as travel nurses to bring their skill sets to areas that are in short supply. Travel nurses work as short-term contractors through an agency. Check out our job board to find out where Labor & Delivery nurses are needed.
Part Three What Is The Career Outlook For L&D Nurses?
With so many nurses coming into retirement age in the next decade, the nursing shortage is here to stay for a long time. And because L&D nursing is physically demanding, requiring long shifts, it’s particularly suited for new nurses who have to, in a sense, labor right alongside their patients.
In other words, as far as job prospects go, specializing in L&D will help power up your job security even more. To get an idea of just how many nurses will be needed, consider that the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts the field to grow at a rate of 16 percent through 2024, which is much faster than the average for all occupations.
Part Four How Does Someone Become A Labor & Delivery Nurse?
Requirements. Before you can specialize or choose to remain in a particular hospital unit like L&D, you must first become a Registered Nurse. To do so, you have to graduate from a program of study that is approved by your State Nursing Board, either a bachelor’s degree or associate degree program. Upon completion, you have to pass the NCLEX-RN. From there, you can begin practicing and look for opportunities to gain experience in L&D units.
Education. To advance in this career, additional education is required beyond the RN degree program. Some choose to become Nurse Practitioners in Obstetrics and Gynecology. These highly specialized nurses are needed to handle very high-risk patients and special circumstances and complications. Another route L&D nurses can take is to become Certified Nurse Midwives. That requires earning the Certified Nurse-Midwife and Certified Midwife designations through the American Midwifery Certification Board.
Certification. Another way to bolster your credentials as an RN is to earn a certification in your field of interest. For L&D nurses, that would usually be the Inpatient Obstetric Nursing (RNC-OB) certification through the National Certification Corporation. Becoming a Certified Labor and Delivery Nurse can give you an edge and make you more marketable.
Part Five What Does A Labor & Delivery Nursing Job Look Like?
Unlike many general staff RN jobs, where the kind of patient care you administer runs the gamut, labor and delivery nurses have a very specific function – to work with women who are about to give birth. L&D nurses work with just a few patients per day, monitoring their progress, and handling whatever new development comes there way. After birth, they continue to care for the mothers until they are released from the hospital. This care is more complex for mothers who give birth via C-section, or who have some other medical complication.
While most labor and delivery nurses work in hospitals, there are more and more birthing centers opening throughout the country.
Part Six Where Can I Learn More About Labor & Delivery Nursing Jobs/Careers?
To learn more about L&D nursing careers, take advantage of the resources available through the professional associations related to this field. The leading group for L&D nurses is:
The Association of Women’s Health, Obstetric and Neonatal Nurses (AWHONN) - This organization aims to improve and promote the health of women and newborns and to strengthen the nursing profession through advocacy, research, and education.
Next Up: Pediatric Nurse Career Guide