How to Become a Postpartum Nurse
Postpartum nurses care for new mothers and newborn infants in the hours and days immediately following birth. They need to have the basic nursing skills of any other specialty, but more importantly, you need to have compassion and patience.
Thinking of becoming a Postpartum nurse? This guide will fill you in on everything you need to know.
What is a Postpartum Nurse?
Postpartum nurses are registered nurses who care for and help new mothers after they have given birth. In addition to attending to their patients’ physical and emotional needs, they are also trained to watch carefully for issues of concern, such as postpartum depression or complications.
Postpartum nurses provide new mothers with much-needed education about newborn care, giving them the boost of confidence that they need before being sent home with their child. They also provide support and guidance surrounding breastfeeding (often working closely with a lactation specialist).
Postpartum nurses can work in any setting where women are giving birth.
Typically, they will work in the following locations,
- Birthing Center
- Community Clinic
- Physicians’ office
What Do Postpartum Nurses Do?
Postpartum nurses have a wide range of duties, from attending to the specific impact that giving birth has on the woman’s body to providing emotional support and guidance on newborn care. Postpartum nurses are by their patients’ side during some of the most important moments in their lives!
Postpartum nurses are assigned the care of their patients from the time that they leave the labor and delivery room to the time that they are discharged from the hospital. Some of their duties include:
- Assisting new mothers as they learn the process of breastfeeding.
- Attending tasks assigned by the patient’s physician ranging from medication and I.V.s to wound care.
- Creating and adhering to care plans for the new mother and her child.
- Helping the mother with her postpartum recovery.
- Keeping watch for signs of postpartum depression in new mothers and signs of medical complications in their newborn.
- Monitoring vital signs for both mother and newborn -- keeping a careful eye on any changes in either one’s condition.
- Providing emotional support and reinforcement to the mother as she begins making decisions for herself and her child.
- Providing lactation support
- Providing guidance and education on newborn care including bathing, umbilical cord care, feeding, the use of infant safety seats, and more.
Postpartum Nurse Salary
Postpartum nurses are highly respected by their peers and earn the appreciation of their patients. According to Glassdoor.com, the national median annual wage for a postpartum nurse is $112,920.
Salary.com reports an annual average salary of $79,129, but the salary range typically falls between $72,020 and $89,609
Income can be affected by a variety of factors, including the level of education that the nurse has attained, the region and setting where they work, the number of years of experience that they possess, and their overall performance and level of responsibility.
- Certification Reimbursement
- Continuing Education Reimbursement
Regardless of the workplace setting, full-time and part-time nurses enjoy similar benefits. While actual benefits may vary depending on the institution most include the following:
- Attendance at nursing conferences
- Bereavement leave
- Dental Insurance
- Dependent health insurance coverage
- Discounts on extracurricular activities
- Family Leave of Absence
- Health insurance
- Holiday Pay
- Life Insurance
- Maternity Leave
- Retirement Options
- Vision Insurance
Highest Paying States for Nurses
According to ZipRecruiter.com, the top-paying states for postpartum nurses are,
- Washington - $132,295
- New York - $126,165
- Maryland - $122,908
- Virginia - $122,480
- California - $121,939
How to Become a Postpartum Nurse
1. Attend Nursing School
The first step to becoming a postpartum nurse is to attend nursing school. You’ll need to earn either an ADN or a BSN from an accredited nursing program in order to take the first steps to becoming a registered nurse. Nursing students who know that they want to become postpartum nurses are well-advised to focus any elective courses on the study of maternal and infant care.
2. Pass the NCLEX-RN
Following graduation from their nursing program, nurses earn their state license as a registered nurse by passing the NCLEX examination.
3. Gain Experience
After licensure, Registered Nurses can apply for a nursing position that will give them the opportunity to work and gain experience in a maternity unit.
4. Get Certified
Postpartum nurses can pursue the Maternal Newborn Nursing (RNC-MNN) certification that will enhance their skills and professional standing.
To qualify you are required to possess a current, unrestricted Registered Nurse license, a minimum of two years of work experience within the specialty area, as well as documentation of employment history.
5. Advance Your Education
Pros and Cons of Becoming a Postpartum Nurse
Like any nursing position, there are positives and negatives. Some would assume that being a postpartum nurse is mostly all pros, but that is not entirely the case. You will sometimes be caring for mothers who have lost their babies, or who have babies currently in the NICU.
- Provide support to new mothers and families
- Work with babies
- Job security
- Witness new life being brought into the world
- Never be bored during shifts
- Lack of monotony
- Supporting mothers and families during newborn deaths and NICU stays
- Navigating family dynamics
- Physically and mentally exhausting
- Long work hours
- Navigating mother and baby care
- Exposure to blood-borne and other pathogens
Specialty Skills Needed to Become a Postpartum Nurse
The skills needed to work well in a postpartum nursing role are:
- Strong communication skills for education and teaching
- Confidence in your ability to handle possible emergencies
- Empathy for families that have lost a baby or are separated from their newborn
- Patience, especially when working with new mothers
- Strong time management skills
Day in the Life of a Postpartum Nurse
While not every day will be the same, there will be some similarities from shift to shift.
After arriving for your scheduled shift, you will get your assignment. Postpartum nurses are responsible for the care of mothers as well as the newborn. This is considered a couplet.
Ratios are specific to the hospital, but you can expect to take roughly 3 to 5 couplets per shift.
You will start with receiving a report from the ongoing nurse and then do safety checks and introduce yourself to your patients.
Organize Your Day
After reviewing charts and determining the plan of the day for each patient, you will need to organize your day.
Begin Your Shift
You will be responsible for assessing your patients and their newborns, administering medications (specifically pain medications), and taking vital signs.
Throughout your shift, you will need to provide lactation support to mothers, and support mothers who have lost their newborns or who are in the NICU.
You will also be responsible for education of new mothers, especially on the day of discharge.
Once a mother and her newborn are discharged, you will get transfers from the labor and delivery side.
What is the Career Outlook for Postpartum Nurses?
The national nursing shortage is expected to continue for the next several years, and that has had a direct impact on the demand for Postpartum nurses.
Though the birth rate is trending downward in the United States, there are still nearly 3.6 million births each year, making the continuing need for experienced skilled Postpartum nursing certain.
Nurses who want to boost their career opportunities are advised to pursue both certifications and advanced degrees such as a Master of Science in Nursing, a Ph.D., or a Doctor of Nursing Practice.
What are the Continuing Education Requirements for Postpartum Nurses?
Postpartum nurses are Registered Nurses, and so are subject to the continuing education requirements of the states in which they work and are licensed.
If a postpartum nurse chooses to pursue the either a Maternal Newborn Nursing (RNC-MNN) certification the credentials are valid for three years.
Maintenance of these certifications requires a current, active Registered Nurse license, completion of the Continuing Competency Assessment, and a continuing education plan based on the results of your assessment.
Where Can I Learn More About the Postpartum Nurse Role?
If you believe that Postpartum nursing may be the right career for you and you would like additional information on the profession, there are several professional organizations that can provide additional information and guidance. These include:
- Association of Women's Health, Obstetric, and Neonatal Nurses
- Childbirth and Postpartum Professional Association
- Journal of Obstetric, Gynecologic & Neonatal Nursing
- Nursing for Women's Health Journal
- The American Journal of Maternal/Child Nursing
Postpartum Nurse FAQs
How many years does it take to become a Postpartum nurse?
- It will take around 4-6 years to become a Postpartum nurse. 2-4 years to earn either an ADN or BSN, and another 2 years of experience to be eligible to take the nursing certification tests.
What are the nurses who take care of babies after birth called?
- There are several different nursing specialties that attend to babies after birth. Pediatric registered nurses can care for children from the time that they are newborns through adolescence, but oftentimes when an infant is first born they are cared for by a neonatal intensive care nurse, a pediatric intensive care nurse, or a neonatal nurse.
How much does a Postpartum nurse make an hour?
- According to Salary.com, the national median hourly wage for a Postpartum nurse is $38 per hour, with the lowest 10% earning $32 per hour and the top 10% earning $48 per hour.
What is it like to be a Postpartum nurse?
- Postpartum nursing is a position that involves a great deal of responsibility. You are responsible for both the mother and the newborn baby. Postpartum nurses are generally assigned between three and six patients for whom they have to do assessments of the mother’s health and condition after delivery; address physicians’ orders such as dressings, IVs, and medications; update charts and care plans while taking care of admissions; and all the while providing guidance and education on newborn care, comfort and a listening ear to the new moms. Not every delivery goes as planned, and that is part of the job too.