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The Résumé Rx

How To Become A Labor and Delivery Nurse: Career Overview

Amanda Guarniere

Labor and delivery (L&D) nurses are distinct from other types of nurses in that they have very specific jobs. It is to assist in the delivery of healthy babies while also guiding mothers safely through the process. 

We’re here to help you understand the roles and responsibilities of a labor and delivery nurse, as well as the education and certifications required to become one.

Table of Contents

What is a Labor and Delivery Nurse?

Labor and delivery nurses begin as registered nurses (RNs) and can advance to become advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) such as OB/GYN nurse practitioners, but they must pursue some level of specialization in order to assist women in childbirth.

Unlike many generalist RN jobs, where you provide a wide range of patient care, labor and delivery nurses have a very specific function: they work with women who are about to give birth.

While the majority of labor and delivery nurses work in hospitals, birthing centers are sprouting up all over the country.

What Does a Labor and Delivery Nurse Do?

A labor and delivery nurse is a registered nurse who provides care to pregnant women and their families before, during, and after their deliveries. Prenatal care (for expectant mothers), intrapartum care (for mothers in labor), and postpartum care are the three stages of this type of nursing care (for mothers who have just given birth).

Prenatal Period

The labor and delivery nurse’s responsibilities during this time include monitoring the mother’s health throughout her pregnancy. This includes looking for symptoms of complications like morning sickness, hypertension, and anemia. 

They are responsible for taking blood pressure and weight measurements, as well as collecting data such as contractions and cervical dilation, advising mothers on how to care for themselves, and providing information about hospital services.

Intrapartum Period

The labor and delivery nurse is in charge of monitoring and treating the mother and baby during the intrapartum period. They monitor the mother’s medications, such as blood thinners, steroids, and magnesium sulfate, which can cause complications during delivery, as well as the progress of labor and the management of common complications such as hemorrhage, infection, or a low fetal heart rate.

They are also in charge of keeping track of when each contraction occurs and how long it lasts, when the baby’s head appears, when crowning occurs, and when the umbilical cord stops pulsing, as well as managing any medication given to the mother during labor by anesthesiologists, pediatricians, or family physicians.

They are also responsible for assessing any changes in fetal heart rate that may indicate the need for an early delivery of the baby and administering pain medication as necessary during labor.

Postpartum Period

In this period, the labor and delivery nurse will be in charge of assessing the mother after birth and the newborn, as well as caring for both mother and baby during the pre-discharge period, as well as providing discharge education, such as on newborn care.

How to become a Labor and Delivery Nurse

We’ve discussed the duties and responsibilities of a labor and delivery nurse, but how do you become one? There are steps you must take in order to become one, including exams and certifications as well as training and educational requirements. 

But first, let’s look at the educational requirements for becoming a labor and delivery nurse.

Education Requirements

Additional education beyond the RN degree program is required to advance in this career. Some people want to be obstetrics and gynecology nurse practitioners. These highly specialized nurses are required to care for extremely high-risk patients who have unique circumstances and complications.

L&D nurses can also pursue certification as certified nurse midwives. This necessitates obtaining the American Midwifery Certification Board’s Certified Nurse-Midwife and Certified Midwife designations.

NCLEX-RN Licensure Exam

The National Council Licensure Examination, or NCLEX, is the next step toward becoming a labor and delivery nurse. This exam covers all nursing principles as well as medical terminology. This may have to be taken several times before you pass. 

After passing this exam, you must apply for state licensure in accordance with the requirements of your home state. Following completion, you must pass the NCLEX-RN. You can then start practicing and looking for opportunities to gain experience in L&D units.

Certifications or Credentials Needed

Let us now look at the certifications and credentials needed to work as a labor and delivery nurse. Certification in fetal monitoring (C-EFM), advanced cardiac life support (ACLS), and the neonatal resuscitation program (NRP) are required.

Inpatient Obstetric Nursing (RNC-OB) certification is also available from the National Certification Corporation. Obtaining certification as a labor and delivery nurse can give you an advantage and increase your marketability.

Trainings

Certain institutions will require you to complete at least one year of training in medical/surgical nursing, neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) level training, and other area- or hospital-specific programs for nurses, as well as in the postpartum care unit, before working in labor and delivery.

Where can a Labor and Delivery Nurse Work?

Now that we’ve gone over the responsibilities and steps to becoming a labor and delivery nurse, let’s take a look at where these nurses can find work. 

As an L&D nurse, you would assist women in giving birth and caring for their newborns in a hospital, birthing center, or other healthcare setting. For example, they can also assist in home births, bringing their expertise to the home setting and guiding the mother and child through the process. 

Labor and Delivery Nurse Salary

As a labor and delivery nurse, you will be paid well. Earning such a high salary is one of the most significant benefits of working as a labor and delivery nurse, allowing you to live the life you deserve. This salary will cover all of your needs as well as some of your desires! 

A labor and delivery nurse’s average annual salary is $99,043 per year, or around $47.62 per hour. The starting salary for an entry-level position is $38.94 per hour, or about $81,000 per year. 

A mid-level salary will pay you $55.05 per hour, or about $114,000 per year. A labor and delivery nurse’s starting salary is $64.42 per hour, or $134,000 per year.

Is Labor and Delivery Nursing a Good Job?

You may not know it, but working as a labor and delivery nurse is one of the most rewarding jobs available. You will be in the midst of an incredible experience for expecting parents while also being responsible for their safety. 

However, no matter how appealing it appears on paper, there are a few things you should know about this profession before diving in. We’ll go over the pros and cons of this profession to help you decide whether or not to pursue it.

Pros

Here are the five major pros of being a labor and delivery nurse.

1. You get to help bring new life into the world.

One of the most rewarding aspects of working as a labor and delivery nurse is the opportunity to assist in the birth of a new life. It is without a doubt one of the most joyful and incredible experiences you could ever have.

2. You can travel while working.

Another major advantage of working as a labor and delivery nurse is the opportunity to travel. You can take a plane and travel the world while working in hospitals in other cities. One advantage of being a labor and delivery nurse is the ability to work and travel.

3. You’ll be able to continue your education.

One of the most significant advantages of working as a labor and delivery nurse is the ability to further your education. You can not only earn a bachelor’s degree if you already have an associate’s degree, but most hospitals will pay for part or all of it, and you’ll also be eligible for scholarships and grants from the American Academy of Nursing and your state department of labor. You can also continue your education by earning a Master of Science in Nursing, a Ph.D., or a DNP.

4. You will be paid very well.

You will be well paid as a labor and delivery nurse. One of the most significant benefits of working as a labor and delivery nurse is the ability to live the lifestyle you deserve. This salary will cover all of your necessities and some of your desires. The average annual salary for a labor and delivery nurse is $99,043 per year, or around $47.62 per hour. 

The starting salary for an entry-level position is $38.94 per hour, or approximately $81,000 per year. A mid-level salary is $55.05 per hour, or about $114,000 per year. A labor and delivery nurse can earn up to $64.42 per hour, or $134,000 per year.

5. You will have a stable job.

You will have job stability as a labor and delivery nurse. You can look for work anywhere, and you won’t have to look very hard. A job as a labor and delivery nurse can be found almost anywhere. Keep in mind that dedicated, dependable labor and delivery nurses can earn a lot of money.

Cons

Here are the five major cons of being a labor and delivery nurse.

1. You may have to participate in some tragic situations.

One of the major disadvantages of working as a labor and delivery nurse is that you will be exposed to some heartbreaking scenarios. You will work with individuals who are grieving the loss of their children. You will have to deal with stillbirths and babies who are born too soon to survive. 

You might also have to assist a mother during labor in order to deliver a child who died as a result of fetal demise. A career as a labor and delivery nurse is not all sunshine and butterflies. It’s difficult and heartbreaking at times.

2. You might have to deal with an emergency.

One disadvantage of working as a labor and delivery nurse is that you must always be equipped for anything. You will be expected to respond to any situation involving the mother or the newborn. You will frequently be asked to make quick decisions with little knowledge and little time to manage them.

3. You will require additional certificates.

According to the American Nurses Association, certified labor and delivery nurses (RNC-OB) may be required to obtain additional certification. Fetal monitoring (C-EFM), advanced cardiac life support (ACLS), neonatal resuscitation program (NRP), medical/surgical nursing, NICU-level training, and other area- or hospital-specific programs for nurses are among the certifications available. So, if you imagined sitting in a class and having to take a test was the end of it, you were mistaken.

4. You’ll be working in a physically demanding environment.

As we all know, working in these fields is exhausting, and being a labor and delivery nurse is no exception. You must keep in mind that your job will be exceptionally physically demanding. You will be asked to push, pull, and lift your patients on a daily basis. It is also necessary for you to act quickly in order to meet your patient’s growing needs. This career is no joke; you will find yourself exhausted and sore at the end of the day.

5. You might not take many meal breaks or leave early.

As a labor and delivery nurse, your days may be so hectic that you will have to work long shifts without taking a break. Because you are so busy, you may miss meals. I truly hope you can manage your hunger, because your lunch break can look more like a quick, light snack if you even get one.

What Are The Best Labor And Delivery Nurse Programs?

There are numerous programs for labor and delivery nurses available. Because nursing pathways and careers vary, the top 5 labor and delivery nurse programs are listed in no particular order.

The schools listed below are all known for their certified nurse midwife programs, which prepare nurses to take the state exam and thus become certified in that field.

Frontier University

This is an online school that offers distance-based classes and helps students set up clinical work in their hometown. Students must attend two or three on-campus sessions in Hyden, Kentucky. 

The program lasts two years and has over 1,000 preceptor sites across the United States, allowing students to graduate from virtually any location. Frontier University has been educating nurse midwives for over 70 years and has a reputation for providing high-quality education.

Georgetown University

(Washington) is a nationally ranked campus-based or online program in Washington that demands 49 credit hours. The full-time program is accredited by the Commission on Midwifery Education. Clinical trials can take place in local or even out-of-state hospitals or clinical sites, and they may include freestanding birthing facilities. 

Online classes are similar to live classes in that they are delivered in a seminar format and enable you to evaluate them at your leisure as you study. Online students can use the university’s student resources and services.

University of Cincinnati

The University of Cincinnati offers an online, distance-based nurse-midwifery program for nurses who want to move into this specialized field of nursing. The classes last about two and a half years and are delivered online through the Blackboard program.

Keiser University

It has maintained a practical, hands-on approach to career-focused education to assist students in achieving their career objectives. This school offers online programs such as MSN in Nursing—Family Nurse Practitioner, Nursing, RN to BSN, Nursing, ASN, Bachelor of Science in Nursing (Fast Track), and Accelerated BSN in Nursing.

Philadelphia University

Philadelphia University is offering a Master of Science in Nursing degree as well as a Post-Nurse Master’s Midwifery Certificate. The MS degree is a two-year, full-time graduate degree program. Classes are web-based, with some on-campus sessions and clinical work arranged in local community medical facilities. 

Graduates and certificate holders are eligible to sit for the certification exam, which leads to certification as a nurse midwife. The Post-Masters Nurse Midwife Certificate is available for nurses who already hold a Master’s or Doctoral degree in another healthcare specialty and want to expand their academic achievement to include midwifery.

Essential Skills a Labor and Delivery Nurse Must Have

Working with women in labor and their support person, nurses must possess strong clinical and communication skills to ensure babies and moms come through healthy and safe. With that being said, here are the five essential skills that a labor and delivery nurse must possess.

Working with women in labor and their support person, nurses must have strong clinical and communication skills to guarantee that babies and mothers arrive healthy and safe. With that said, here are the five essential skills of a labor and delivery nurse:

1. Be genuine

It will allow you to quickly develop trust and rapport. Being able to set the tone for positivity in the room, even in the most difficult of situations, helps gauge the rest of the experience.

2. Being educated, professional, and current on evidence-based practice

Most patients have done Google searches and read a variety of online stories and may be concerned about their nurse’s actions. Nurses should explain any interventions in detail and answer patients’ questions about what to expect. This is critical, particularly for first-time moms.

3. Appropriate prioritization

According to Little, L&D nurses must quickly assess patients’ needs and determine who needs what and who requires assistance first. Just to add: multitasking, time management, and organizational skills are also required.

4. Demonstrating your concern and advocating for patients

Others on the clinical team may come and go during a mother’s labor, but the L&D nurse will devote the most time by the mother’s side and can be a strong source of encouragement and assistance.

5. Fetal monitoring in accordance with the patient’s treatment plan

This is an important part of your assessment responsibilities and can help ensure a safe delivery. L&D nurses can even become certified in electronic fetal monitoring to further their skills and knowledge.

Labor and Delivery Nurse Career Outlook

With many nurses reaching retirement age over the next decade, the shortage of nurses is here to linger. And, because L&D nursing is physically demanding and requires long shifts, it’s ideal for new nurses.

Also, specializing in L&D will significantly increase your job security. To get a clue of how many nurses will be needed, consider that the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts the field will grow at a 7 percent annual rate from 2019 to 2029, which is faster than the national average for all occupations.

FAQs About Becoming A Labor and Delivery Nurse

How long does it take to become a labor and delivery nurse?

It typically takes 2-4 years, depending on whether you pursue an associate or bachelor’s degree. After completing this education, you  generally need to work as a registered nurse for at least a year before specializing in labor and delivery.

What does a labor and delivery nurse usually do?

A labor and delivery nurse provides care to women and their babies before, during, and after childbirth. A labor and delivery nurse will monitor mothers and children, provide postpartum care, and inform new mothers on newborn care.

How do I become a labor and delivery nurse?

To be a labor and delivery nurse, you must have the necessary education and certifications, but most importantly, you must be a registered nurse with the necessary skills to be excellent in this job.

What are the typical job responsibilities of a labor and delivery nurse?

Providing Care for Expectant Mothers with Normal and Problematic Pregnancies Teaching expectant mothers about childbirth through preparation classes Providing guidance, support, and clinical care to pregnant women, as well as monitoring the length and strength of contractions during labor.

Where do labor and delivery nurses work?

As a labor and delivery nurse, you would help women give birth and care for their newborns in a hospital, birthing center, or other healthcare setting. They can also help with home births by bringing their expertise to the location and guiding the mother and child through the process.

Is a labor and delivery nurse the same as a midwife?

Labor and delivery nurses and midwives have different scopes of practice. L&D nurses work under the supervision of a nurse-midwife or an OB/GYN physician. They play an important role in the labor and delivery processes, but they do not work alone.

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