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The Ultimate Guide to Becoming a Labor and Delivery Nurse: Everything You Need to Know

Amanda Guarniere

If you’ve ever felt the calling to be a part of the beautiful, heartwarming symphony of childbirth, becoming a labor and delivery nurse might be your dream career path. This is a profession that beckons those with a strong heart, the resilience of a warrior, and the compassionate touch of a healer. 

With this guide, we’ll walk you through all the steps you need to take and the skills you need to master and join over 100,000 nurses working in obstetrics and gynecology. But before we dive into the nitty-gritty, let’s get crystal clear on what a labor and delivery nurse does. 

Table of Contents

What Does a Labor and Delivery Nurse Do

In the simplest terms, they are the superheroes of childbirth. They guide, support, and care for women during one of the most transformative moments of their lives: bringing a new life into the world.

But what does that entail on a day-to-day basis? 

  1. Antepartum Care: Long before the baby arrives, a labor and delivery nurse supports expectant mothers with prenatal care. This could involve monitoring the mother’s and baby’s health, providing education on pregnancy, and preparing for labor.
  2. Labor and Birth Support: During the intense hours of labor, these nurses are right there. They monitor contractions, administer pain management methods, and offer emotional support. When it’s time for delivery, they assist the doctor with the birth process.
  3. Postpartum Care: After delivery, the work of a labor and delivery nurse doesn’t stop. They care for the new mother, monitor her recovery, provide breastfeeding support, and educate her on newborn care.

Being a labor and delivery nurse is about more than just physical care. These nurses also handle emergency situations, work with diverse patient populations, and collaborate with a team of healthcare professionals. They’re a vital part of the childbirth process, offering invaluable support to mothers, babies, and families, making an often scary and intense process feel safe and manageable

Career Path to Become a Labor and Delivery Nurse

To get started on this fulfilling journey, you’ll first need to get the right education and training. The path may seem long, but every step is crucial in preparing you to provide the best care for mothers and babies. 

1. Obtain a Degree in Nursing 

First things first, you need a nursing degree. This can either be an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) or a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN). The latter is preferred by many employers and can open more doors for career advancement. 

2. Get Licensed 

Next, you have to pass the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN). The NCLEX-RN is a nationally recognized exam that ensures you have the skills and knowledge to perform as a safe and effective entry-level nurse. 

3. Gain Experience 

After licensure, it’s time to get your toes wet. Most labor and delivery units prefer nurses with at least one to two years of experience in a general nursing setting. This can give you a solid foundation in basic nursing skills before you specialize. 

4. Specialty Certification 

The National Certification Corporation (NCC) offers respected certification that can enhance your job prospects as a labor and delivery nurse.  But don’t stop there! Aim for the Inpatient Obstetric Nursing (RNC-OB) certification, the pinnacle achievement for labor and delivery nurses.

Don’t worry if the road seems demanding! Remember, every step you take is shaping you into an incredible labor and delivery nurse. So, buckle up and enjoy the journey

Labor and Delivery Nurse Salary Info

Entry-Level Salary

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, an entry-level labor and delivery nurse’s median annual salary is around $52,000.

Mid-Level Salary 

Once you’ve got some experience under your belt, you start to climb up the pay ladder. Mid-career labor and delivery nurses typically earn around $70,000 annually.

Experienced Salary 

For the seasoned pros, the rewards are even greater. Experienced labor and delivery nurses can look forward to a median annual salary of about $89,000 or more.

However, keep in mind that these figures can fluctuate depending on: 

On the whole, the financial aspect of a career in labor and delivery nursing is definitely attractive. You’re making a sizable income while also making a significant difference in the lives of mothers and babies.

Essential Skills and Qualities for a Labor and Delivery Nurse

Donning the mantle of a labor and delivery nurse isn’t for the faint-hearted. It demands a unique blend of skills and qualities. Let’s delve into what these are: 

  • Communication Skills: Smooth, clear communication can be a game-changer in a labor and delivery ward. Nurses must effectively communicate with expectant mothers, anxious family members, and a team of healthcare professionals.
  • Empathy: A labor and delivery nurse often serves as an emotional anchor for expectant mothers. Hence, the ability to empathize and understand the patient’s emotional journey is crucial.
  • Decision-making Ability: Quick, accurate decision-making can be a lifesaver in a labor and delivery setting. Nurses need to think on their feet and make critical decisions under high-pressure situations.
  • Physical Stamina: The job requires long hours on your feet, sometimes with little to no breaks. A high level of physical stamina is necessary to endure this.

But that’s not all! There are certain ‘intangible’ qualities that can make a great labor and delivery nurse: 

  • Patience: Labor can be a long, drawn-out process. A nurse’s patience can help keep the environment calm and conducive for the mother.
  • Positivity: A bright, positive attitude can lift the spirits in the delivery room, making the birthing process less daunting for the mother.
  • Courage: Childbirth can be unpredictable, sometimes turning into emergency situations. A courageous nurse can face these challenges head-on, providing the necessary care.

Developing these skills and qualities can place you on a fast track to becoming a successful labor and delivery nurse. Remember, this journey is as rewarding as it is challenging!

Continuing Education for Labor and Delivery Nurses 

Labor and Delivery nurses are required to participate in classes and activities that augment the primary education they’ve received. Many hospitals offer rotation programs that allow you to experience different specialties, including labor and delivery. You may also consider obtaining certifications, like Inpatient Obstetric Nursing (RNC-OB) or Electronic Fetal Monitoring (C-EFM) to further boost your credentials.

Depending on where you are, the specifics might change a bit. However, in most places, you’ll need to earn 20 continuing education units (CEUS).

A single CEU is equivalent to 10 contact hours – each of which lasts 50 to 60 minutes of approved clinical or didactic activity.  Beyond being a licensing requirement, CEUs broaden your medical knowledge, boost your salary and open up more job opportunities. 

Labor and Delivery Nurse vs Certified Nurse Midwife – What’s the Difference?

When it comes to childbirth, it’s all hands on deck! Labor and delivery nurses and certified nurse midwives are two vital roles in this process. But, what’s the distinction between them? 

Labor and Delivery Nurse

  • A labor and delivery nurse specializes in assisting the doctor during childbirth. They monitor the mother’s progress, administer medications, provide comfort, and educate parents about newborn care.
  • They are Registered Nurses who have completed a Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing.
  • Completing CEUs (Continuing Education Units) is crucial for maintaining licensure and staying up-to-date with the latest medical practices.

Certified Nurse Midwife

  • A certified nurse midwife, on the other hand, takes on a more encompassing role. They provide gynecological exams, prenatal care, labor and delivery support, and even primary care to women.
  • This role requires a Master’s Degree in Nursing and certification from the American Midwifery Certification Board.
  • They also participate in CEUs, but these are more focused on women’s health, pregnancy, and childbirth.

Labor and Delivery Nurse

Certified Nurse Midwife


Assist doctor during childbirth

Provide comprehensive care to women


Bachelor's Degree in Nursing

Master's Degree in Nursing


General medical practices

Women's health, pregnancy, and childbirth

Challenges and Rewards of Being a Labor and Delivery NurseLife as a labor and delivery nurse is a vivid tapestry of challenges and rewards. It’s a roller-coaster ride of emotions, where each day brings a new story. But what does it really mean to tread this path? The Challenges First up, let’s talk about the challenges. These are hurdles that will test your mettle, resilience, and compassion. 

  • Emotional Intensity: You’ll face high emotional stakes daily. Joy, anxiety, fear, and relief – all these emotions intersect in the labor room, not just for the parents but for the nurses too.
  • Physical Demands: Long hours on your feet, coupled with irregular shifts, can be grueling. It’s not easy, but it’s part of the job.
  • High Pressure: Labor and delivery is a critical area of nursing. There’s little room for error, so the pressure can get intense.

The Rewards Now let’s flip the coin to the rewarding side – the reasons that make all the hard work worth it. 

  • Witnessing Miracles: There’s nothing quite like being part of the extraordinary moment when a new life enters the world. It’s simply magical.
  • Helping Families: You’re not just delivering babies. You’re helping families grow, playing a crucial role at a transformative time in their lives.
  • Endless Learning: Every birth is unique, and so is every day on the job. You’ll constantly learn and grow, both professionally and personally.

In this journey of highs and lows, remember that the strength of a labor and delivery nurse lies not in avoiding the storm, but in dancing in the rain.How to Excel as a Labor and Delivery NurseSo, you’ve made it to the end of our guide, but you’re just at the beginning of your journey to excel as a labor and delivery nurse. Let’s recap on the key points to keep front and center as you embark on this rewarding career path. 

  • Education: Start with a solid foundation. Earn your BSN, pass the NCLEX-RN, and consider advanced degrees to enhance your knowledge and skill set.
  • Experience: Get your foot in the door. Gain experience in maternal-child health or intensive care units. Remember, every day is a learning opportunity.
  • Certification: Set yourself apart. Become certified in Inpatient Obstetric Nursing or as a Certified Nurse Midwife. It’s your ticket to career advancement.

Being a great labor and delivery nurse goes beyond the technical aspects. It’s about the ‘soft skills’ too. You’re there during one of the most significant moments in a family’s life. Your empathy, patience, and communication skills can make all the difference. “The best labor and delivery nurses are not only medically proficient but also a comforting presence. They can switch between the roles of a medical professional, a cheerleader, and a hand holder. Their job isn’t only about delivering babies—it’s about delivering an experience.”Remember, this is a demanding job with long hours and high-stress situations. But it’s also deeply fulfilling. You get to be part of the miracle of birth, every single day. So, take a deep breath, put on your scrubs, and step into the incredible world of labor and delivery nursing. Carve your path, make your mark, and here’s to you—future labor and delivery nurse!

Labor Delivery Nurse Certified Nurse Midwife
Role Assist doctor during childbirth Provide comprehensive care to women


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