What Does a Labor & Delivery Nurse Do?
Labor & delivery nurses are specially trained to provide nursing care for women who are about to give birth to a baby and who are in labor. They monitor the fetal heart rate, the patient’s blood pressure, time contractions and examine the mother-to-be to see how close she is to delivering the baby. Labor & delivery nurses also identify any complications. Before labor, they educate a woman and her family on the stages of giving birth, and what to expect. During labor, they may coach a woman to do breathing exercises and when to push. They assist other nurses and physicians in administering pain medications or performing epidurals, episiotomies and C-section deliveries. They may also start IVs to administer Pitocin, a synthetic hormone that stimulates contractions and helps a woman go into labor more quickly. Another important responsibility of a labor & delivery nurse is to care for the mother and baby after the baby is born, and educate the mother on breastfeeding and personal care after childbirth.
How Can I Become a Labor & Delivery Nurse?
The first step toward becoming a labor & delivery nurse is to complete an approved nursing education program. The most common way of doing this is to earn a degree in nursing. Most nurses have earned either an Associate of Science in Nursing (ASN) or a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) from an accredited college or university. Less common is earning a nursing diploma, a program typically offered through hospitals. During your nursing education, it is important to take elective courses in labor & delivery or to specialize in labor & delivery. After completing a nursing program, all future nurses go on to take an exam called the NCLEX (National Council Licensure Examination) so they can become licensed to practice nursing in their state. After gaining experience as a staff nurse and later accumulating clinical experience working in labor & delivery, you can proceed to become board certified in an area of labor & delivery nursing.
What Is the Career and Salary Outlook for a Labor & Delivery Nurse?
The career outlook for nurses overall is excellent, and those who specialize in a particular area of health care, such as labor & delivery nursing, are often highly sought-after. However, because labor & delivery is such a popular area of nursing, it may be difficult to find open positions in the field. The turnover rate tends to be lower among labor & delivery nurses, and job openings are often few and far between. The overall employment of registered nurses is projected to grow by 22 percent between 2008 and 2018, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The average annual salary for a labor & delivery nurse is $55,000, according to SimplyHired.com, a site that calculates average salaries based on what is listed in the job postings it receives. However, a number of factors can affect your salary, including how many years of experience you have, what certifications you have, what region of the U.S. you live in, and whether you are working in a metropolitan or rural area. Advanced practice nurses (who are trained at the master’s level) also earn significantly higher salaries on average.