How to Become a Labor & Delivery Nurse

Overview

A labor and delivery nurse has a specialized role during the childbirth process. A labor and delivery nurse is not only responsible for the care of the baby and the mother during the birthing process; but are also responsible for supporting and guiding the mother through labor and delivery. Job duties primarily consists of helping mothers safely bring their child into the world. One is also required to care for the mother during labor and delivery, track the mother’s and baby’s vital signs after childbirth, coach the mother through labor and assist the physician during delivery. In other words, main tasks are to prepare the mother and her family for the various stages of childbirth and teach the mother how to breastfeed once her little one is born.

Educational Requirements

Your ability to work as a labor and delivery nurse will depend on your employer’s requirements. Although these requirements may vary depending on the employer and location, most labor and delivery nurses must have a degree in nursing and be licensed in order to practice. It is important to note that you must have an associate’s (AA) degree at minimum to be licensed as a labor and delivery nurse. In addition, some employers may require that their nurses have a Bachelor of Science degree (BSN) in nursing to practice as a labor and delivery nurse. After you have acquired a nursing degree, you will be eligible to sit for the licensing exam. A license will give you a chance to start working in a neonatal department in a hospital.

Once you are a licensed nurse, you can apply for labor and delivery jobs in various medical facilities. In many cases, you will need to have previous experience working as a general or specialized nurse in a doctor’s office, clinic or hospital before you be able to work directly with a physician in the delivery room. Once you have gained nursing experience, you may be required to take additional courses in fetal monitoring and neonatal resuscitation before applying for a higher position. Lastly, you will need some experience working with newborns and/or pregnant women before taking an active role in the labor and delivery process.
Job Duties

Your main duty will be to monitor the mother’s and baby’s vital signs. You will need to be able to detect any signs of distress like accelerated heart rates and/or loss of consciousness. You will also be required to guide the mother through the childbirth process (timing of contractions, positioning and correct pushing techniques). Your goal will be to provide stellar emotional support for mothers in labor by remaining calm and coaching the mother through the process.

You will empower the mother by listening and gently touching her when she becomes distressed. Moreover, you will act as an advocate for the mother by carrying out her “birthing plan.” In other words, you will be responsible for making sure the mother’s preferences are respected and applied (as long as the mother’s preferences do not present a risk for her or the child).

Other duties that you may perform include:

  • Detecting complications during labor and/or delivery
  • Assisting the physician when complications are present
  • Helping the physician administer epidurals
  • Administering IV medications that induce labor
  • Preparing mothers before, during and after delivery

Salary Prospects

According to Payscale.com (2013), you can expect to make between $40,000 and $90,000 a year, on average, as a labor and delivery nurse. The annual salary will vary depending on your educational level, experience and location. For instance, labor and delivery nurses with less than 1 year of experience can expect to make approximately $42,000 per year, while nurses who have 1 to 4 years of experience can expect to make approximately $50,000 per year (Payscale.com).

Nurses who have 5 to 10 years of labor and delivery experience can expect to earn approximately $57,000 per year and those with 11 to 19 years of experience can expect to make approximately $63,000 per year (Payscale.com). Nurses that have 20 years or more of experience can expect to make the most at $66,000 plus a year.  In some cases, various nurses participate in the birthing process. These nurses all have different functions during labor and delivery and therefore experience different pay rates.

For instance, a clinical nurse manager, functioning as a labor and delivery nurse, can expect to make approximately $84,000 per year, a woman’s health nurse can expect to make approximately $73,000 per year and an operating room registered nurse (RN) can expect to make between $54,000 and $50,000 per year (Payscale.com).

Career Outlook

The career outlook for labor and delivery nurses is positive. According to the U. S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (2013), labor and delivery jobs are expected to increase 22% by 2020. As labor and delivery nurses retire, there will be a need for new labor and delivery nurses. Moreover, as women continue to have children, the need for labor and delivery nurses will also continue. This need will be the highest in rural areas.

References and Further Reading

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