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How to Become a Labor and Delivery Nurse

February 21, 2020  |  Category: Nursing

Woman in scrubs stands in delivery room with parents and newborn baby.

In 2018, there were 3,791,712 births in the United States, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That means over 10,000 babies were born every day.

For many of those births, labor and delivery nurses played a vital role in ensuring the successful delivery of healthy babies. They also helped mothers and their newborns navigate medical concerns prior to, during, and after delivery. This makes labor and delivery nurses fundamental components of the healthcare system and trusted professionals in the eyes of mothers, children, and families.

The role of a labor and delivery nurse is challenging and requires an advanced education and mastery of several medical skill sets. It is also highly rewarding, enabling professionals to make a positive impact on the lives of patients and newborns every single day. Discover the responsibilities of this position and what steps aspiring professionals need to take to become a labor and delivery nurse.

Careers in Nursing: Labor and Delivery Nurses

Nursing plays a vital role in the modern healthcare system and is a career field with high projected growth over the next decade. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the employment of professionals in nursing roles is expected to grow by 26 percent from 2018 to 2028. Despite this projected growth in employment, experts still predict an overall nursing shortage in the United States, where there will not be enough qualified nurses to meet the needs of healthcare facilities. In fact, The American Association of Colleges of Nursing notes that retiring nurses will leave a gap both in nursing positions at hospitals as well as in the collective knowledge held by nursing professionals.

Labor and delivery nurses are involved in multiple aspects of the birth planning and delivery process. They are responsible for educating expectant mothers and families in the birthing process, evaluating the needs of each individual patient, monitoring the mother’s and baby’s health and vital signs throughout the birthing process, and providing medication and epidurals. Labor and delivery nurses can work in a variety of health settings. Many work at hospitals, while others hold positions with specialized birthing centers.

PayScale notes that the median hourly rate for labor and delivery nurses is around $31, with nurses at the upper end of the pay spectrum earning as much as around $44 per hour. Late career and experienced nurses in this specialty tend to earn more.

How to Become a Labor and Delivery Nurse

The first step to becoming a labor and delivery nurse is to earn an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in nursing. While some health organizations will hire individuals with an associate’s degree, earning a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) can enable professionals to obtain more competitive jobs and potentially garner higher salaries.

The next step is passing the National Council Licensure Examination, or NCLEX-RN, in order to become a registered nurse. After passing the exam, professionals can begin working as registered nurses and gain valuable on-the-job experience.

As nurses progress throughout their careers, they can choose to further their education by earning additional credentials or a Master of Science in Nursing degree (MSN). These programs typically provide opportunities for specialization in fields including obstetrics and gynecology, pediatrics, and family nursing.

In addition, spending time as a nurse practitioner or nurse midwife can provide a competitive advantage to professionals seeking employment in the labor and delivery field. The most successful labor and delivery nursing candidates ultimately possess a strong combination of work experience, education, and diverse nursing skills.

The Lives of Labor and Delivery Nurses

To succeed as a labor and delivery nurse, professionals must have a diverse skill set and the ability to work well in high-pressure situations. Some of the duties and responsibilities of labor and delivery nursing include:

Monitoring Vital Signs During Labor

To ensure a healthy and successful delivery process, labor and delivery nurses are responsible for monitoring the vital signs of both mother and baby. If a nurse notices that a mother’s body temperature is above a safe level or that a baby’s vital signs are below the recommended level, they can help guide and administer a different course of action as part of the labor and delivery team.

Administering Medications

Labor and delivery nurses are also responsible for administering medications throughout the process of labor. This may include administering oral and intravenous medications per a physician’s orders. These medications can treat pain, nausea, changes in blood pressure, or any other symptoms that need to be addressed.

Preparing for Birth

A labor and delivery nurse closely monitors the amount of time between contractions, information that is vital to administering necessary procedures in each stage of the birthing process. They anticipate when to set-up the room and prepare the mother for delivery.

Inducing Labor

Labor and delivery nurses may also help to induce labor, under the guidance of a physician, when necessary. According to the Mayo Clinic, labor may be induced for an expectant mother who is two weeks past her expected due date without having gone into labor naturally; whose water has broken but labor itself has not started; who has potential health conflicts as a result of high blood pressure; or who has placental abruption, where the placenta peels partly or entirely away from the uterine wall.

Providing Encouragement and Support

Nurses go beyond ensuring that an expectant mother and her newborn are in the best of health. They also provide mental and emotional support for mothers throughout the labor and delivery process. After birth, labor and delivery nurses are also vital in helping mothers bond with their children and addressing any physical or emotional concerns they may have.

Aiding in Delivery

Labor and delivery nurses can assist physicians in many ways, making sure delivery goes smoothly and addressing any unexpected concerns throughout the process. They can assist in both natural births as well as caesareans.

Furthering a Nursing Career Through Higher Education

Skilled labor and delivery nurses will remain in high demand throughout the coming decades. Health organizations will seek out labor and delivery nurses who possess the highest levels of experience and credentials.

For nurses who want to hold a competitive advantage, pursuing higher education is a reliable method of obtaining additional nursing skills and knowledge. However, many nursing professionals don’t have the time to pause their careers and return to school. Online nursing degree programs like those offered by AdventHealth University Online provide more flexible options for nursing professionals, enabling them to pursue an advanced education without putting their careers on hold. Discover how AdventHealth University Online’s program can prepare professionals for a meaningful career in nursing.

Recommended Readings
BSN vs. MSN: What’s the Right Path for You?
Nurse Burnout: Causes, Symptoms, and Prevention
Three Ways Education Advances Nurses

Sources
AdventHealth University Online, Bachelor of Science in Nursing
Allegheny Health Network, Nurses Make the Greatest Difference—Labor & Delivery
American Association of Colleges of Nursing, Nursing Shortage
American Association of Nurse Practitioners, NP Certification
American Pregnancy Association, Epidural Anesthesia
Johnson & Johnson Nursing, Labor and Delivery Nurse
Mayo Clinic, Labor and Delivery: Pain Medications
NCSBN, Before the Exam
PayScale, Average Labor and Delivery Nurse Hourly Pay