Labor and Delivery nurses started to play a major role in childbirth in 1925. They mainly served rural, poor country areas. During this same year in Kentucky the Frontier Nursing Service was founded by Mary Breckinridge. She was a Red Cross public health nurse who was determined to help the poor. Until the 1950s, these nurses mainly performed home births, but during the baby boom, these nurses were needed in hospitals to assist the physicians with the major increase of women having babies in hospitals.
Labor and delivery nurses work closely with doctors to satisfy all of the needs of birthing mothers and their babies immediately after birth. They also assist new mothers in learning how to breastfeed and bond with their new baby.
Labor and Delivery Nurse Salary
A new labor and delivery nurse in the United States can earn an average of $64,690 per year. Those in the highest 10 percent can earn around $95,000 per year, while those in lowest 10 percent may earn around $44,000 per year.
Your earning potential relies on several different factors. Your geographic location, place of employment, level of experience, certification status and level of education will all play a role. You can increase your earning potential by gaining certifications that pertain to labor and delivery nursing. Increasing your level of education and taking advantage of opportunities to advance your experience can also be helpful.
Labor and Delivery Nurse Job Description
Labor and delivery nurses primarily work in birthing centers, major hospitals, women’s health clinics and obstetrical units. They take on many different roles depending on what their patients are needing. Some duties of this type of nurse include the following:
- Assisting in childbirth
- Creating a positive labor experience
- Patient education
- Monitoring patient vital signs and contractions
- Provide pain medications and other necessary medications
- Monitor mother throughout hospital stay
- Help mom feed, care for and bond with her new baby
- Work with women throughout all stages of childbirth
- Help the doctor should any complications rise
- Assist with episiotomies and Cesarean sections
- Monitor fetal heart rate
- Assist in labor induction
- Assist in developing birth plans
- Getting the patient properly admitted to the hospital
- Preparing the room for birth
- Helps mom to get in proper birthing position
- Cleaning the patient prior to and after birth
Labor and delivery nurses are often trained in all aspects of delivery. This is because emergency situations arise where a midwife and physician are not always present. While it is not common that this type of nurse deliver on his or her own, it is a possibility.
Labor and Delivery Nurse Education
Labor and delivery nurses will need to complete a few basic steps before they can work in the field. These include:
- An accredited associate or bachelor’s degree in nursing
- An active registered nursing license
- Some facilities may require six to 12 months of registered nursing experience
If you choose the route of an associate degree, you can plan to spend about two years in school if you take all of your classes full-time. This will jump up to three to four years should you choose to obtain your bachelor’s degree while completing your classes full-time. You need to complete certain classes and a set amount of clinical hours. The clinical hours that you will require will be determined by the state that you are attending school in. Typical classes taught at US nursing schools include the following:
- Obstetrical nursing
- Psychiatric nursing
- Acute care nursing
- Pediatric nursing
- Medical surgical nursing
- Geriatric nursing
- Human growth and development
- Fundamentals of nursing
Labor and Delivery Nurse Certification and Licensing
Labor and delivery nurses must be highly skilled to keep up with the demands of the job. There are a few different certifications that you can pursue that will make you both a safer nurse and more marketable. These include Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS), Pediatric Advanced Life Support (PALS) and the following certifications related to labor and delivery nursing:
- Inpatient Obstetric Nursing
- Low-Risk Neonatal Nursing
- Maternal Newborn Nursing
- Neonatal Intensive Care Unit
- Neonatal Pediatric Transport
All of the labor and delivery certifications will differ based on which one you want to pursue. However, some of the more general requirements that apply to all five of these certifications include:
- Current and unrestricted registered nursing license
- Have been employed within labor and delivery in the last 24 months
- Practice hours and times have been met
- At least 2,000 hours of labor and delivery experience in the last 24 months
- Pay all applicable fees
Your credential is good for three years and before the expiration date you must renew it. Renewal guidelines include the following:
- Earn 45 hours of continuing education in your specialty
- Pay appropriate fees
- Code and document all CE specialty hours
ACLS is a two-year certificate presented by the American Heart Association. To earn this certificate you must complete a two day course that is split into two six-hour days. Before your certificate expires, it must be renewed through a seven-hour course.
PALS is also presented by the American Heart Association. This certificate is also good for two years and the initial certification requires the successful completion of a 15-hour class. You must renew your certificate before expiration by attending an eight-hour class every two years.
Labor and Delivery Nurse Job Outlook
The job outlook for labor and delivery nurses is expected to grow by 22 percent between 2010 and 2020. This is believed to be due to the fact that many registered nurses are getting ready to retire in the next decade. This will open up major opportunities for new aspiring labor and delivery nurses.
Changes in US healthcare policy will also play a role. More women will be able to receive healthcare, resulting in the need for more qualified labor and delivery nurses to provide it.