What is a Labor and Delivery Nurse?

A labor and delivery nurse assists families/patients with childbirth and post-birth care and support.

As a result, these healthcare specialists play a significant role in the family’s most joyous and challenging times.

Labor and delivery nurses have the responsibility and privilege to help parents introduce a new life into the family.

What do Labor and Delivery Nurses Do?

Labor and delivery nurses assist with various patient needs, from childbirth to postpartum care.

These specialists monitor patient health, fetal heart rate, and other vital signs to ensure a healthy delivery process.

They also insert foley catheters, start IVs, and administer birth-assisting drugs and pain relief medications.

Labor and delivery nurses will work with a CRNA or anesthesiologist to provide epidurals or other advanced treatments.

These healthcare professionals provide medications to help pregnant mothers with dilation, pain relief, and other critical childbirth aspects.

Finally, labor and delivery nurses monitor cervical dilation and fetal engagement and look for abnormalities during the birthing process, among numerous other tasks.

When it comes to delivering the baby, these healthcare professionals work alongside a doctor who performs the delivery.

However, they may occasionally perform baby deliveries when necessary, such as when a doctor is unavailable due to an influx of patients.

After birth, labor and delivery nurses provide further support to ensure the child and mother are healthy.

They’ll monitor the mother/infant’s vitals, perform health checks, ensure comfort, and address important questions.

In addition, these specialists update medical charters, record health changes, and collaborate with doctors and specialists throughout the family’s visit.

Labor and Delivery Nurse Duties:

  • Assist with childbirth procedures
  • Insert foley catheters
  • Start IVs
  • Perform routine vital/health checks
  • Administer birth-assisting drugs
  • Provide pain medication
  • Assist CRNAs or anesthesiologists
  • Check cervical dilation and fetal engagement
  • Support doctors during delivery
  • Perform occasional baby deliveries
  • Support families with after-birth check-ups
  • Assist with managing medical complications
  • Educate new mothers throughout the delivery
  • Monitor the baby’s progress and health after delivery

Beyond providing labor and delivery assistance, these healthcare specialists offer education and emotional support.

It helps them adequately assist mothers, fathers, and families with the new addition to their lives.

The Daily Life of Labor and Delivery Nurses

Labor and delivery nurses experience diverse situations with unique conditions and childbirth procedures.

Some patients have easy, healthy baby deliveries that don’t require extensive procedures, medications, or interventions.

Others require acute care, interventions like c-sections, or more comprehensive treatments.

As a result, labor and delivery nurses must be well-trained and proficient to assist with varying situations adequately.

In addition to varying circumstances, a labor and delivery nurse’s work schedule differs greatly depending on the day.

Sometimes these specialists assist with 2 or 3 hospital births in a day. Other times they help with more than 20 deliveries.

Unlike other nursing professions, labor and delivery nurses always have two patients, the mother and the child.

Therefore, they must consistently monitor them for health issues, complications, or unpredictable circumstances.

Where do Labor and Delivery Nurses Work?

Labor and delivery nurses work in various healthcare settings to assist with childbirth and postpartum care.

It includes delivery rooms, neonatal care units, maternity wards, hospital nurseries, birthing centers, and occasionally the pregnant mother’s residence/home.

Nevertheless, most labor and delivery nurses operate in hospital settings.

Labor and Delivery Nurse Settings:

  • Delivery rooms
  • Neonatal care units
  • Maternity wards
  • Hospital nurseries
  • Birthing centers
  • Patient residencies/homes

Nurses who want to work with children outside the labor and delivery field can pursue numerous other child-centered specializations.

For instance, many registered nurses work in NICU, PICU, and pediatric nursing departments.

They also operate as school nurses, certified nurse midwives, or family nurse practitioners, among other careers.

Each discipline provides opportunities to work with kids outside the labor and delivery discipline.

Child-Centered Nursing Specialities:

  • NICU nurses
  • PICU nurses
  • School nurses
  • Neonatal care nurses
  • Pediatric registered nurses
  • Pediatric oncology nurses
  • Perinatal nurses
  • Certified nurse midwives
  • Family nurse practitioners
  • Pediatric nurse practitioner
  • Pediatric mental health nurses
  • Labor and delivery nurse anesthetist

All registered nurse specializations require specific education, training, and certifications to operate effectively in the desired discipline.

How to Become a Labor and Delivery Nurse

There are numerous steps labor and delivery nurses must complete to work in this profession.

It includes joining a nursing program, obtaining a degree, passing the NCLEX, and gaining career experience.

The following section explores each step in detail to better understand how to become a labor and delivery nurse.

1. Join a Nursing Program

The first step to becoming a labor and delivery nurse is to join a nursing program.

To join nursing school, students must first complete numerous prerequisite courses from an accepted college.

They must also maintain an acceptable GPA set by the universities nursing program.

Every program has different GPA requirements based on its program and competition.

However, a GPA requirement of 3.0 or higher is standard, with some colleges requiring GPAs of 3.5 to 3.8

After completing the necessary prerequisites, students may apply to the nursing program.

2. Acquire an ADN or BSN

Students accepted into the nursing program can pursue an ADN or BSN degree.

The ADN degree takes roughly two years, enabling students to gain essential education to pursue entry-level jobs.

This degree is excellent for those wanting to earn money quickly in healthcare.

It also enables registered nurses to gain early experience while pursuing further education.

The BSN degree takes about four years to complete and offers a more comprehensive education.

Those with a BSN can accept advanced nursing roles, earn more money and have more career options.

That said, numerous nursing students earn their ADN to begin working and take online courses to earn their BSN.

3. Pass the NCLEX-RN

At the end of the nursing program, students must pass the National Council State Licensing Exam to obtain their license.

This examination tests graduates’ competencies to ensure they understand nursing and provide adequate medical care.

Those who do not complete the NCLEX-RN cannot operate as licensed registered nurses.

4. Gain Experience

After obtaining licensure, new nurses must gain career experience to develop their skills and advance their careers.

Some hospitals and institutions will train registered nurses directly out of school in labor and delivery.

Others require 1 – 3 years of career experience and may require training in a related field.

5. Get Certified

Certification is not necessary to become a labor and delivery nurse.

However, obtaining certifications relevant to the position is a major plus.

It helps registered nurses, especially newer employees demonstrate their discipline and dedication to the field.

As a result, they may have more opportunities to land a job and work in this profession.

Career Path for Labor and Delivery Nurses

The career path for labor and delivery nurses varies depending on the goals of the nurse.

Some individuals become L&D nurses directly out of college.

Other nurses may choose general nursing or a different field before becoming labor and delivery nurses.

Starting a career as an entry-level hospital staff nurse is a great way to learn basics and learn about various specializations.

Nevertheless, new nurses may find entry-level L&D opportunities at facilities willing to offer immediate hands-on training.

Applying to a labor and delivery floor/area is a good way to maximize the odds of getting hired as an inexperienced nurse.

Labor and delivery nursing positions are extremely popular, and nurses typically enjoy working in this field.

It’s also very competitive, with few positions in many healthcare departments/hospitals.

As a result, it may take time and experience to land a job in this specialization.

Those unsure whether they qualify for an L&D position may want to consult other L&D nurses and the hiring department.

Consulting a clinical instructor is also extremely helpful for students or new nurses interested in this career.

They’ll provide helpful information to help aspiring labor and delivery nurses get hired for current or future positions.

While there are numerous benefits to L&D nursing, there are also multiple downsides.

The following section explores the pros and cons of being a labor and delivery nurse to understand this profession better.

The Benefits of Being an L&D Nurse

Being a labor and delivery nurse is extremely rewarding.

These healthcare professionals have the opportunity to bring a new life into their patient’s families.

Expectedly, those working in this profession often experience the joys of birth and family connection.

Few things are as meaningful, impactful, and awe-inspiring in a person’s life as experiencing and giving birth.

That’s why finding labor and delivery nurse openings can be challenging.

It’s one of the most rewarding nursing specializations.

L&D nurses play a pivotal role in their patients and children’s lives, especially in the first moments of birth.

They assist with birth and post-birth care and educate families to ensure the mother and child are healthy, safe, and comfortable.

It’s common for labor and delivery nurses to develop a bond and share a lifetime experience with the families they care for.

That said, some downsides to being an L&D nurse are essential to understand.

The Downsides of Being an L&D Nurse

Being an L&D nurse isn’t for everyone.

Despite many positive reasons to work in this specialization, negative experiences and heartbreaking events happen.

For instance, labor and delivery nurses experience complicated births that may result in permanent injuries or illnesses.

They also experience babies born with addictions, malnourishment, and other health issues.

Even more challenging, some babies or mothers will die during pregnancy or birth due to injuries or severe health issues.

It would be great if every birth were positive and every experience felt great.

Unfortunately, labor and delivery nurses must accept their profession’s good and bad as these moments occur.

Speaking to a mother, father, or relative about death or severe health issues is never easy.

However, these professionals must develop the ability to have some of the most challenging conversations in healthcare.

Finally, an influx of pregnancies can be challenging for nurses and doctors.

Occasionally, an L&D department will experience much higher than expected births on a given day.

When this happens, L&D staff are generally unprepared and understaffed.

Nevertheless, they must develop procedures and a patient flow process to accommodate the patients and provide exceptional care.