Midwifery – the practice of aiding in the birth of human babies – is an ancient medical tradition which has paved the road for modern labor and delivery nursing. Practical birthing procedures have changed dramatically over the course of human history, but the delivery role is still pretty much the same: ensure the health and wellbeing of both parent and child as this new life emerges into the world.

Sounds kind of magical, right? But labor and delivery nursing, like all nursing, takes a lot of hard work and specialized training, and sometimes it can be downright gross. But again, like all nursing, it can also be extraordinarily rewarding. To be an L&D nurse, you first need to have a calm and practical demeanor, endless patience, and a willingness to get a little dirty. If this sounds like you, you might just have what it takes. 

What is a Labor and Delivery Nurse?

L&D nurses are responsible for assisting pregnant parents through the process of giving birth. They work closely with obstetricians, gynecologists, and the parent’s birthing team in a hospital setting to facilitate a safe and comfortable labor and delivery. 

Patient load is generally very low for L&D nurses, even for those working in the general ward. High-risk births, as in those where either the parent or the child has health concerns, are overseen by L&D nurses with specialized training. 

Standard practice Labor and Delivery nurses may make anywhere between $67,354 – 113,742 in a year, due to their high degree of specialization, and the demand for their services. These figures of course vary depending on location, and the nurse’s level of education and experience.

The day-to-day duties of an L&D nurse include:

  • Providing direct patient care as a maternity specialist to both parent and child.
  • Evaluating patient care and planning courses of actions for the best patient outcome of both parent and child.
  • Coordinating parental care holistically, and advocating for physical, emotional, and psychosocial needs equally.
  • Timing contractions.
  • Administering medication and epidurals.
  • Aiding in inducing labor.
  • Identifying complications and assisting with interventions. 
  • Monitoring fetal health and communicating status to parent, as well as the rest of the health team. 
  • Accurately interpreting fetal heart and EKG readings. 
  • Referring patients to ancillary care support specialists. 
  • Providing advocacy, education and holistic care for postpartum phases, including infant care, as well as parental care.
  • Providing advocacy, education and care for the mental health and wellbeing of the post-partum parent. 
  • Preparing the pregnant parent for delivery, and assisting the parent during the birthing process.

High-risk L&D nurses additionally provide exemplary compassionate care to their patients. Birth is a highly emotional experience for the entire family even without complications or health concerns. An L&D nurse working with high-risk cases will likely experience infant and parental loss more than once over the course of their career. They must have strong emotional fortitude, and be willing and able to attend to their own emotional wellbeing in addition to that of their patients.

Educational Requirements for Becoming a Labor and Delivery Nurse

All nurses begin their careers by going through an educational nursing program, which can be attended either online or in person. Nurses can earn an Associate’s, Bachelor’s, and Master’s degree in nursing over the course of their career. Nurses pursuing a specialty are often required to have their BSN. 

After receiving their nursing certification, new nurses are then eligible to take the NCLEX, or the National Council Licensure Examination, to receive their RN (registered nurse) credentials. 

Nurses wishing to transition into the L&D field are required to have at least 1 year of clinical experience working in post-partum. Most positions expect nurses to either have or achieve within a set period of time after hiring Inpatient Obstetrics Nursing certification. In order to be eligible for this cert, nurses must have at least 2 years of prior general experience in the field. Additionally, nurses should pursue continuing education in L&D through the National Certification Corporation.

Career Outlook for Labor and Delivery Nurses

Birth is the most common reason a human will visit the hospital. This means that there will never stop being a high demand for expert nurses who can assist both new and experienced parents in delivering their child. 

Choosing to specialize in L&D is a smart career move for any nurse, as it means a greater degree of job security. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, this field is expected to grow at a rate of 16 percent through the year 2024, so L&D nurses can expect to have plenty of work in the years to come. 

Travel nursing is also an ideal career path for specialized nurses working in the L&D field. Medely offers travel and temporary assignments for nurses in every discipline. To discover how Medely can work for you, sign up for free today at Medely.com. 

Final Thoughts: How to Become a Labor and Delivery Nurse

Labor and Delivery nurses work hard bringing new life into the world, and get an immense amount of personal and professional reward for doing so. If you have emotional fortitude, passion for quality care, and endless amounts of empathy, the field of L&D nursing would love to have you.