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Labor and Delivery Nurse Career and Salary Outlook

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Labor and delivery (L&D) nurses guide mothers through pregnancy, giving birth, and the post-partum process. They aim to give new parents as much support and helpful information as possible throughout delivery. L&D nurses also help doctors deliver babies.

Individuals interested in offering this support and guidance to families may enjoy becoming a labor and delivery nurse, especially if they want to work in a challenging but rewarding career. Professionals can look forward to industry growth and opportunities for career advancement.

Keep reading to learn about L&D nurse occupational duties, work environment, education, training, and prospective salaries.

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What is a Labor and Delivery Nurse?

An L&D nurse works as a registered nurse (RN) who specializes in the birthing process. Their work spans throughout pregnancy and delivery — the antepartum, intrapartum, post-partum, and neonatal stages. Labor nurses work closely with families, offering information and support, and relaying any important information to their doctor.

Labor and delivery nurses need a registered nursing license to practice. Although they do not necessarily need certification, earning credentials in obstetric or neonatal care can help them land jobs in labor and delivery and maternity wards at hospitals. L&D nurses usually work under the supervision of an obstetrician or nurse midwife.

L&D nurses may also work as midwives if they return to graduate school, earn a master’s degree, and obtain advanced practice nursing licensure. Any experience working as a labor and delivery nurse can help them with graduate school admissions and midwife employment opportunities later on.

What do Labor and Delivery Nurses Do?

L&D nurses remain present throughout the labor, birth, and postpartum process, which makes them different from doctors and midwives. In fact, they do not jump around between patients, but work with each mother throughout the entirety of her delivery. Because of this, mothers and parents often feel more comfortable communicating with delivery nurses than the physicians themselves. L&D nurses serve as an advocate and liaison for their patients.

Delivery nurses take on many additional duties. They provide information to families both before and after giving birth, offer support to mothers, keep track of time between contractions, monitor vital signs during labor, give mothers medication throughout the labor process, and induce labor under the guidance of a physician.

Where Do Labor and Delivery Nurses Work?

L&D nurses work in several different settings, like clinics and community health centers. They most commonly work at hospitals in labor and delivery units, birthing centers, and maternity wards. Labor nurses typically work 12-hour shifts. However, due to the nature of the job, they may need to stay on call some days.

Skills That Could Affect Labor and Delivery Nurse Salaries

  • Assertiveness
    Nurses must quickly switch between a supportive role and a directorial one. Labor and delivery nurses must be alert for signs of change during the birthing process. Laboring mothers, particularly first-time mothers, need a nurse who knows when and how to take charge.

  • Empathy
    Labor and delivery nurses see women from all walks of life. In this environment, nursing professionals must resist the urge to draw conclusions or pass judgment on these women during a vulnerable time in their lives.

  • Communication
    Education is an integral part of any nurse’s job, but particularly for the labor and delivery nurse. Nurses must share a lot of information with new mothers during and after the birth. Those with strong communication skills can teach their patients what they need to know quickly and effectively.

  • Critical Thinking
    Most labors progress as intended and without complications. When they don’t, the labor and delivery nurse should be able to draw on their knowledge and experience to calmly and accurately assess the situation.

How to Become a Labor and Delivery Nurse

The path to becoming a labor and delivery nurse varies for each nursing professional. Generally speaking, aspiring L&D nurses need to complete their educational requirements and earn RN licensure before focusing on labor and delivery work.

In order to become an RN, students must obtain either an associate degree in nursing (ADN) or a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN). An ADN takes two years to complete and allows graduates to enter the workforce sooner. However, many employers look for candidates with a four-year BSN.

After graduating, aspiring nurses must pass the NCLEX-RN to qualify for registered nursing licensure. State boards set the requirements for licensure, so check with your state for any other specific requirements.

When RNs begin working, they might not begin their career in the labor and delivery department. Some hospitals prefer L&D nurses with experience, while others offer on-the-job training. Nurses can also boost their L&D credentials by earning professional certification, which often requires an additional exam. Some credentials that might help RNs land a position in the labor and delivery department include:

Nurses seeking more responsibility can become a nurse practitioner (NP) or certified nursing midwife (CNM). These roles allow nurses to deliver infants on their own. However, aspiring NPs and CNMs need to obtain a master of science (MSN) in nursing before qualifying for these roles. MSN programs usually last about two years, although some nurses enroll in an accelerated degree.

Labor and Delivery Nurse Salaries and Job Growth

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) collects comprehensive and reliable data on professions in the U.S., but the organization only provides statistics for RNs as a whole instead of labor and delivery nurses specifically.

BLS statistics show that RNs make a median annual salary around $73,300. For RNs in hospital settings — where labor and delivery nurses most commonly work — the median annual salary is $75,030.

Additionally, the BLS projects that employment figures for registered nurses may grow by 7% from 2019-29, much faster than the average for all occupations. Aspiring RNs can expect 176,000 job openings on average each year. The BLS attributes this growth to the large number of baby boomers who need more care as they age. For labor and delivery nurses, however, the growth may be due to an increased number of projected births over the next decade, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Labor and Delivery Nurse Resources

  • Association of Women's Health, Obstetric, and Neonatal Nurses A nonprofit membership organization, AWHONN supports and empowers nurses who care for newborns, women, and their families through education, research, and advocacy. The association's core values include a commitment to social and professional responsibility, excellence in nursing, respect for diversity, and accountability.
  • Nurse Practitioners in Women's Health NPWH is a national professional membership and advocacy organization dedicated to ensuring women receive quality lifelong specialty and primary healthcare. The organization promotes and protects womens' rights to make personal healthcare choices that align with their religious, cultural, personal, and family beliefs.
  • National Association of Neonatal Nurses NANN is a community of registered neonatal nursing professionals who strive to promote collaboration between healthcare providers and improve nursing practices. NANN helps develop the connections and tools nurses need to advance their careers and evolve neonatal nursing as a profession.
  • Job Search This website allows users to search for nursing jobs by selecting various criteria. Individuals can search for specific job titles or explore job postings by specialty. Users can also apply search filters by location and set distance parameters, restricting their employment search to job postings within a particular region or range.
  • American Nurses Association This professional organization is committed to advancing the nursing profession, preventing injuries and illnesses, optimizing patient health, and diagnosing and treating individuals across communities and populations nationwide.
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