What is a Labor and Delivery Nurse?
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A labor and delivery (L&D) nurse supports patients during and after birth under the supervision of a nurse midwife or physician. They also care for infants immediately after delivery. These registered nurses (RNs) often work in birthing centers, delivery rooms, and hospital maternity units.
Labor and delivery nurses must have excellent communication, assessment, and teaching skills. They excel in providing supportive services to help new parents navigate the birthing process. Learn more about how to become an L&D nurse, what they do, and where they work.
How Long to Become:
6% growth from 2021-2031
Average Annual Salary:
What Does a Labor and Delivery Nurse Do?
An L&D nurse closely monitors the condition of patients during every step of labor and birth, providing intervention when needed. These nurses care for the newborn during the postpartum period (i.e., immediately after birth). Labor and delivery nurses also administer medication, closely monitor vital signs, and educate patients and their spouses/partners and other family members.
The L&D unit is faced-paced, and nurses must respond to obstetric emergencies when they occur. The labor and delivery environment combines emergency nursing, critical care, surgical (if the patient requires a c-section), and recovery. This environment can be very exciting and challenging to work in as a nurse.
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- Care for the patient and infant throughout labor, birth, and immediate postpartum phase
- Provide psychological and emotional support
- Monitor the patient and newborn's condition and escalate treatment as necessary
- Communication with patients and other caregivers
- Ability to make quick decisions
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Where Do Labor and Delivery Nurses Work?
Labor and delivery nurses typically work in acute care centers on maternity units, in delivery rooms, and in birthing centers. They can also assist patients during home births.
Assisting and encouraging the patient, monitoring labor progress, calling in specialists or otherwise escalating care as needed.
Tending to patients and newborns, monitoring vital signs, and educating families on infant care.
Assisting during labor and postpartum, monitoring progress and vital signs, referring to hospital care if needed, caring for the newborn and patient during the initial postpartum period.
What Is the Difference Between an L&D Nurse and a Certified Nurse Midwife?
L&D nurses and nurse midwives are RNs, but a nurse midwife has more advanced training and certification. Nurse midwives may also work with patients throughout pregnancy—not just labor and delivery.
Labor and Delivery Nurse
- Works with one patient in active labor at a time
- Cares for patient throughout the birthing process
- Has RN license
- Carries out nurse midwife's or physician's orders, such as inducing labor
How to Become a Labor and Delivery Nurse
The minimum requirement to become a labor and delivery nurse is an associate's degree in nursing (ADN) or a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) and an RN license, including a passing score on the NCLEX exam.
Experience in the obstetrics field and certification in obstetric nursing (RNC-OB) gives nurse candidates a competitive edge in the job market. Employers often require L&D nurses to get certification in neonatal resuscitation.
How Much Do Labor and Delivery Nurses Make?
The average salary for labor and delivery nurses is $70,040 as of December 2022, according to Payscale. Payscale also reports that the average base salary for RNC-OB certified nurses is $84K annually.
Many factors influence labor and delivery nurses' salaries, including their geographic area, level of education, experience level, and whether they are RNC-OB certified.
The job outlook for L&D nurses is good. The BLS projects a 6% growth rate for all RNs in 2021-2031, which is about as fast as average.
Frequently Asked Questions About Labor and Delivery Nurses
How long does it take to become a labor and delivery nurse?
It takes at least two years to earn an ADN plus the required certifications to become a L&D nurse. However, acquiring a four-year BSN leads to higher salaries and more opportunities for advancement.
What can you do as a labor and delivery nurse?
As an L&D nurse, you can work in a hospital, birthing center, or other healthcare setting assisting patients giving birth and caring for newborns. You can also use the position as a stepping-stone to a nurse midwife position, which entails more responsibility and higher compensation.
What career advancement opportunities are available for labor and delivery nurses?
Advancement opportunities for labor and delivery nurses include becoming a nurse midwife or pursuing certification in inpatient obstetric care. Nurse midwives can supervise other L&D nurses and have sole medical oversight over a birth.
What is the difference between a labor and delivery nurse and a neonatal nurse?
A neonatal nurse's primary responsibility is care for newborns with various health problems. An L&D nurse's primary responsibility is assisting the patient through delivery and labor and initial care of the infant. For births without complications, the L&D nurse may care for both the patient and infant until their release from the hospital.
Resources for Labor and Delivery Nurses
Page last reviewed on December 13, 2022
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