How to Become a Perinatal Nurse


Published August 5, 2022

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What kind of nurse specializes in the care of patients throughout pregnancy and just after the birth of their infants? Continue reading to learn how to become a perinatal nurse.

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How to Become a Perinatal Nurse
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Nurses' concerns about rising premature birth and high-risk pregnancy rates have driven the need for registered nurses (RNs) with perinatal training. Perinatal nurses play an important role in caring for pregnant patients and their infants, from the earliest stages of pregnancy to immediately after birth.

If you want to use your nursing training to provide essential care before, during, and after childbirth, check out this guide to becoming a perinatal nurse for information about education, salary, and work settings.

What Is a Perinatal Nurse?

Perinatal nurses care for patients and newborns throughout pregnancy and immediately after delivery. They monitor patients for potential complications and educate patients and their families about prenatal care and what to expect after childbirth.

Becoming a perinatal nurse requires a valid RN license and either an associate degree in nursing (ADN) or a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) degree. They most often find employment in hospital maternity wards, OB/GYN offices, or in home healthcare settings working with physicians, certified nurse midwives, and nurse practitioners.

Steps to Becoming a Perinatal Nurse

Becoming a perinatal nurse requires a two-year or four-year nursing degree and a passing score on the National Council Licensure Examination for RNs (NCLEX-RN) to get a state license. Each state nursing board establishes its own guidelines for licensure and certification.

An ADN degree serves as the minimum degree requirement to take the NCLEX. Many employers prefer to hire RNs with BSN degrees, which take 2-4 years to complete depending on college credits.

RNs with ADN degrees may choose to enroll in RN-to-BSN programs to increase their earning potential. These nursing bridge programs, often available online, take between 9-24 months to complete. Some schools offeraccelerated BSN programs for individuals with a bachelor’s degree in a non-nursing field.

Soon after completing their nursing degree, graduates should take the NCLEX-RN exam, which is required for state licensure. This computer-adaptive exam, administered by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing, tests a nurse's competency level to practice in clinical settings.

RNs pursue certifications to validate their knowledge and advance their careers by demonstrating higher levels of competency. Perinatal nurses may get voluntary certifications, administered through the National Certification Corporation (NCC), in inpatient obstetric nursing and maternal newborn nursing. Some employers may require nurse practitioners or clinical nurse specialists to have these credentials.

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Perinatal Nurse Education

Students interested in becoming a perinatal nurse must graduate from an accredited nursing program and pass the NCLEX-RN exam to qualify for licensure. A two-year ADN degree offers the quickest path to this career.

ADN Degree

Prospective perinatal nurses who want to start their career as quickly as possible can finish an ADN degree in two years or less. RNs who have earned ADN degrees can apply their credits toward BSN degrees. Although the ADN serves as the minimum requirement for the NCLEX-RN exam and state licensure, some employers prefer to hire RNs with bachelor's degrees.

A high school diploma or equivalent; minimum 2.5 GPA; placement tests in math and writing; prerequisite courses

Minimum of 60 credits including courses in psychology, human anatomy and physiology, chemistry, and microbiology; clinical placements

1-2 years

Fundamental principles of patient care and assessment; emergency and critical care, maternity care, and neonatal care; treatment plans; medications

BSN Degree

While nurses can enter the field with an associate degree, many employers and professional nursing associations recommend that RNs earn their BSN degree. Most students complete their BSN in four years. RNs who already have ADN degrees can enroll in RN-to-BSN programs, completing their training in two years or less.

A BSN serves as the prerequisite for admission to master of science in nursing (MSN) programs leading to certification as advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs). Perinatal nurses who hold BSN or graduate degrees can expect better career and salary prospects than nurses with ADN degrees.

High school diploma or its equivalent, or an ADN degree; minimum 2.5 GPA; letters of reference

Evidence-based nursing practice; medical-surgical nursing; assessment; pharmacology; medical technology; leadership and management; clinical placements

2-4 years

Critical thinking and communication; care plan administration; patient/family education; medication; population health skills; information management

Perinatal Nurse Licensure and Certification

All RNs, including perinatal nurses, must get licensure through the nursing board in the state where they intend to practice. While each state establishes its own RN license renewal requirements, nurses typically need to complete at least 25 board-approved hours of continuing education to renew their license.

Perinatal nurses who get voluntary certifications can boost their employment prospects and salary potential. The certifications available from the NCC in inpatient obstetric nursing and maternal newborn nursing require a current RN license, passing an exam, and at least 2,000 clinical hours in the specialty area. Certification must be renewed every three years.

Perinatal nurses who choose to earn an MSN or doctor of nursing practice degree to become certified as APRNs can earn much higher salaries than RNs without graduate training.

Working as a Perinatal Nurse

Students and recent graduates interested in perinatal nursing careers should try to gain experience through clinical placements or internships in hospital maternity wards, OB/GYN offices, or in home health environments.

Perinatal nurse duties vary by employment setting. RNs in maternity wards typically assist with births and newborn care and educate new parents or guardians about infant care. Perinatal nurses who work in OB/GYN offices develop birth plans and help pregnant individuals understand what to expect during pregnancy and labor.

A growing number of hospitals offer perinatal nurse home visits for postpartum patients and newborns recently discharged from care. Nurses may also find employment with independent home health agencies who specialize in caring for pregnant, postpartum, newborn, and premature patients. During home visits, perinatal nurses check patient health status, answer questions, and teach family members about newborn care.

Whatever the work setting, perinatal nurses can expect competitive salaries and expanding job prospects.According to Payscale in July 2022, RNs in this nursing role earn an average base salary of $68,710 annually, above the national average for all occupations. Graduate-trainednurse practitioners, including those with perinatal specialties, earn between $83,000 and $128,000 a year.

Frequently Asked Questions About Becoming a Perinatal Nurse

How long does it take to become a perinatal nurse?

You can become a perinatal nurse after 2-4 years of nursing school. It takes two years to complete an ADN or four years for a BSN. Some perinatal positions may require certification, which usually takes two additional years of clinical experience.

Are perinatal nurses in demand?

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statisticsprojects RN employment, including perinatal nursing jobs, to increase by 9% between 2020 and 2030. The demand for perinatal nurses will continue to grow as the general public and the healthcare industry recognizes the vital role they play in helping to reduce premature births and high-risk pregnancies.

Is becoming a perinatal nurse difficult?

Nursing programs require high GPAs, demanding coursework in math and natural science, and challenging clinical rotations. Students in accelerated RN-to-BSN programs face even more stress, especially if working full time while enrolled in classes. The most successful students develop good time management skills, efficient study habits, and a positive attitude about the possibilities ahead.

Do perinatal nurses get paid well?

According to Payscale in July 2022, perinatal nurses can earn between $48,000 and $96,000 annually, depending on the type of employer and experience. Perinatal nurses can increase their pay by earning advanced degrees, getting certifications, and moving into managerial and leadership positions.

Page last reviewed July 18, 2022

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