Should I Become a Labor and Delivery Nurse?
Labor and delivery nurses are registered nurses (RNs) who provide care to women and their newborns during the various stages of pregnancy and childbirth. They work closely with patients, families, and other healthcare professionals. Nurses may spend many hours standing and might need to lift or move patients.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the mean annual salary for RNs as of May 2015 was $71,000. The education needed can vary; you may need a diploma, associates degree or bachelor's degree in the field of nursing. All nurses must pass the National Council Licensure Examination-Registered Nurse (NCLEX-RN) for licensure. There are also voluntary certifications specific to labor and delivery specialties available. To earn certification requires a certain amount of working experience in the labor and delivery department.
The key skills needed by a labor and delivery nurse include good communication skills, emotional stability, detail-oriented, compassion, critical-thinking skills, and patience. You must also be familiar with medical software, Microsoft Excel, and accounting software. The ability to measure vital signs, and use various medical equipment, is also required.
There are four general steps you can follow to become a labor and delivery nurse:
Step One: Pursue Nursing Training
Prospective labor and delivery nurses must first obtain nursing training, such as an associate's degree in nursing (ADN), a bachelor's degree in nursing, or a nursing diploma from an accredited nursing school or hospital. Bachelor's degree programs are generally completed in four years, while diploma and ADN programs typically take at least two years. Nursing degree programs generally include courses in chemistry, psychology, anatomy, nutrition, pharmacology, and microbiology. In addition to classroom instruction, nursing programs include supervised clinical training.
Step Two: Become a Licensed RN
In order to gain licensure, individuals must demonstrate basic nursing skills, provide transcripts, and pass the NCLEX-RN. This exam measures the knowledge and technical skills that entry-level nurses need to perform their jobs safely and efficiently. Some states require that RNs renew their licenses every 2-3 years. It is important to properly prepare for the licensing exam, become familiar with the features and format of the test by taking preparation courses.
Step Three: Gain Work Experience in Labor and Delivery
Licensed RNs may apply to work in hospital labor and delivery units, clinics, physician offices, maternity centers, and birthing centers. Labor and delivery nurses may also be required to have knowledge of neonatal resuscitation and fetal monitoring. Some employers may require experience as a staff nurse prior to being hired as a labor and delivery nurse.
Step Four: Obtain Certification
After meeting the required hours of work experience in labor and delivery, RNs may apply for specialty certification through the National Certification Corporation (NCC). While this certification isn't required, it can lead to additional career opportunities. Core and subspecialty certification is available in such areas as fetal monitoring, maternal newborn monitoring, and neonatal nursing. The Registered Nurse Certified (RNC) designation is given to nurses who have fulfilled the requirements outlined by the NCC.
You must also maintain your certification. Continuing education (CE), experience level, and other qualifications must be met in order to maintain certification. RNCs will need to make sure their CE hours are documented and submitted, along with their application, before their certification is due to expire.