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How to Become a Labor and Delivery Nurse

What Does a Labor and Delivery Nurse Do?

woman giving birth

Labor and delivery nurses have the incredible opportunity to guide women and their families through one of the most transformative experiences of their lives – childbirth. Along with providing routine and emergency care to mothers, these nurses are often responsible for the initial stabilization and care of the newborn immediately after birth. The term “labor and delivery (L&D) nurse” does not adequately describe the wide scope of this branch of the nursing profession.

Many areas of expertise are necessary, including skills in intensive care, medical-surgical, and operating room environments. L&D nurses must be quick thinkers, good communicators, and rapid assessors to treat unpredictable shifts in the health of mom and baby with compassion and safety.

Obstetrics nursing is an acute-care specialty, which means that labor and delivery nurses are required to be state-licensed RNs. You don’t need an advanced degree or special certification to begin working in obstetrics units, because hospitals provide on-the-job training for staff: a new RN can look for employment in labor and delivery (and other areas of perinatal care) right away. RNs provide comprehensive mother and baby care from the time a patient comes into the hospital until she leaves.

Workplace Details

L&D nurses work in hospitals as staff nurses on a labor and delivery or women’s health unit. Some facilities have one area for labor, delivery, and recovery and a separate unit for postpartum care. Others have an all-in-one area where patients go through the entire hospital stay in a single private room. This is becoming a more common practice today. Patients who need Cesarean sections (C-sections) or other pregnancy-related surgical procedures may go to an operating room located in the maternal care unit or go to a general operating suite somewhere else in the hospital. Newborn nurseries are usually located in the same area as the mothers. In some hospitals, L&D nurses may be required to work in all areas of women’s care including labor hall, post partum, and nursery, but this depends on the facility.

Certified nurse midwives (CNMs) may be found in some hospitals, but they are usually not working as staff nurses. Most midwives start as staff RNs before going to midwifery school. A CNM performs vaginal deliveries and coordinates care for babies during their first month of life. CNMs also work in offices and community health and/or birthing centers, providing a full spectrum of care to expectant mothers and are usually in collaboration with a physician. The role of the CNM will vary from state to state. Some midwives perform uncomplicated deliveries in patients’ homes, provide comprehensive postpartum care to both mother and baby and have primary care roles in women’s reproductive health. In the U.S., CNM-attended births are most frequent among American Indian, Alaska Native and Hispanic women, according to the latest data from the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics, but their reach continues to expand.

Nurses who work in L&D should expect to work shifts, have some irregular hours and be “on call” periodically.

Salary and Job Outlook

State
Average Wage
California
$101750
Texas
$70390
New York
$80830
Florida
$64630
Pennsylvania
$68770

Hover over any state to explore local income and job growth data.

Created with Raphaël 2.1.0 AL AK AZ AR CA CO CT DE DC FL GA HI ID IL IN IA KS KY LA ME MD MA MI MN MS MO MT NE NV NH NJ NM NY NC ND OH OK OR PA RI SC SD TN TX UT VT VA WA WV WI WY

ALABAMA

Median Salary: 
$55,500
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $41,600
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $76,000

2014-2024 Job Growth: 17%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 1,870

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Birmingham$43,240$57,670$77,370
Huntsville$41,840$56,800$75,450

ALASKA

Median Salary: 
$88,100
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $65,200
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $116,900

2014-2024 Job Growth: 10%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 190

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Anchorage$65,100$88,940$117,550
Fairbanks$69,190$98,120$119,580

ARIZONA

Median Salary: 
$71,500
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $52,400
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $96,100

2014-2024 Job Growth: 22%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 3,500

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Phoenix$52,850$73,400$97,630
Tuscon$52,510$67,590$82,510

ARKANSAS

Median Salary: 
$55,700
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $40,100
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $76,700

2014-2024 Job Growth: 15%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 870

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Little Rock$42,070$60,690$84,170
Fort Smith$39,910$52,140$63,430

CALIFORNIA

Median Salary: 
$100,400
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $64,400
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $147,100

2014-2024 Job Growth: 17%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 10,470

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Los Angeles$63,400$95,940$129,340
San Francisco Bay$83,120$132,970$167,920
San Diego$57,610$85,470$126,550
Sacramento$67,060$116,690$155,890

COLORADO

Median Salary: 
$68,500
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $51,200
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $95,100

2014-2024 Job Growth: 33%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 2,350

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Denver$51,510$70,580$97,080
Colorado Springs$51,430$63,590$88,590

CONNECTICUT

Median Salary: 
$76,500
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $55,300
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $100,700

2014-2024 Job Growth: 6%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 990

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Hartford$55,130$76,020$97,630
Bridgeport$56,590$75,830$103,110
New Haven$57,470$78,720$105,440

DELAWARE

Median Salary: 
$71,100
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $53,800
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $93,300

2014-2024 Job Growth: 17%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 420

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Wilmington$54,470$72,460$93,860
Dover$52,740$64,500$84,490

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA

Median Salary: 
$79,600
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $55,300
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $103,800

2014-2024 Job Growth: 11%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 380

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Washington DC$53,890$76,030$101,360

FLORIDA

Median Salary: 
$62,100
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $46,100
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $82,900

2014-2024 Job Growth: 25%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 8,110

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Miami$50,250$65,560$91,660
Orlando$43,490$61,570$79,250
Tampa$49,770$62,990$84,660
Jacksonville$48,910$61,610$79,810

GEORGIA

Median Salary: 
$63,100
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $44,200
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $80,900

2014-2024 Job Growth: 20%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 2,980

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Atlanta$47,500$67,010$82,160
Augusta$46,880$65,910$88,340

HAWAII

Median Salary: 
$92,300
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $63,400
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $119,400

2014-2024 Job Growth: 13%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 400

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Honolulu$63,930$93,970$120,600

IDAHO

Median Salary: 
$61,000
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $44,600
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $78,400

Job Growth Data Not Available

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Boise$46,390$61,760$78,900

ILLINOIS

Median Salary: 
$67,100
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $45,600
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $99,600

2014-2024 Job Growth: 11%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 3,970

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Chicago$51,580$73,220$103,790
Rockford$43,920$59,400$87,180

INDIANA

Median Salary: 
$57,900
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $41,900
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $78,600

2014-2024 Job Growth: 19%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 2,510

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Indianapolis$43,290$61,450$81,840
South Bend$43,460$58,310$76,100
Fort Wayne$40,640$53,490$73,350

IOWA

Median Salary: 
$53,900
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $40,700
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $73,800

2014-2024 Job Growth: 16%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 1,280

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Des Moines$41,010$56,420$75,160
Cedar Rapids$39,730$50,730$74,600

KANSAS

Median Salary: 
$56,300
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $41,700
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $76,600

2014-2024 Job Growth: 8%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 760

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Wichita$41,060$51,440$72,980
Kansas City$44,940$63,260$81,370

KENTUCKY

Median Salary: 
$58,000
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $42,600
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $77,000

2014-2024 Job Growth: 36%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 2,670

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Louisville$44,330$61,510$78,730
Lexington$44,220$59,870$76,890

LOUISIANA

Median Salary: 
$59,800
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $42,900
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $83,300

2014-2024 Job Growth: 16%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 1,910

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
New Orleans$49,930$66,140$99,220
Baton Rouge$42,650$56,830$78,160
Lafayette$40,670$55,480$80,510

MAINE

Median Salary: 
$62,800
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $46,400
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $85,900

2014-2024 Job Growth: 11%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 510

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Portland$49,850$64,470$91,370
Lewiston$45,100$63,890$78,040

MARYLAND

Median Salary: 
$72,100
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $53,400
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $97,500

2014-2024 Job Growth: 20%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 3,250

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Baltimore$53,920$72,460$98,440
Frederick$55,480$75,920$98,980

MASSACHUSETTS

Median Salary: 
$83,900
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $55,200
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $135,000

2014-2024 Job Growth: 7%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 2,490

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Boston$60,060$92,190$145,530
Worcester$52,460$82,700$142,480
Springfield$47,590$72,530$101,550

MICHIGAN

Median Salary: 
$65,800
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $50,600
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $89,400

2014-2024 Job Growth: 12%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 3,370

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Detroit$52,500$69,600$105,020
Grand Rapids$48,130$60,180$76,730

MINNESOTA

Median Salary: 
$72,100
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $49,400
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $98,400

2014-2024 Job Growth: 12%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 2,010

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Minneapolis - St. Paul$53,730$77,400$100,460
Rochester$41,210$59,810$94,640

MISSISSIPPI

Median Salary: 
$55,600
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $40,200
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $77,500

2014-2024 Job Growth: 14%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 1,070

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Jackson$42,150$60,990$88,630
Gulfport$42,590$57,050$76,120

MISSOURI

Median Salary: 
$57,800
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $41,200
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $80,100

2014-2024 Job Growth: 14%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 2,530

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
St. Louis$42,050$59,020$83,960
Kansas City$44,940$63,260$81,370

MONTANA

Median Salary: 
$60,700
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $47,300
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $81,200

2014-2024 Job Growth: 22%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 450

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Billings$51,200$62,670$88,330
Missoula$50,750$62,420$87,110

NEBRASKA

Median Salary: 
$58,000
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $42,800
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $77,600

2014-2024 Job Growth: 14%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 840

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Omaha$43,460$59,630$80,340
Lincoln$42,500$56,230$75,400

NEVADA

Median Salary: 
$81,400
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $58,800
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $104,200

2014-2024 Job Growth: 19%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 860

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Las Vegas$62,700$84,080$108,390
Reno$55,940$75,620$98,560

NEW HAMPSHIRE

Median Salary: 
$65,400
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $47,100
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $93,000

2014-2024 Job Growth: 15%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 490

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Manchester$46,320$67,900$94,190
Nashua$46,310$63,890$91,400

NEW JERSEY

Median Salary: 
$79,200
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $57,200
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $102,900

2014-2024 Job Growth: 13%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 3,000

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Newark$58,110$81,250$104,130
Trenton$52,450$71,710$93,130

NEW MEXICO

Median Salary: 
$64,700
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $50,800
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $87,100

2014-2024 Job Growth: 17%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 660

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Albuquerque$52,550$66,430$88,630
Las Cruces$27,720$60,700$92,420

NEW YORK

Median Salary: 
$78,000
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $52,300
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $111,100

2014-2024 Job Growth: 17%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 7,450

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
New York City$62,140$86,520$116,630
Buffalo$50,970$70,090$93,740
Rochester$46,960$60,760$77,900
Albany$44,640$61,640$79,960

NORTH CAROLINA

Median Salary: 
$58,900
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $43,300
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $79,700

2014-2024 Job Growth: 22%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 4,190

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Charlotte$44,010$59,750$78,850
Raleigh$44,970$60,090$79,230
Greensboro$43,130$61,120$86,440
Winston - Salem$43,770$58,270$77,490

NORTH DAKOTA

Median Salary: 
$57,900
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $43,400
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $75,700

2014-2024 Job Growth: 24%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 400

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Fargo$43,820$58,380$76,530
Bismarck$43,580$57,070$73,580

OHIO

Median Salary: 
$61,300
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $47,200
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $80,100

2014-2024 Job Growth: 14%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 4,830

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Cleveland$52,280$65,220$80,050
Columbus$46,330$61,330$90,830
Cincinnati$47,490$62,580$81,990
Dayton$48,440$59,850$78,710

OKLAHOMA

Median Salary: 
$58,400
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $42,700
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $77,000

2014-2024 Job Growth: 14%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 1,160

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Oklahoma City$43,130$60,220$78,470
Tulsa$43,630$58,820$76,640

OREGON

Median Salary: 
$85,200
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $61,000
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $109,000

2014-2024 Job Growth: 15%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 1,280

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Portland$58,970$86,940$112,620
Salem$63,450$80,010$103,720

PENNSYLVANIA

Median Salary: 
$65,700
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $47,200
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $93,700

2014-2024 Job Growth: 14%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 4,890

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Philadelphia$53,320$76,110$100,010
Pittsburgh$47,760$61,520$80,320
Harrisburg$51,160$64,360$92,930
Allentown$51,170$63,980$86,160

RHODE ISLAND

Median Salary: 
$76,300
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $55,400
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $98,000

2014-2024 Job Growth: 12%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 450

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Providence$55,000$76,050$99,370

SOUTH CAROLINA

Median Salary: 
$59,300
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $42,200
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $80,100

2014-2024 Job Growth: 15%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 1,600

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Greenville$42,380$57,960$77,620
Columbia$33,930$57,080$78,000
Charleston$49,680$65,020$92,470

SOUTH DAKOTA

Median Salary: 
$53,400
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $41,000
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $74,700

2014-2024 Job Growth: 12%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 420

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Rapid City$42,750$57,830$75,800

TENNESSEE

Median Salary: 
$56,800
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $41,800
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $76,300

2014-2024 Job Growth: 25%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 2,440

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Nashville$41,930$58,810$78,640
Memphis$46,000$60,500$78,810
Knoxville$40,920$54,240$70,650
Chattanooga$41,680$56,130$74,340

TEXAS

Median Salary: 
$68,600
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $50,100
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $95,000

2014-2024 Job Growth: 31%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 10,820

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Dallas - Ft. Worth$52,170$71,920$96,640
Houston$55,040$76,670$98,900
San Antonio$45,920$65,450$89,960
Austin$51,570$66,340$86,640

UTAH

Median Salary: 
$59,700
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $44,200
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $79,200

2014-2024 Job Growth: 33%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 1,150

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Salt Lake City$46,020$61,730$81,490
Ogden$42,940$57,090$76,880

VERMONT

Median Salary: 
$62,800
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $47,900
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $91,000

2014-2024 Job Growth: 11%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 230

VIRGINIA

Median Salary: 
$63,600
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $43,400
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $90,900

2014-2024 Job Growth: 14%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 2,380

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Virginia Beach$43,130$61,350$79,450
Richmond$44,170$64,510$85,180

WASHINGTON

Median Salary: 
$77,000
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $52,900
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $110,000

2014-2024 Job Growth: 20%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 2,470

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Seattle$55,410$80,960$113,850
Spokane$50,630$73,400$104,950

WEST VIRGINIA

Median Salary: 
$56,700
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $40,500
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $78,400

2014-2024 Job Growth: 8%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 590

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Huntington$39,560$55,600$76,120
Charleston$41,380$55,920$75,860

WISCONSIN

Median Salary: 
$65,100
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $49,900
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $90,000

2014-2024 Job Growth: 10%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 1,860

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Milwaukee$51,600$67,980$91,900
Madison$54,670$73,910$100,370

WYOMING

Median Salary: 
$60,800
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $44,000
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $81,000

2014-2024 Job Growth: 20%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 210

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Cheyenne$47,920$64,100$88,730
Casper$40,880$57,560$77,510

Click here to see interactive state-by-state information for nurse midwives or nurse practitioners.

L&D RN salaries are on a par with other nursing specialties with a median salary of $67,490 for RNs, as reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The bottom 10% of wage earners make a median salary of $46,360, while the top 10% make a median $101,630. RN salaries vary depending on several factors including work experience, employer, geographic location and specific nursing role.

Meanwhile, the BLS states that nurse midwives earn a median salary of $92,510.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, RN jobs overall are projected to increase by 16% from 2014-2024. This rate is considerably faster than the average rate for other occupations. An aging U.S. population is a major factor in this job growth that may not affect L&D nurses, but the large number of RNs who are expected to retire will create more job availability.

With U.S. healthcare policy changes emphasizing efficient and cost-effective healthcare, CNMs (like other advanced practice nurses) will have more opportunities, and the demand will be greater in rural areas of the U.S. According to the BLS, job opportunities for CNMs should grow by 31% between 2014 and 2024.

Compare Salaries by City

New York City NY Median Pay

$86520 Per Year

$41.59 Per Hour

Los Angeles CA Median Pay

$95940 Per Year

$46.12 Per Hour

Steps to Become a Labor and Delivery Nurse

1

Enroll in the educational path of your choice.

A bachelor’s degree in nursing (BSN) or associate degree in nursing is required for licensure as an RN. Depending on the U.S. state where you reside, and the hiring practices of individual institutions, there may be some advantage to searching for employment as a BSN-RN rather than an AD-RN. It’s also worth remembering that graduate study in nursing requires a BSN. However, AD-RNs make up a large proportion of the nursing workforce, and many hospitals provide pathways for AD-RNs to earn the BSN while working part-time. If you’re a CNA or LPN interested in becoming licensed as an RN, you can look for one of the many “ladder” or “bridge” programs that allow practical nurses and nurse assistants to fill in curricular gaps, and earn associate or bachelor’s degrees.

Show Me Schools »

All nursing educational programs have a similar structure that includes nursing theory classes, skills training, and clinical experiences. Prerequisite courses in subjects such as math and English are also a part of RN programs. Nurses who complete a BSN program are also trained in leadership, budgeting and delegating.

You can learn more about the advantages of different degree paths by visiting our nursing degrees guide.

2

Become licensed as an RN.

After completing their education, graduates of nursing programs must obtain a license in order to have “RN” behind their name. The National Council of State Boards of Nursing, in conjunction with the individual state boards of nursing, administers the NCLEX exam, which candidates must pass to obtain a license.

Some hospitals are also requiring nurses who work with mothers and their babies to obtain national certification. Nurses may pursue certification once they have worked 2,000 hours in their specified field and met any other requirements of the certifying organization. Certification carries more weight today because hospitals are striving for magnet status — an award issued by the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) to facilities that demonstrate outstanding nursing care and clinical outcomes. While not all nurses are required to have national certification, carrying the title can help you win a job over a nurse who doesn’t, boosting the reputation of your employer.

3

Gain necessary experience.

RNs learn L&D on the job. Most degree programs have a class and/or clinical experiences in maternal and child health, but nursing students cannot choose a specialty as undergraduates and may only get a brief look into the field before they move to another area of study. Some L&D departments prefer that nurses have at least some nursing experience before applying, but many facilities accept new graduates to work in L&D and provide extensive on-the-job training. Nurses should expect a lengthy orientation with an experienced nurse when they start L&D, plus plenty of classroom time for fetal monitoring, neonatal CPR, advanced CPR for adults (ACLS) and other courses.

4

Participate in the necessary continuing education.

Regardless of the specialty, all RNs are required to maintain continuing education credits each year and keep their license in good standing to practice.

For RNs, this is the final requirement for successful careers!

5

Continue to graduate school if you aim to become a nurse midwife.

Aspiring CNMs must already be licensed as RNs to enter a CNM graduate program.

CNMs are educated in both nursing and midwifery. A bachelor’s degree and some L&D nursing experience is required for admission to a CNM graduate program, which may culminate in a master’s degree or a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree. Both degree programs have similar content and requirements. CNM graduate programs can be completed in two to three years including hands-on clinical time — most programs will require several hundred hours of experience before graduation (CNMs receive the bulk of their training in their graduate program).

6

After you graduate from the CNM program, pass a national certification exam.

CNMs must take the American Midwifery Certification Board exam before beginning their career. CNMs are required to maintain both their RN and CNM licensure to practice.

7

Consider advancement opportunities.

No matter what degree path you choose, nurses with L&D backgrounds can pursue a variety of other roles throughout their careers, such as administrator, lactation consultant and perinatal educator. RNs can obtain their graduate degrees in order to seek advanced practice positions including clinical nurse specialist, CNM, or women’s health nurse practitioner.

Explore Degree Paths

Before you enroll in a nursing degree program, make certain that it is nationally accredited. School or nursing program websites should clearly advertise their accreditation status; the acronyms you want to look for are CCNE (Collegiate Council of Nursing Education) or ACEN (Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing). Your state’s nursing commission or nursing board can help you if you’re uncertain about the current status of a program. Your future education and job prospects depend upon program accreditation.

ASSOCIATE DEGREE

2-3 years initial study

Associate degree programs in nursing are offered by community and technical colleges, and often serve students who are starting their second careers. Earning an ADN/ASN qualifies you to take the RN licensure exam and work in acute care (hospital) settings.

Show Me Schools »

Associate degree programs can vary greatly from one school to the next, in terms of courses offered, teaching methods, and overall program reputation, so research your options carefully. One thing to find out is whether a program has a good curriculum in human development, reproduction and childbearing. You should also ask where schools typically send their students for clinical training. If you’re aiming for a career in obstetrics, it’s helpful to attend a program that places its students in hospitals with large and busy obstetrics units (antepartum, L&D, mother-baby, lactation) and a NICU (neonatal intensive care unit). Not every hospital has those facilities. Community and regional colleges tend to place their students in local hospitals, so if you want to get a solid footing in perinatal care, you’re probably looking for a college that has ties to a big regional or city hospital.

Your nursing curriculum will likely include such courses as:

Principles of nursing (2+ semesters)

Provides students with a foundation in nursing skills, with an emphasis on hospital safety and clear communication.

Care of the developing family

Assessment and care of women and their babies before and after childbirth.

Nursing care of the acute patient

Students develop their hospital (acute care) techniques in a variety of unit settings.

Care of the mental health patient

Students learn and practice assessment and treatment of patients with common mental health issues.

BACHELOR'S DEGREE (BSN)

4 years

A bachelor’s (baccalaureate) degree program prepares the nursing student not only for hospital work, but also graduate nursing studies. Like other four-year university degree programs, the BSN curriculum is grounded in the arts and sciences: you can expect to take writing courses as well as classes in history, social science, and math. A variety of life-science classes in the first two years of study will lay the groundwork for your nursing courses.

Your coursework will likely include:

Nursing practice (2+ semesters, with clinical practicum)

Students learn and practice primary nursing techniques, including clinical skills.

Microbiology (with laboratory)

Students learn about growth and reproduction in microorganisms, including viruses and bacteria, and the crucial roles these organisms play in human health.

Childbearing and family health

A nursing course that addresses safe and effective care of pregnant mothers and newborns.

Lifespan development

The study of human development from embryogenesis through senescence.

If you have a bachelor’s or graduate degree in a non-nursing field, you should search for accelerated BSN (ABSN) degree programs, which allow you to earn a nursing degree in a considerably shorter period of time. Your eligibility for an ABSN program will depend on whether your prior coursework meets program prerequisites in the sciences and math.

ADVANCED DEGREE

2 years, MSN, full-time; 2.5-3 years, DNP, full-time

If you’re passionate about perinatal care, and you want a leadership role in providing care to women during pregnancy and childbirth, there are a few different areas of advanced nursing practice you should consider. For instance, you might want to become a certified nurse midwife (CNM) or a women’s health nurse practitioner (WHNP). All advanced practice credentials require earning a master’s or doctoral degree in nursing, and passing a licensing exam. The coursework you take will depend on the degree and type of credential you aim to earn; midwives and nurse practitioners do not study exactly the same topics, but there are some standard courses you can expect to take when earning a master’s or doctorate in nursing practice. These include:

Advanced pharmacology

Mechanisms of action of commonly prescribed medications, including target tissues and speed of drug elimination.

Advanced pathophysiology

The study of mechanisms of disease, and how illness arises when the body’s homeostasis is disrupted.

Leadership for health professionals

Students learn techniques of leadership that prepare them to supervise interdisciplinary teams of professionals.

Advanced health assessment

Students hone their examination skills and learn more about correct selection of diagnostic tests.

Keys to Success as an L&D Nurse

Necessary Skills and Qualities

Critical thinking

Nurses have to be organized critical thinkers.

Good communication

In order to understand and guide their patients, L&D nurses should be skilled communicators.

Clinical assessment skills

Along with essential nursing skills, L&D nurses in particular need to be fast on their feet in order to respond properly to the needs of the mother and baby.

Teamwork

L&D nurses often work with a staff that may include doctors, other nurses and medical staff, as well as the mother and any family members present. Therefore, they must contribute within a team environment.

Technological savvy

Today’s healthcare requires mastery of technology.

People skills

L&D nurses need patience and compassion when dealing with laboring mothers and complex family dynamics.

Teaching skills

Patient education is a fundamental part of many nursing roles, but it is an especially critical skill in L&D. A typical hospital stay for a delivery is only 2 to 4 days, so these nurses are responsible for an enormous amount of teaching in a very short time period.

Advanced Certification and Professional Development

If you are a staff RN working in obstetrics, you should consider becoming certified as an inpatient obstetric nurse (RNC-OB). Your accreditation shows that you have kept current with advances in practice, so this credential can help with career mobility.

Many additional certifications are available to experienced obstetric nurses, whether you are an RN or an APRN (advanced practice registered nurse, such as a nurse practitioner). Specialty certifications can be obtained in different areas of perinatal care, including:

  • Electronic fetal monitoring
  • Low-risk neonatal nursing
  • Neonatal intensive care
  • Mother-baby nursing
Rachel Ballard, RN, BSN

Rachel Ballard is a certified maternal-newborn registered nurse. She is also the owner of iHealth Communications, a medical writing firm that specializes in plain language and health literacy tools for doctors, hospitals and patients across the United States.

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