How to Become a Maternity Nurse

What Does a Maternity Nurse Do?

newborn baby in nurse's hands

A maternity nurse is a nursing professional who provides care to expectant mothers before, during and after childbirth. Most maternity nurses will focus on supporting women during the labor and delivery process – working at the patient’s side to monitor both mother and baby, and to encourage, coach, educate and support. Others may care for women who are experiencing complications before birth or provide postpartum (after delivery) care. The work of maternity nurses helps ensure a safe delivery and healthy start in an unpredictable and sometimes stressful work environment.

Maternity nurses are experts at assessing and monitoring patients. Throughout the labor and delivery period, they keep a close eye on the mother’s blood pressure, fetal heartbeat, contraction patterns, and other vital signs. Based on their observations, they formulate and implement individualized care plans for their patients and communicate with other members of the healthcare team including the doctor, midwife or anesthetist as needed. Where permitted by law, nurses may administer a variety of medications – like those used to induce labor or help control pain.

Many types of nurses can play a role in maternity care including licensed practical nurses (LPNs), registered nurses (RNs), nurse practitioners (NPs), clinical nurse specialists (CNSs) and certified nurse midwives (CNMs). Most work under the supervision of an obstetrician as a key member of the labor and delivery care team. Those with high-level training (like the nurse midwife) can function independently – making decisions, prescribing medications, delivering babies and even attending as the primary caregiver at home births.

Maternity nursing is a fast-paced specialty that involves a great deal of patient contact. These nurses take great pride in bringing new life into the world every day. They are proud that their care helps families move past fear and anxiety to experience the excitement and joy of this special time.

Workplace Details

As experts in the care of women and children, maternity nurses can be found in any setting that provides reproductive health services, including hospitals, schools, doctor’s offices, outpatient clinics and patients’ homes. Where permitted by law, nurse practitioners and nurse midwives may run their own practices.

The work environments and responsibilities of maternity nurses vary greatly based on certification level and training:

  • LPNs tend to play a supporting role in labor and delivery settings by monitoring vital signs, assisting with procedures and performing administrative tasks
  • RNs are responsible for planning and delivering patient care in labor and delivery units, operating rooms and nurseries and are the backbone of most maternity units
  • Advanced practice nurses (NPs, CNSs and CNMs) are found in many outpatient settings, including community health centers, obstetric medical offices and private practices. Many also work as educators, policy makers and researchers.

Maternity nurses employed by hospitals typically work extended shifts that cover nights, weekends and holidays. They also spend some of their time “on call,” meaning they may be summoned to work on short notice.

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 licensed practical/vocational nurses or nurse practitioners.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, LPNs typically earn between $32,040 and $59,510, depending on their experience and responsibilities.

The median annual salary for RNs is $67,490, according to the BLS. Earnings are usually best in large, urban hospitals and increase commensurate with education, experience, and geographic location.

Advance practice nurses like nurse midwives can expect to earn $50,310 to $132,270 annually.

Employment of LPNs and RNs is expected to grow by 16% and 17% respectively between 2014 and 2024, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This is considered much faster than average for all occupations, though not all of this growth is in the maternity setting. The BLS expects a 31% growth in employment for nurse midwives.

Factors driving this demand include the large number of nurses expected to retire soon as well as increased access to national health insurance and subsequent care that wasn’t available before. This will open additional doors for advanced practice nurses, as research proves that they can provide safe, effective, cost-efficient care.

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 Maternity Nurse

1

Get your undergraduate education.

The type of undergrad education you seek depends on the level of maternity nursing you hope to practice. Many community colleges and vocational schools offer LPN training. Programs can be completed in about a year and include both classroom and hands-on learning. But today, most hospital settings are choosing to hire fewer LPNs and instead hire more RNs because of their limited skill set. To become an RN, candidates must earn a two-year associate’s degree or four-year bachelor’s degree from a state-approved institution. (Rarer, non-degree diploma programs connected to hospitals may be offered in your area as well.) Training programs include courses in nursing and the life sciences as well as clinical rotations in various areas of health care.

Show Me Schools »

2

Get your license.

Licensure of LPNs and RNs is mandatory in all states. While regulations vary, candidates must at minimum hold a degree from an accredited nursing program and pass the NCLEX exam. In addition, many acute care facilities (like hospitals) are requiring nurses to pursue national certification in their specialty area. Organizations like the National Certification Corporation (NCC) and others will accept nurses to sit for the exam once they have worked 2,000 hours in their specialty field. Having certified nurses helps hospitals pursuing magnet status reach their goal. (Magnet status is awarded to hospitals that provide outstanding nursing care and positive clinical outcomes.)

3

Obtain necessary training and/or work experience.

Most nursing students complete clinical rotations in labor and delivery, but the experience isn’t nearly enough to prepare them for work in the field. In many cases, employers will prefer that nurses have 1 to 2 years of medical surgical or other nursing experience before applying for a maternity position. Others will offer on-the-job training to nurses who are new to the maternity setting. This typically lasts about three months for entry-level nurses and 6-8 weeks for more experienced nurses, but orientation should be customized to the skills and confidence of the nurse.

4

Enroll in graduate school if you want to be an advanced practice nurse.

Advanced practice nurses (APRNs) hold a master’s degree or doctorate as well as board certification in a nursing specialty. This career path requires 2-5 years of post-bachelor’s study at the graduate level. Graduate programs in nursing (leading to certification as advanced practice nurses) require RN licensure and work experience in an acute care setting.

5

APRNs must obtain board certification in a nursing specialty.

Qualifying exams are administered by the American Nurses Credentialing Center. APRNs will need to abide by the practice laws of their state, which vary widely.

6

Maintain your license to practice.

All nurses will need to maintain the appropriate number of continuing education classes each year and avoid sanctions to keep their license active.

7

Consider opportunities to help your career evolve.

Experienced maternity nurses may advance to leadership positions in patient care, public health or health care administration. RNs who desire greater independence in their practice may return to school to pursue a master’s degree or doctorate. Advanced practice nurses sometimes leave the clinical setting for careers in management, research or academia or to open private practices.

Exploring Degree Paths

CERTIFICATE IN PRACTICAL NURSING (LPN/LVN)

about 1 year

Community colleges, career colleges, and even some high school vocational centers offer training programs in practical nursing. The LPN curriculum strongly resembles Year 1 of an associate degree in nursing (ADN) program and includes courses in:

Medical-surgical nursing concepts

Learn the basic skills needed to care for acutely ill patients in a hospital setting.

Nursing fundamentals

Introduction to the nursing profession and its role within the healthcare delivery team.

Basic pharmacology

Develop the skills needed to safely administer medications.

Transition to practical nursing

Prepare for your first job by studying scope of practice, communication skills, and leadership.

It’s essential to choose an LPN program approved by your state board of nursing. Accreditation by the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN) is also a sign of quality and professionalism. Attending an accredited program can make it easier to continue your education if you wish to become an RN, clinical nurse specialist, or nurse midwife in the future.

DIPLOMA PROGRAM (RN)

2-3 years

A few decades ago, almost all nurses trained in hospital-based diploma programs. These are gradually being phased out in favor of formal academic programs at colleges and universities. That being said, there are still some excellent diploma programs around the country, including many that are ACEN-accredited.

If you choose to go the diploma route, your best bet is to attend a program that has an articulation agreement with a local college. This will keep you from having to retake your associate-level classes in order to earn your BSN.

Diploma programs involve both hands-on training and classroom learning. The curriculum is very similar to an associate degree in nursing (ADN) program. Expect to see courses in:

Human anatomy and physiology

Study the orientation, location, and function of body structures.

Family nursing

Learn how family relationships impact the care of pregnant women, children, and clients with behavioral health issues.

Nursing care of the patient in crisis

Practice caring for patients with life-threatening mental and physical health issues.

Sociology

Explore how people behave in groups and how these relationships affect health decisions.

When choosing a diploma program, verify that it’s approved by your state board of nursing. ACEN accreditation is also desirable, especially if you later wish to continue your education at the graduate level.

ASSOCIATE DEGREE IN NURSING (ADN)

2-3 years

This is now the most common pathway by which RNs enter the nursing profession. ADN training is similar in length and subject matter to a diploma program. However, ADN graduates earn a degree that’s easily recognized by employers and colleges around the country. This can make life easier if you later wish to pursue a bachelor’s or graduate degree.

ADN programs are typically found at universities, community colleges, and specialized schools of nursing. The program must be approved by your state board of nursing in order to qualify you for licensure. Graduating from an ACEN-accredited program is desirable if you plan to continue your education at the master’s or doctoral level.

Show Me Schools »

ADN programs blend practical and classroom learning. Courses are very to similar to those offered by diploma programs. Some examples:

Advanced medical-surgical nursing

Apply your hospital nursing skills to more complex patients.

Pathophysiology

Explore how disease changes the chemistry, biology, and function of the body.

Anatomy and physiology with lab

Learn how the body’s organs, tissues, and systems are structured and work together.

Human growth and development

Understand how people change mentally, physically, and emotionally from conception through death.

Many schools offer accelerated bridge programs for LPNs seeking an ADN degree.

BACHELOR OF SCIENCE IN NURSING (BSN)

4 years for a first bachelor's

RNs with a bachelor’s degree have many advantages. They’re in demand by employers – in particular by teaching and Magnet-designated hospitals. BSNs can also practice and achieve certification in almost any RN specialty. The degree often commands a higher salary and opens doors to leadership.

Most BSN programs are offered through universities and colleges. In order to take the NCLEX, you must graduate from a program approved by your state board of nursing. National accreditation through one of the following organizations may be helpful if you plan to continue on to graduate school:

In addition to taking the same core classes as their ADN counterparts, BSNs receive instruction on advanced procedures, leadership, cultural awareness, ethics, and communication. For nurses interested in obstetrics, many BSN programs offer elective courses in labor and delivery nursing.

In addition to their clinical rotations, BSN students can expect to encounter courses in:

Health assessment

Use your skills of observation and communication to collect data on patients.

Nursing ethics

Discuss how conflicting values can impact patient care.

Perinatal nursing

Practice caring for pregnant, laboring, and postpartum women.

Leadership and management

Develop the personal and professional skills you need to supervise others and affect change.

If you’re already an LPN or RN, you may be able to earn an accelerated BSN through a bridge program. Some schools also offer an accelerated BSN program (1–2 years) for students with a bachelor’s degree in another field.

MASTER OF SCIENCE IN NURSING (MSN)

2-3 years

A master’s degree in nursing prepares you to work as an advanced practice nurse. For maternity nurses, this usually means becoming a clinical nurse specialist (CNS) or certified nurse midwife (CNM).

Master’s-trained nurses generally assume leadership roles in their hospitals. They’re capable of caring for more complex patients and can exercise a higher degree of independence when making care decisions.

In order to practice as a CNM, you need to graduate from a program accredited by the Accreditation Commission for Midwifery Education (ACME). In addition, both ACEN and CCNE accredit master’s level programs.

Master’s-level coursework includes practical and classroom experience in the following subjects:

Acute care management

Practice supervising and improving the care of hospitalized patients.

Health promotion and disease management

Explore models for improving public health and limiting the impact of chronic disease.

Maternal-fetal-newborn physiology

Study how the experience of pregnancy and birth impacts the bodies of both mother and child.

Pelvic assessment

Learn to perform an in-depth examination of the female reproductive system.

Some universities offer RN-to-MSN bridging programs for diploma- and ADN-trained nurses. Advance practice nurses trained in another specialty can become a CNS or CNM by completing a post-master’s certificate program.

DOCTOR OF NURSING PRACTICE (DNP)

1-2 years

The DNP is designed for nurses who wish to earn a doctorate while continuing to work within the hospital. DNPs teach practicum classes, conduct on-site research, lead quality improvement initiatives, and help hospitals incorporate research and best practices.

There are two pathways to earning your DNP:

  • Post-master’s program
  • BSN-to-DNP bridge program

The DNP curriculum combines coursework and fieldwork in the following subjects:

Evidence-based practice

Learn to evaluate health research and apply it to patient care.

Transforming healthcare

Develop the skills needed to change and improve complex delivery systems.

Informatics

Gather data to guide strategic planning and organizational improvement.

Quantitative methods

Use descriptive mathematics to design and evaluate healthcare research.

Both CCNE and ACEN accredit DNP programs.

Keys to Success as a Maternity Nurse

Necessary Skills and Qualities

Emotional resilience

Nursing is stressful in any environment. Maternity nurses must be strong enough to cope with stress and help patients do the same.

Interpersonal and communication skills

These are vital when caring for adults and babies in all stages of health and illness, as well as working effectively with colleagues in a team.

Strong organizational and critical thinking skills

Nurses must possess strong mental focus in order to provide stellar care often in a short time frame.

The ability to teach

Maternity nurses must educate patients and their families during the patients’ stay in the hospital, which is typically 2 to 4 days. There’s a lot to learn before they head home with a new baby.

Additional Credentials

There are many advanced credentials available for maternity nurses at every level of training.

LPNs can obtain the following certifications through the National Association of Practical Nurse Education and Services (NAPNES):

  • IV therapy certification – also available through many state nursing boards
  • Pharmacology certification

RNs with 24 months of experience can take the exam to become certified in Inpatient Obstetric Nursing (RNC-OB) through the National Certification Corporation.

Nurse midwives must be credentialed as a Certified Nurse Midwife (CNM) by the American Midwifery Certification Board to practice in most states and to gain staff privileges at many hospitals. The American Registry of Diagnostic Medical Sonographers offers a Midwife Sonography Certificate.

Other desirable credentials for maternity nurses at all levels include:

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.

x