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How to Become a
Labor and Delivery Nurse

Choose a rewarding nursing specialty

In 2021, more than 3.6 million babies were born in the United States—Labor and Delivery (L&D) nurses are key to helping ensure these babies are born healthy and happy. L&D nurses support expectant mothers during all stages of their pregnancy and help them safely deliver babies. If you enjoy the healthcare field, and can think critically and stay calm under pressure, a job in L&D nursing may be a great fit.

Here are the steps you can take to become a labor and delivery nurse.

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Labor and Delivery Nurse Holding Infant and Smiling with New Parents

1. Understand the job duties/responsibilities

Labor and delivery nurses care for pregnant women, assist in the delivery of babies, and provide postpartum care. They work with obstetricians, gynecologists, OB/GYNs and other healthcare providers to ensure both the mother’s and baby’s needs are met.

Labor and delivery nurses focus on the health and well-being of mothers and their babies. L&D nurses provide education and support for expectant mothers during pregnancy, and provide nursing care during labor and after the birth of the baby

Key duties and responsibilities

During pregnancy:

  • Monitor mother and baby during pregnancy and work with doctors and other healthcare professionals to develop an individualized plan of care
  • Order prenatal panel lab tests (such as glucose levels and blood type and Rh factor)
  • Teach expectant and new mothers about women’s health and newborn care
  • Provide mothers with information on what to expect during different stages of pregnancy
  • Evaluate the effectiveness of care and meet the changing needs of the mother, newborn and additional family
  • Provide educational and emotional support during the pregnancy

During and after labor:

  • Monitor and time contractions during labor and delivery
  • Administer epidurals and other medications to help mothers manage pain during labor
  • Assist the doctor and medical staff in inducing labor
  • Monitor the vital signs of the mother and the heart rate of the baby
  • Provide support, encouragement and comfort throughout the labor
  • Identify complications that may occur during labor (for example, from medications given to help)
  • Prepare for planned or emergency cesarean (c-section) deliveries
  • Coach mothers on breastfeeding and newborn care

In addition to these skills, it’s important for L&D nurses to have traits such as compassion, patience and empathy in order to best support their patients. L&D nurses must also have the ability to stay calm and think critically, so they can effectively communicate information to the doctors and team.

Labor and delivery nurse vs. midwife

Labor and delivery nurses and midwives share similar credentials and duties: both are RNs and both care for expectant mothers during pregnancy and up through childbirth and beyond. However, midwives have additional education requirements, including:

Where do labor and delivery nurses work?

While labor and delivery nurses typically work in the delivery room or maternity ward in hospitals, they may also work in birthing centers, maternal-fetal medicine clinics, physician offices or teaching hospitals. In a hospital or clinic, L&D nurses work first, second and third shifts, while nurses who work in a physician’s office may work more regular 9-to-5 hours.

2. Earn a nursing degree

To become a labor and delivery nurse, you must first earn a nursing degree and become a licensed Registered Nurse (RN). Herzing University offers a variety of nursing degree options, including:

  • Associate Degree in Nursing (ASN): An ASN degree prepares students for entry-level nursing opportunities. It can be completed in less than two years.
  • Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN): A traditional BSN program generally takes three years, but you may be able to complete it sooner if you have transfer credits. Herzing offers both an online BSN degree program and in-person options.
  • Accelerated BSN: If you have a bachelor’s degree but want to pursue a new career in nursing quickly, an accelerated BSN is a great option.
  • Direct-entry MSN program: This program is designed for students who have earned a non-nursing bachelor’s degree and want to immediately begin pursuing a master’s degree in nursing.
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3. Become a Registered Nurse (RN)

After earning your nursing degree, the next step is to take the National Council Licensure Exam for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN) exam.

This exam tests graduates on the nursing education and training they gained in school. Once you graduate from an undergraduate nursing program, pass the NCLEX-RN, and meet the licensing requirements in the state where you live, you will become a licensed RN.

4. Earn experience and get certified

After you have become a licensed RN, it’s important to gain experience working as a labor and delivery nurse. As you begin your nursing career, you may act as an assistant to more senior nurses and receive on-the-job training in specific L&D areas, such as high-risk pregnancies. Additionally, you may also work with certified nursing assistants (CNA) and help guide them in their daily tasks.

After you have earned two years of experience working, you can continue to grow your career with a specialized certification, such as the RNC-OB.

The Inpatient Obstetric Nursing (RNC-OB) certification is popular for L&D nurses. It was designed for obstetrical registered nurses who care for women during pregnancy, as well as postpartum and newborn periods. L&D nurses who have an RNC-OB certification have demonstrated advanced knowledge of fetal assessment, pregnancy complications, labor and delivery, recovery, postpartum and newborn care.

To earn the RNC-OB certification, you will need two years’ experience working in obstetric, gynecologic, or neonatal nursing and successfully pass the RNC-OB exam.

5. Consider advancement

A certification can help establish you as a highly qualified labor and delivery nurse, but you can continue to advance your education and discover new career possibilities with an advanced nursing degree.

Herzing has a variety of pathways that fit your needs and schedule, including:

  • RN to BSN degree: Designed for RNs with an associate degree who would like to earn their BSN. Our online program can be completed in as little as 12 months.
  • MSN degree: Expand your nursing knowledge and prepare for leadership positions with an online Master of Science in Nursing degree. You have many options for concentration, including both family and pediatric nurse practitioner.
  • Post-Master’s Certificate (PMC): A post-master’s certificate in nursing can help you advance in your current organization or transition to another nursing specialty.

Prepare for a career in L&D nursing

As a labor and delivery nurse, you can help ensure babies have the best start in life and support mothers on their new journey.

While L&D nursing can be an emotionally challenging job, it is also an incredibly rewarding career that touches many lives across families and generations. Your path to the nursing career of your choosing begins with your education.

Learn more about the Herzing University School of Nursing

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* Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook 2021. BLS estimates do not represent entry-level wages and/or salaries. Multiple factors, including prior experience, age, geography market in which you want to work and degree field, will affect career outcomes and earnings. Herzing neither represents that its graduates will earn the average salaries calculated by BLS for a particular job nor guarantees that graduation from its program will result in a job, promotion, salary increase or other career growth.

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