The Ultimate Guide to Becoming a Labor and Delivery Nurse: Everything You Need to Know - The Résumé Rx (2024)

If you’ve ever felt the calling to be a part of the beautiful, heartwarming symphony of childbirth, becoming a labor and delivery nurse might be your dream career path. This is a profession that beckons those with a strong heart, the resilience of a warrior, and the compassionate touch of a healer.

With this guide, we’ll walk you through all the steps you need to take and the skills you need to master and join over 100,000 nurses working in obstetrics and gynecology. But before we dive into the nitty-gritty, let’s get crystal clear on what a labor and delivery nurse does.

Table of Contents

  • What Does a Labor and Delivery Nurse Do
  • Career Path to Become a Labor and Delivery Nurse
  • Labor and Delivery Nurse Salary Info
  • Essential Skills and Qualities for a Labor and Delivery Nurse
  • Continuing Education for Labor and Delivery Nurses
  • Labor and Delivery Nurse vs Certified Nurse Midwife – What’s the Difference?
  • Challenges and Rewards of Being a Labor and Delivery Nurse
  • How to Excel as a Labor and Delivery Nurse

What Does a Labor and Delivery Nurse Do

In the simplest terms, they are the superheroes of childbirth. They guide, support, and care for women during one of the most transformative moments of their lives: bringing a new life into the world.

But what does that entail on a day-to-day basis?

  1. Antepartum Care: Long before the baby arrives, a labor and delivery nurse supports expectant mothers with prenatal care. This could involve monitoring the mother’s and baby’s health, providing education on pregnancy, and preparing for labor.
  2. Labor and Birth Support: During the intense hours of labor, these nurses are right there. They monitor contractions, administer pain management methods, and offer emotional support. When it’s time for delivery, they assist the doctor with the birth process.
  3. Postpartum Care: After delivery, the work of a labor and delivery nurse doesn’t stop. They care for the new mother, monitor her recovery, provide breastfeeding support, and educate her on newborn care.

Being a labor and delivery nurse is about more than just physical care. These nurses also handle emergency situations, work with diverse patient populations, and collaborate with a team of healthcare professionals. They’re a vital part of the childbirth process, offering invaluable support to mothers, babies, and families, making an often scary and intense process feel safe and manageable

Career Path to Become a Labor and Delivery Nurse

To get started on this fulfilling journey, you’ll first need to get the right education and training. The path may seem long, but every step is crucial in preparing you to provide the best care for mothers and babies.

1. Obtain a Degree in Nursing

First things first, you need a nursing degree. This can either be an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) or a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN). The latter is preferred by many employers and can open more doors for career advancement.

2. Get Licensed

Next, you have to pass the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN). The NCLEX-RN is a nationally recognized exam that ensures you have the skills and knowledge to perform as a safe and effective entry-level nurse.

3. Gain Experience

After licensure, it’s time to get your toes wet. Most labor and delivery units prefer nurses with at least one to two years of experience in a general nursing setting. This can give you a solid foundation in basic nursing skills before you specialize.

4. Specialty Certification

The National Certification Corporation (NCC) offers respected certification that can enhance your job prospects as a labor and delivery nurse. But don’t stop there! Aim for the Inpatient Obstetric Nursing (RNC-OB) certification, the pinnacle achievement for labor and delivery nurses.

Don’t worry if the road seems demanding! Remember, every step you take is shaping you into an incredible labor and delivery nurse. So, buckle up and enjoy the journey

Labor and Delivery Nurse Salary Info

Entry-Level Salary

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, an entry-level labor and delivery nurse’s median annual salary is around $52,000.

Mid-Level Salary

Once you’ve got some experience under your belt, you start to climb up the pay ladder. Mid-career labor and delivery nurses typically earn around $70,000 annually.

Experienced Salary

For the seasoned pros, the rewards are even greater. Experienced labor and delivery nurses can look forward to a median annual salary of about $89,000 or more.

However, keep in mind that these figures can fluctuate depending on:

On the whole, the financial aspect of a career in labor and delivery nursing is definitely attractive. You’re making a sizable income while also making a significant difference in the lives of mothers and babies.

Essential Skills and Qualities for a Labor and Delivery Nurse

Donning the mantle of a labor and delivery nurse isn’t for the faint-hearted. It demands a unique blend of skills and qualities. Let’s delve into what these are:

  • Communication Skills: Smooth, clear communication can be a game-changer in a labor and delivery ward. Nurses must effectively communicate with expectant mothers, anxious family members, and a team of healthcare professionals.
  • Empathy: A labor and delivery nurse often serves as an emotional anchor for expectant mothers. Hence, the ability to empathize and understand the patient’s emotional journey is crucial.
  • Decision-making Ability: Quick, accurate decision-making can be a lifesaver in a labor and delivery setting. Nurses need to think on their feet and make critical decisions under high-pressure situations.
  • Physical Stamina: The job requires long hours on your feet, sometimes with little to no breaks. A high level of physical stamina is necessary to endure this.

But that’s not all! There are certain ‘intangible’ qualities that can make a great labor and delivery nurse:

  • Patience: Labor can be a long, drawn-out process. A nurse’s patience can help keep the environment calm and conducive for the mother.
  • Positivity: A bright, positive attitude can lift the spirits in the delivery room, making the birthing process less daunting for the mother.
  • Courage: Childbirth can be unpredictable, sometimes turning into emergency situations. A courageous nurse can face these challenges head-on, providing the necessary care.

Developing these skills and qualities can place you on a fast track to becoming a successful labor and delivery nurse. Remember, this journey is as rewarding as it is challenging!

Continuing Education for Labor and Delivery Nurses

Labor and Delivery nurses are required to participate in classes and activities that augment the primary education they’ve received. Many hospitals offer rotation programs that allow you to experience different specialties, including labor and delivery. You may also consider obtaining certifications, like Inpatient Obstetric Nursing (RNC-OB) or Electronic Fetal Monitoring (C-EFM) to further boost your credentials.

Depending on where you are, the specifics might change a bit. However, in most places, you’ll need to earn 20 continuing education units (CEUS).

A single CEU is equivalent to 10 contact hours – each of which lasts 50 to 60 minutes of approved clinical or didactic activity. Beyond being a licensing requirement, CEUs broaden your medical knowledge, boost your salary and open up more job opportunities.

Labor and Delivery Nurse vs Certified Nurse Midwife – What’s the Difference?

When it comes to childbirth, it’s all hands on deck! Labor and delivery nurses and certified nurse midwives are two vital roles in this process. But, what’s the distinction between them?

Labor and Delivery Nurse

  • A labor and delivery nurse specializes in assisting the doctor during childbirth. They monitor the mother’s progress, administer medications, provide comfort, and educate parents about newborn care.
  • They are Registered Nurses who have completed a Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing.
  • Completing CEUs (Continuing Education Units) is crucial for maintaining licensure and staying up-to-date with the latest medical practices.

Certified Nurse Midwife

  • A certified nurse midwife, on the other hand, takes on a more encompassing role. They provide gynecological exams, prenatal care, labor and delivery support, and even primary care to women.
  • This role requires a Master’s Degree in Nursing and certification from the American Midwifery Certification Board.
  • They also participate in CEUs, but these are more focused on women’s health, pregnancy, and childbirth.

Labor and Delivery Nurse

Certified Nurse Midwife


Assist doctor during childbirth

Provide comprehensive care to women


Bachelor's Degree in Nursing

Master's Degree in Nursing


General medical practices

Women's health, pregnancy, and childbirth

Challenges and Rewards of Being a Labor and Delivery NurseLife as a labor and delivery nurse is a vivid tapestry of challenges and rewards. It’s a roller-coaster ride of emotions, where each day brings a new story. But what does it really mean to tread this path?The ChallengesFirst up, let’s talk about the challenges. These are hurdles that will test your mettle, resilience, and compassion.

  • Emotional Intensity: You’ll face high emotional stakes daily. Joy, anxiety, fear, and relief – all these emotions intersect in the labor room, not just for the parents but for the nurses too.
  • Physical Demands: Long hours on your feet, coupled with irregular shifts, can be grueling. It’s not easy, but it’s part of the job.
  • High Pressure: Labor and delivery is a critical area of nursing. There’s little room for error, so the pressure can get intense.

The RewardsNow let’s flip the coin to the rewarding side – the reasons that make all the hard work worth it.

  • Witnessing Miracles: There’s nothing quite like being part of the extraordinary moment when a new life enters the world. It’s simply magical.
  • Helping Families: You’re not just delivering babies. You’re helping families grow, playing a crucial role at a transformative time in their lives.
  • Endless Learning: Every birth is unique, and so is every day on the job. You’ll constantly learn and grow, both professionally and personally.

In this journey of highs and lows, remember that the strength of a labor and delivery nurse lies not in avoiding the storm, but in dancing in the rain.How to Excel as a Labor and Delivery NurseSo, you’ve made it to the end of our guide, but you’re just at the beginning of your journey to excel as a labor and delivery nurse. Let’s recap on the key points to keep front and center as you embark on this rewarding career path.

  • Education: Start with a solid foundation. Earn your BSN, pass the NCLEX-RN, and consider advanced degrees to enhance your knowledge and skill set.
  • Experience: Get your foot in the door. Gain experience in maternal-child health or intensive care units. Remember, every day is a learning opportunity.
  • Certification: Set yourself apart. Become certified in Inpatient Obstetric Nursing or as a Certified Nurse Midwife. It’s your ticket to career advancement.

Being a great labor and delivery nurse goes beyond the technical aspects. It’s about the ‘soft skills’ too. You’re there during one of the most significant moments in a family’s life. Your empathy, patience, and communication skills can make all the difference.“The best labor and delivery nurses are not only medically proficient but also a comforting presence. They can switch between the roles of a medical professional, a cheerleader, and a hand holder. Their job isn’t only about delivering babies—it’s about delivering an experience.”Remember, this is a demanding job with long hours and high-stress situations. But it’s also deeply fulfilling. You get to be part of the miracle of birth, every single day. So, take a deep breath, put on your scrubs, and step into the incredible world of labor and delivery nursing.Carve your path, make your mark, and here’s to you—future labor and delivery nurse!

Labor Delivery Nurse Certified Nurse Midwife
Role Assist doctor during childbirth Provide comprehensive care to women
The Ultimate Guide to Becoming a Labor and Delivery Nurse: Everything You Need to Know - The Résumé Rx (2024)


What skills do you need to become a labor and delivery nurse? ›

L&D nursing requires empathy, critical thinking, decision-making, and communication skills. Most L&D registered nurses have some general medical-surgical nursing background. L&D nurses must be able to communicate well with patients, families, and other health care providers.

How hard is labor and delivery nursing? ›

Working as a labor and delivery nurse certainly has its challenges—from being in a fast pace work environment where you need to constantly monitor patients and help make quick decisions to dealing with a tragic loss. It can be challenging, hard, and stressful.

What is important about a labor and delivery nurse? ›

L&D nurses have many important responsibilities, including:

Monitoring the vital signs of the mother and the heart rate of the baby. Assessing potentially dangerous complications of medications commonly given during labor and delivery.

How many days a week do L&D nurses work? ›

Three 12-hour shifts per week are common, allowing labor and delivery nurses to have sufficient time off during the week or to pick up overtime hours. Labor and delivery nurses are needed at all hours, so some shifts may span overnight and early morning hours while others will be during the day.

What are the two main roles of a labor and delivery nurse? ›

A labor and delivery (L&D) nurse supports patients during and after birth under the supervision of a nurse midwife or physician. They also care for infants immediately after delivery.

How can I be a good L&D nurse? ›

Five Must-have Labor and Delivery Nursing Skills
  1. Empathy. Labor and delivery is a special time for mom's and families, fraught with fears, emotions and amazement. ...
  2. Calmness. But RNs can't let themselves get too swept up in the emotions of others. ...
  3. Relationship-building. ...
  4. Sense of humor. ...
  5. Cultural competency.

Is labor and delivery RN stressful? ›

Working in a labor and delivery unit can be rewarding, but also stressful. You have to deal with the emotional and physical demands of helping women and their families through the process of childbirth, as well as the potential complications and risks that may arise.

How many patients does a L&D nurse have? ›

The recommended nurse-patient ratio in labor and delivery units is 1:1 or 1:2, meaning one nurse per one or two patients. This close attention is crucial during the vulnerable time of labor and delivery to monitor the patient and fetus, provide supportive care, and act quickly in case of complications.

Is it worth being a labor and delivery nurse? ›

Labor and delivery nurses can earn between $73,860 to $93,070, which is the average for registered nurses working in various settings, making it a lucrative career. In addition, full-time labor and delivery nurses can have additional benefits such as vacation pay, health insurance, and retirement funds.

What is the difference between a maternity nurse and a labor and delivery nurse? ›

For example, they may work in an obstetrician's office, offering maternity care to mothers-to-be. Labor and delivery nurses, however, focus specifically on labor, birthing, and the immediate postpartum process. In addition, they're involved in active and post-labor recovery stages, infant nursing, and neonatal care.

How to answer why I want to be a labor and delivery nurse? ›

If you're passionate about caring for women who are laboring, lifting their spirits with words of encouragement, or helping to ease their pain with your suggestions, tell your interviewer. Share your story of why this floor is a good fit for you.

Do labor and delivery nurses do C sections? ›

Labor and delivery nurses have specialized clinical duties such as monitoring fetal heart tones, identifying risks for pregnant individuals and newborns, and assessing the progress of labor. They also might assist in the operating room during cesarean sections, administer medications, and provide emotional support.

Where do L&D nurses make the most money? ›

Highest paying cities for Labor and Delivery Nurses near California
  • Panorama City, CA. $4,006 per week. 39 salaries reported.
  • Sacramento, CA. $3,390 per week. 54 salaries reported.
  • Bakersfield, CA. $3,137 per week. 336 salaries reported.
  • Modesto, CA. $2,910 per week. ...
  • Torrance, CA. $2,759 per week. ...
  • Show more nearby cities.

How long are L&D nurse shifts? ›

Most L&D nurses work 12-hour shifts, which can be physically and emotionally demanding but also allows nurses four days off each week.

Do labor and delivery nurses start IVs? ›

Roles and responsibilities for labor and delivery nurses include: Administering IVs, medications, and epidurals.

What is a labor and delivery doctor called? ›

An obstetrician provides care during pregnancy and delivers babies. A gynecologist doesn't treat people who are pregnant or deliver babies, but specializes in the female reproductive system. It's common for healthcare providers to combine these two areas of medicine. This is called obstetrics and gynecology or Ob/Gyn.

What is a NICU nurse? ›

Neonatal nurses care for infants with various medical and surgical conditions. They usually work in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) within a hospital, but can work in other healthcare settings as well. These nurses provide daily care for infants, such as feeding, bathing, and changing diapers.

What is maternity nursing? ›

What is a maternity nurse? A maternity nurse provides specialized medical care to a pregnant person and their newborn during pregnancy, delivery, and postpartum.

What are the stages of labor? ›

The first stage starts when labor begins and ends with full cervical dilation and effacement. The second stage commences with complete cervical dilation and ends with the delivery of the fetus. The third stage initiates after the fetus is delivered and ends when the placenta is delivered.


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