Labor & Delivery Nurse Careers: Salary Info & Job Description

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What are the pros and cons of a labor and delivery nurse career? Get the real job description, career outlook and salary info to see if moving forward in this career path is right for you.
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Labor and Delivery Nurse Career: Pros and Cons

Labor and delivery nurses are responsible for caring for women and infants throughout the labor process, including before, during and after delivery. Labor and delivery nurses include registered nurses (RNs), licensed vocational nurses (LVNs) and licensed practical nurses (LPNs). Read on to learn about the pros and cons of becoming a labor and delivery nurse.

Pros of a Labor and Delivery Nurse Career
Faster-than-average job growth expected (16% for RNs; 16% for both LPNs and LVNs from 2012-2022)*
RNs earn a higher-than-average salary (mean annual earnings of $69,790 in 2014)**
Nurses can seek entry-level employment having only completed a certificate program*
Multiple educational options exist to become a nurse*

Cons of a Labor and Delivery Nurse Career
LVNs/LPNs earn a lower-than-average salary (mean annual earnings of $43,420 in 2014)**
LVNs/LPNs may be limited in the amount of care they can provide*
Could work nights, weekends and holidays*
Increased risk of injury and illness as nurses lift patients and are exposed to contagious diseases*
Spend majority of working day on their feet*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Career Info

Job Description and Duties

As a labor and delivery nurse, you will be responsible for monitoring both mother and infant to ensure that there aren't any signs of complications or distress. You may also work to ensure that the needs of the infant and the mother's family are met.

RNs, LVNs and LPNs work with doctors and other members of the healthcare team. LVNs and LPNs generally work under both doctors and RNs to provide basic medical care, such as monitoring vital signs. Depending on the state, LVNs or LPNs could have more direct patient care responsibilities than those in other states, such as starting IVs or administering medication orally. RNs are responsible for coordinating and providing care to patients, including administering medicine, operating medical equipment and assisting in testing.

Career Outlook and Salary Info

The faster-than-average job growth for RNs could be a result of advancements in medical technology and increased importance on preventative care, according to the BLS. In addition, the job growth for LVNs and LPNs may be attributed to an aging population and the need for care in residential facilities.

PayScale.com reported in December 2015 that the median annual salary for a labor and delivery nurse is $51,801.

Career Skills and Requirements

Education and Skills

The minimum education required to become an LVN or LPN is the completion of a certificate program in nursing. Completion time for an LVN or LPN certificate program varies; some programs could be completed in as little as one year if enrolled full-time, while others may take two years to complete.

The minimum education required to become an RN is the completion of an associate degree program in nursing. However, if you've already earned credentials as a LVN or LPN and are interested in becoming a RN, there are diploma and associate degree completion programs that can help you meet the education requirements to become an RN. Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) programs are available as well. In addition to education, you should be able to demonstrate empathy towards women in labor, be quick on your feet and be able to use critical thinking and decision-making skills, because emergency situations could arise without a moment's notice.

Licensing Requirements

In order to practice as a nurse in the medical field, you must be licensed. The National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN) administers the National Council Licensure Exam (NCLEX) for RNs, known as the NCLEX-RN and for LVNs or LPNs, known as the NCLEX-PN. Additional requirements may vary by state.

Job Postings from Real Employers

Although employers are typically looking for RNs to work in labor and delivery, there are positions available in labor and delivery as an LPN or LVN as well. Typically, employers are looking for licensed nursing professionals and may prefer some experience in the field. Below are a few job postings advertising for an RN or LPN in labor and delivery in May 2012:

  • A hospital in Florida advertised for a labor and delivery RN to work under a physician's direction who will care for the patients' needs in a variety of ways. Job tasks include monitoring a baby's vital signs and assisting with pain management.
  • A Catholic hospital in New York is looking for an RN to work in labor and delivery who has at least one year of applicable experience, such as in critical care or medical surgery.
  • A nonprofit hospital in Missouri is looking for an LPN to work under the supervision of a RN in labor and delivery. Experience is not required but the LPN should be IV certified.

How to Stand out in the Field

If you're interested in becoming an RN, you might consider earning a bachelor's degree as opposed to an associate degree so that you may receive more clinical training and study more complex healthcare concepts. RNs are usually required to have a bachelor's degree if they are seeking employment in the administrative field of nursing, according to the BLS.

As an RN, you could earn credentials in inpatient obstetrics nursing (RNC-OB), which is offered through the National Certification Corporation. According to the BLS, certification in an area of specialty could be appealing to potential employers. Requirements to earn this certification include being a licensed RN, having two years of experience in the obstetrics field and having been employed in the obstetrics field sometime within the past two years. You might also consider becoming a member of the Association of Women's Health, Obstetric and Neonatal Nurses (AWHONN). Member benefits include advocacy representation, professional development and access to clinical resources. As an RN you are entitled to full membership and as an LPN you are given an associate membership in the AWHONN.

Other Careers to Consider

Nursing Aide

To become a nursing aide, you must complete a formal education program, such as a certificate program, and also must pass an exam for certification. Much like an LVN or LPN, certified nursing aides (CNAs) help provide basic care for patients, such as taking vitals and recording health concerns. However, a CNA's job duties typically focus on daily care, including feeding, assisting with bathing and helping patients to use the toilet. You also may need to change soiled sheets or empty bed pans.

The BLS reported a median annual wage close to $24,000 for nursing aides, orderlies and attendants in May 2011. In addition, the BLS expects a faster-than-average job growth of 20% from 2010-2020. Being a CNA also comes with an increased risk of injury, as you often lift and move patients. Care is needed around the clock for patients, so CNAs may need to work nights, weekends and holidays.

Emergency Medical Technician

Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs) provide care in emergency situations for people who are injured or sick. To enroll in a formal education program, which is required to become an EMT, you are typically required to have a high school diploma and must hold CPR certification. There may be separate training for those EMTs who wish to drive an ambulance.

The BLS anticipates a 33% job growth from 2010-2020 for EMTs and paramedics, a growth considered to be much faster than the average. The median annual wage for EMTs and paramedics, as reported by the BLS in May 2011, was approximately $31,000. Much like any position in the medical field, being an EMT comes with an increased risk of injury and illness. You could also work overnight shifts or on the weekend.

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Colorado State University Global

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Queens University of Charlotte

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Regent University

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The George Washington University

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Northcentral University

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Saint Mary's University of Minnesota

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Trident University

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