Prenatal Nurse Careers: Salary Info & Job Description

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What are the pros and cons of a prenatal nursing career? Get real job descriptions, career prospects and salary info to see if becoming a prenatal nurse is right for you.
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Pros and Cons of Becoming a Prenatal Nurse

Prenatal nursing gives you the opportunity to help women with prenatal care and the delivery of newborns. To get the facts on the pros and cons of this career, check out the tables below.

Pros of Working as a Prenatal Nurse
Good job growth expected (about 19% for registered nurses between 2012 and 2022)*
High median wages for some positions (nurse-midwives earned a median salary of around $97,000 as of 2014)*
Several work settings available (physician's offices, hospitals and birthing centers)***
Rewarding career (helping families bring new life into the world)*

Cons of Working as a Prenatal Nurse
RNs must earn state licensure, and some states require additional certification or licensure for nurse-midwives*
Could require long hours (nights, weekends and overnight)*
May have to work on call to be there when patients go into labor*
Work injuries possible*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, ***American College of Nurse-Midwives.

Essential Career Info

Job Description and Duties

Prenatal nurses provide nursing support before, during and after pregnancy. Both midwives and perinatal nurses are responsible for the physical and psychosocial needs of mothers and newborns. Perinatal nurses may monitor mothers before childbirth, provide comfort measures during childbirth and care for newborns after delivery. Nurse-midwives conduct prenatal assessments, develop individualized maternity plans, establish emergency plans, assist patients with childbirth and order diagnostic tests.

Salary Information and Career Outlook

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that registered nurses, including perinatal nurses, earned a median annual wage of approximately $67,000 as of May 2014. Prenatal nurses can find careers in a variety of settings, including private offices, health departments, homes, birth centers and hospitals.

The BLS reported expected employment growth of 19% between 2012 and 2022 for all registered nurses, which was faster than the average for all occupations. Job prospects should also be excellent, since hospitals often have a hard time retaining qualified nurses.

Requirements

Perinatal Nurses

Perinatal nurses are typically RNs with experience in labor and delivery. You can become an RN with either a bachelor's or associate's degree in nursing. Bachelor's degree programs typically take four years to finish, while associate's degree programs take about two years. To work as a registered nurse, you must have a license. Requirements vary by state, but most mandate graduation from an approved nursing degree program and passage of the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN).

Nurse-Midwives

In addition to becoming an RN, nurse-midwives typically have to complete a graduate nurse midwifery program to qualify for state licensure or certification. Master's degree programs in nurse midwifery are available to RNs and bachelor's holders. Through courses and clinical experiences, you'll explore genetics, embryology, advanced pharmacology, cultural competence and human lactation.

If you choose a midwifery program, you may want to look for one that's accredited through the Accreditation Commission for Midwifery Education in order to qualify for national certification, which may be required for state licensure or certification. National certification is gained by passing a computer-based test offered through the American Midwifery Certification Board, Inc.

Skills

In addition to having a background in science and biology, nurses must be compassionate and patient. Because nurses often work in teams and consult with physicians, good communication skills could contribute to your success. Other skills that may be well regarded by employers include:

  • Emotional stability
  • Organization
  • Critical thinking
  • Coordination

Job Postings

In addition to licensure and/or certification, most employers look for prenatal nurses with experience in labor and delivery. They may also expect you to be up-to-date with current medical technologies, nursing theory and midwifery practices. Take a look at the following job postings to get a feel for what real employers were looking for in May 2012:

  • A midwife with experience in high-risk pregnancies was sought at a private healthcare facility in Arizona. Applicants needed to be certified nurse-midwives with 5-10 years of experience to get this job.
  • A medical center in Maryland needed a midwife who could independently manage pregnancies. The employer requested a BSN holder who had graduated from a midwifery-training program, as well as state licensure in both nursing and midwifery. Applicants with at least one year of experience as a certified nurse-midwife were preferred.
  • A Texas hospital sought an RN with experience in labor and delivery. The perinatal nurse needed to hold a Texas RN license and CPR certification, as well as have knowledge of prenatal, delivery and nursery care.
  • A medical center in Pennsylvania was seeking an RN to work in the labor and delivery ward. The prospective candidate needed a PA RN license, at least an associate's degree in nursing and one year of labor and delivery experience.

How to Beat the Competition

If you want to advance your career, you might consider gaining advanced experience and education. Most employers require nurse-midwives and perinatal nurses to hold experience in the field prior to employment in labor and delivery careers. Additionally, perinatal nurses could choose to pursue a master's degree in nursing. MSN programs provide advanced practice experience in the field and may combine midwifery with a nurse practitioner field. These programs take about 2-3 years to complete and can qualify you for senior-level or supervisory nursing positions.

Nurse-midwives might consider joining a professional organization, such as the American College of Nurse-Midwives (ACNM). The ACNM offers job resources, annual events, continuing education programs and a resource library, which allows you to network with other nurse-midwives or clients.

Alternative Careers

Paramedic

If you want to work in the healthcare industry but not in a hospital or clinic, consider a job as a paramedic. Paramedics respond to emergency calls, offering on-site treatment and transportation to hospitals. To work in the field, you'll typically need an associate's degree and licensure, which often requires 1,300 hours of training. While the job outlook for the field is promising at 33% from 2010-2020, the wages are rather low. Paramedics made an average of around $34,000 as of 2011, stated the BLS.

Physician Assistant

Physician assistants (PA) work under the supervision of doctors and surgeons. Professionals in this field can provide basic medical treatment and diagnose illnesses. While job prospects are faster than average (30% from 2010-2020), you'll need a master's degree and licensure through your state to work in this position. However, the wages may be worth the education, with the BLS reporting an average salary of about $89,000 for physician assistants as of 2011.

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