How to Become a Labor and Delivery Nurse

Image of content creator smiling for camera
Written by Kathleen Walder Content Writer, IntelyCare
Image of content creator smiling at the camera
Reviewed by Alexa Davidson, MSN, RN Content Writer, IntelyCare
Female nurse in glasses holding newborn with recovering mother in background.

When you think about how to become a labor and delivery nurse (L and D nurse), you may picture yourself assisting the birthing process. But birth is only part of the job. Let’s look at labor and delivery nurse schooling, requirements, and what salary you might make.

What Is a Labor and Delivery Nurse?

A labor and delivery nurse is a registered nurse (RN) who has gained relevant experience, special education, and credentials in labor and delivery. That’s the official definition. In reality, when you’re an L and D nurse, you’ll wear many additional hats. You’re a guide, coach, advocate, and professional dedicated to parents and their child. You’re also a vital source of information and assistance to the entire birth team, including the physician delivering the baby.

What Do Labor and Delivery Nurses Do?

As a labor and delivery nurse, you’ll begin working with expectant mothers and their partners or support persons. Along with supporting the mother and assisting the doctor during birth, you’ll also provide pre- and postpartum care. Here are some labor and delivery nurse responsibilities before and after birth.

Before Birth

  • Teach classes on childbirth preparation.
  • Lead tours of the maternity floor, so mothers know what to expect.
  • Organize pregnancy exercise or yoga classes.
  • Place IVs and urinary catheters.
  • Assist with epidural placement.
  • Measure cervical dilation.

During Birth

  • Greet the mother, accompany her to the triage room, and verify that she is in labor.
  • Check on her to determine when it’s time to go to the labor room.
  • Monitor the mother’s progress and update the doctor.
  • Support, coach, and encourage the mother during birth.
  • Monitor the mother’s vital signs.
  • Monitor fetal heart rate and contractions.
  • Administer medications as needed.
  • Keep the birth team updated and assist the doctor.
  • Prep mom for emergency C-section if needed.

After Birth:

  • Provide postpartum care.
  • Monitor the mother until her transfer to the postpartum unit.
  • Facilitate breastfeeding and arrange lactation consultation if needed.
  • Demonstrate and teach how to care for the infant.

How Many Years Does It Take to Become a Labor and Delivery Nurse?

It takes three to six years to become a labor and delivery nurse if you are just starting your nursing journey, depending on which route you take. Keep in mind that before you learn how to become a labor and delivery nurse, most of your work will be spent getting your nursing degree and becoming an RN.

This is a common career path:

  1. Two to four years: You’ll spend this time studying to become a nurse, depending on whether you earn an associate degree in nursing (ADN) at a two-year school or a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) at a four-year college or university.
  2. 45 days to 1 year: After graduation, you must take the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) to become an RN. Once the council accepts you for testing, you can take the test as soon as 45 days from your graduation date or wait as long as 365 days from receiving approval.
  3. One year: You’ll then take a deep dive to learn how to become a labor and delivery nurse, starting with up to a year in rotation as an RN in the various obstetrics departments of a hospital. Concurrently you can take the required classes in neonatal resuscitation and fetal monitoring.

After those three steps, you can work as a labor and delivery nurse. You can continue to develop your career and earn additional specialty labor and delivery certifications from the National Certification Corporation. Sub-specialties include:

These specialty certifications are not necessary to be a labor and delivery nurse but may increase your career opportunities.

What Is Labor and Delivery Nurse Education Like?

Most actual labor and delivery training is literally hands-on while you are doing your rotation. During these times, you will rotate through the entire perinatal departments, getting an idea of the workflow in:

  • Triage
  • Labor and delivery
  • The operating room (OR)
  • Post anesthesia care unit (PACU)
  • Postpartum
  • Newborn nursery

Next, you’ll complete 2,000 hours of practical experience to develop labor and delivery nurse skills. Your practicum can be in a hospital, a birthing center, or an obstetrician’s office. Once you’ve completed this step, you can take the RNC-OB exam. After passing, you can begin working as a labor and delivery nurse.

Most hospitals require these certifications for L&D nurses:

  • Basic Life Support (BLS)
  • Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS)
  • S.T.A.B.L.E.

Some hospitals require Neonatal Resuscitation (NRP) for nurses present at birth. Additional coursework includes education about:

  • Perinatal loss
  • Infant abduction
  • Support of the woman in labor
  • High-risk deliveries

How Much Do Labor and Delivery Nurses Make?

The annual median labor and delivery nurse salary is $78,410. Keep in mind that salaries vary by location, years of experience, and other factors.

The states with the highest salaries for L and D nurses are:

  1. California
  2. Massachusetts
  3. Hawaii
  4. Oregon
  5. Alaska
  6. Washington
  7. New York
  8. Nevada
  9. New Jersey
  10. Connecticut

IntelyCare Can Make Sure Your Labor Fits Your Schedule

Learning how to become a labor and delivery nurse is just one way to partake in a rewarding healthcare career. With IntelyCare, you can choose when and where you want to work. Are you ready to take control of your nursing work schedule? Start your application today.