How to Become a Labor and Delivery Nurse

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Written by Kathleen Walder Content Writer, IntelyCare
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Reviewed by Alexa Davidson, MSN, RN Content Writer, IntelyCare
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When you think about how to become a labor and delivery nurse (also known as an L&D nurse), you may picture yourself assisting the birthing process. But birth is only part of the job. In this role, you also play a critical role before and after delivery.

Let’s look at labor and delivery nurse schooling, requirements, job duties, and what salary you might make.

What Is a Labor and Delivery Nurse and What Do Labor and Delivery Nurses Do?

A labor and delivery nurse is a registered nurse (RN) who has gained relevant experience, special education, and credentials in labor and delivery. They work in hospital maternity wards, birthing centers, delivery rooms, and physicians’ or nurse midwives’ offices.

L&D nurses wear many hats including that of a guide, coach, and patient advocate dedicated to the parent(s) and their child. They’re also a vital source of information and assistance to the entire birth team, including the physician or midwife delivering the baby.

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

Here are some labor and delivery nurse responsibilities before, during, 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 post-birth care such as checking for signs of infection, assessing healing of any incisions (such as from a cesarean section or episiotomy), and addressing any postpartum bleeding or pain.
  • 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.

For more insight into the responsibilities of this role, have a look at our labor and delivery nurse resume sample.

Steps to Become a L&D Nurse

Let’s dive into the heart of how to become a labor and delivery nurse. These are the basic steps:

1. Earn a Nursing Degree

Your labor and delivery nurse education starts with completing an accredited nursing program, whether that’s an associate degree in nursing (ADN) at a two-year school or a bachelor’s of science in nursing (BSN) program at a four-year college or university. Nursing school provides a comprehensive education that will equip you with the knowledge and skills necessary for a career in nursing, such as medication administration, head-to-toe assessment, and cultural competence.

2. Pass the NCLEX

Pass 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. If you didn’t pass the NCLEX on your first try, that’s okay; you have the opportunity to take it again.

3. Obtain Licensure

To become a licensed RN, you need to submit all required documentation to your state’s board of nursing. To stay licensed, make sure you’re following your state’s rules for renewing it.

4. Gain Experience

Gain nursing experience in specialties that provide a solid foundation in all basic nursing skills, such as medical-surgical, critical care, or OBG-YN nursing. Although L & L&D nursing is a very distinct specialty that requires very specific skills, this background forms a solid base for moving into the specialty.

While the above steps explain your path to becoming an RN, you’re probably still wondering exactly how to become a labor and delivery nurse.

5. Consider Labor and Delivery Nurse Certification

Besides holding Basic Life Support (BLS) and Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS) certifications, L&D nurses may be required to go through S.T.A.B.L.E. or Neonatal Resuscitation Program (NRP).

If you want to become a top-notch candidate on the job market, you can choose to boost your credibility by getting certified. Here are the certifications available to labor and delivery nurses:

5. Advance Further With Continuing Education

As an optional step, you can advance your practice by attending conferences, joining the Association of Women, Health Obstetric and Neonatal Nurses professional organization, and taking continuing education courses.

6. Pursue an Advanced Degree

Now that you know how to become a labor and delivery nurse, it’s time to explore how you can take it even further. You can pursue advanced education, like a master’s of science in nursing (MSN) or a doctor of nursing practice (DNP) degree to become a nurse midwife. Though not essential for starting out in this field, taking this step can push your career forward.

How Much Do Labor and Delivery Nurses Make?

The annual median labor and delivery nurse salary is $80,700 and ranges from $73,400 to $91,300. Keep in mind that salaries vary by location, years of experience, and other factors.

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

To find out what you might earn in your location, check out the latest labor and delivery nurse jobs on IntelyCare.

How to Become a Labor and Delivery Nurse: FAQ

How many years does it take to become a labor and delivery nurse?

Becoming a labor and delivery nurse usually takes about 4 years, including completing a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) program and passing the NCLEX-RN exam for licensure. Some nurses opt for further certifications or specializations in this field, which can extend the timeline. Many certifications require 24 months of specialty experience to be eligible to apply.

What are some good skills to develop as a labor and delivery nurse?

Key skills for labor and delivery nurses include communication, critical thinking, maternal and fetal assessment, familiarity with EHR systems, remaining calm under pressure, compassion, and teamwork.

What’s the difference between a labor and delivery nurse vs a mother-baby nurse?

A labor and delivery nurse primarily focuses on assisting women during childbirth, providing care during labor, delivery, and immediate postpartum period. On the other hand, a mother-baby nurse specializes in postpartum care, providing support to new mothers and their newborns after delivery, including breastfeeding assistance, newborn care, and maternal recovery support.

What’s the difference between a labor and delivery nurse vs a nurse midwife?

A labor and delivery nurse is an RN usually working under a doctor or midwife’s supervision. A nurse midwife is an advanced practice nurse who can independently provide prenatal, childbirth, and postpartum care.

Special Delivery: A New Job

Learning how to become a labor and delivery nurse is just one way to partake in a rewarding healthcare career. Are you ready to take control of your professional development? Find out how IntelyCare can hook you up with specialty nursing jobs in a variety of areas.