Labor and Delivery Nurse

Each day, more than 10,000 babies are born in the US. Having a baby can be a very exciting time for families. And while giving birth is a completely normal process, it can be very intense and stressful. Labor and delivery nurses play a crucial role in supporting laboring patients through childbirth. 

Labor and delivery nurses typically work in hospitals, although some may work in stand-alone birthing centers. They are often the first person a family comes in contact with and are the primary source of support and care till the babies are safely delivered. Labor and delivery nurses will monitor the fetal heartbeat as well as watch for any complications.

They can administer medications per the physician’s orders, suggest more comfortable labor positions, and communicate patient needs to other medical staff. Also, they will assist the obstetrician or certified nurse-midwife with the delivery of the baby. 

After the baby is born, labor and delivery nurses will perform initial assessments on the newborn and help with any post-birth care for the parent. This can include delivering the placenta, stitches, and additional medications. If appropriate, they may also help with the first breastfeeding. 

To become a labor and delivery nurse, students must complete a nursing program and earn either an associate’s of science in nursing or a bachelor’s of science in nursing. Key skills to excel in this role include staying calm in intense situations, being a strong advocate for the patients, and having infinite patience for the labor and delivery process. State licensure as a registered nurse is required to work in this field, but certification is optional. 

Labor and Delivery Nurse Specializations & Degree Types

To work as a labor and delivery nurse, students need to complete a nursing program. They can earn either an associate’s degree in nursing (ADN) or a bachelor’s of science in nursing (BSN). While both degrees are sufficient to enter this field, employers overwhelmingly prefer a BSN. 

Students enrolled in a nursing program will often have the opportunity to complete elective classes or a clinical rotation in labor and delivery. This will help them get the knowledge and hands-on experience to find entry-level work in this field after graduation and licensure.

Admissions Requirements for Labor and Delivery Nurse Programs

Admission requirements for nursing schools vary based on the number of applicants, the local demand for nurses, and the program’s rigor. Most schools require applicants to have completed extensive prerequisite coursework, a minimum GPA, letters of recommendation, and a compelling statement of purpose. Some schools may require applicants to have prior volunteer or work experience.

Labor and Delivery Nurse Program Accreditation

Nursing programs are accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) and the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN). Accreditation is critical as it assures students, employers, and licensing boards that a program has met a minimum level of quality in faculty, clinicals, curriculum, facilities, and patient outcomes. 

Students should ensure that the program they apply to has the necessary accreditation for licensure in their state.

On-Campus Labor and Delivery Nurse Programs

South College

The four-year bachelor’s of science in nursing at South College can be completed at one of their five campuses across three southern states. Students in this program will acquire all the skills necessary to be nurse generalists, including critical thinking, medical care knowledge, interpersonal skills, and technical competency. There is a strong emphasis on collaboration and teamwork to help students understand how to effectively work in a department for better patient outcomes. 

The liberal arts education that must be completed alongside nursing classes allows students to have an interdisciplinary experience and helps create more well-rounded nurses. The first two years of the program are general education classes and core/prerequisite classes. Upon successfully completing those two years, students embark on an intensive two-year nurse training that includes clinical and laboratory training. 

  • Location: Florida, Tennessee, and Georgia
  • Duration: Four years
  • Accreditation:  Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)
  • Tuition: $6,975 per quarter for up to 20 credits

San Joaquin Delta College

San Joaquin Delta College offers an associate’s degree in nursing for nurses. While this program is not specific to labor and delivery nurses, there is the possibility of completing clinical rotations in labor and delivery to help prepare nurses for this career. Graduates of this program have historically been well prepared to pass the NCLEX-RN exam, with over 91 percent of students passing it on the first try since 2015. 

As with most nursing programs, admission to this degree is highly competitive. Applicants receive a ranking status based on prior education, prerequisite coursework, volunteer and work experience, life circumstances, second language proficiency, and other healthcare licenses or certificates. Ninety percent of the spots for the program are filled by the top-ranked applicants, while the remaining 10 percent are chosen from the rest of the qualified applicants at random. 

  • Location: Stockton, CA 
  • Duration: Two years
  • Accreditation: Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN)
  • Tuition: $324 per credit

University of Miami – School of Nursing and Health Studies

Ambitious students can complete an intensive one-year accelerated bachelor’s of science in nursing at the University of Miami School of Nursing and Health Studies. Housed in the state-of-the-art M. Christine Schwartz Center for Nursing and Health Studies, this program offers students the very learning environment. With over 170 clinical partnerships, students have the opportunity to gain hands-on experience in a variety of healthcare settings, including in labor and delivery. 

Because this is an accelerated program, students are expected to have completed a bachelor’s degree and have extensive prerequisite coursework to have the background necessary to succeed. Required classes include chemistry, anatomy, human physiology, microbiology, nutrition, and statistics. The two start dates each year are in January and May, which allows students some flexibility in when they complete their program. 

  • Location: Miami, FL 
  • Duration: One year
  • Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)
  • Tuition: $42,000 for the entire program

Methodist Health Systems (Residency)

Recently graduated registered nurses, or those with less than one year of work experience, can apply for and complete a labor and delivery nurse residency with the Methodist Health System in Dallas, Texas. 

This one-year program includes classes to prepare nurses to care for this unique population and hands-on experience with patients in the hospital. Nurse residents are typically one year long, and participants may not take any vacation during that time. This is a full-time position, and participants must work at least 36 hours a week for the duration of the residency.

While a bachelor’s of science in nursing is preferred for applicants to these fellowships, outstanding students with associate’s degrees will also be considered. A current unencumbered Texas registered nursing license is required to apply. 

  • Location: Dallas, TX
  • Duration: One year
  • Accreditation:  American Nurses Credentialing Center
  • Tuition: None

UC Health (Fellowship)

UC Health in Aurora, Colorado, offers licensed registered nurses the opportunity to complete a fellowship in women and infant services. In addition to labor and delivery, nurses in this program can also complete their fellowship in the NICU or mom and baby nursing. These programs vary in length from six to 14 weeks. This fellowship is specifically designed for nurses without experience in this field. Upon completion of the program, it is anticipated that nurses will be competent and skilled in labor and delivery. 

In addition to working directly with patients, nurses in this program will take ancillary classes to add to their knowledge and skills. These classes include fetal heart monitoring, pain management, and lactation consultation. Nurses will work with preceptors who will guide them through their program and help ensure they gain the necessary education and skills. 

  • Location: Aurora, CO
  • Duration: Six to 14 weeks
  • Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)
  • Tuition: None

Online or Hybrid Labor and Delivery Nurse Degree and Education Programs

Since most nursing degrees are generalist programs, students may receive limited labor and delivery education. 

Western Governors University

Students in Florida, Indiana, Missouri, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, or Utah can complete the hybrid bachelor’s of science in nursing at Western Governors University. Although the majority of the coursework is offered online, students are required to attend in-person labs and clinicals. To ensure students are prepared for the rigorous coursework, they must complete 10 prerequisite classes. 

The first term of this program is a pre-nursing curriculum that does not include clinical courses and is designed to get students up to speed. The subsequent terms are all clinical nursing curricula. Students can finish this program in as little as three six-month terms, although most students complete the degree in five. Since this is a competency-based program, students must demonstrate they understand the material and can complete the degree at their own pace rather than being beholden to a schedule.   

  • Location: Florida, Indiana, Missouri, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, or Utah
  • Duration: Two-and-a-half years
  • Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)
  • Tuition: $5,930 per credit 

Colorado Technical University

Registered nurses who want to earn a bachelor’s of science in nursing can complete the online program at Colorado Technical University. With eight start dates a year and asynchronous classes, this program is incredibly flexible that students can complete while still working. Clinical experiences can even be completed in the student’s home community, so there is no need to relocate. This program not only aims to prepare students to handle the complex needs of patients but also to step as leaders in their workplace. 

Applicants must already be licensed registered nurses to be eligible for this program. Required coursework in this program includes challenges and trends in contemporary nursing, nursing informatics, population-based nursing, alternative and complementary interventions, and safety and quality improvement in nursing practice. Students must also complete general education requirements in English, ethics, and history or government affairs. 

  • Location: Colorado Springs, CO 
  • Duration: As little as nine months
  • Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)
  • Tuition: $260 per credit

Rasmussen University Nursing School

Rasmussen University Nursing School offers a hybrid associate degree in nursing at 19 campuses across five states. This flexible program features online coursework with in-person labs and clinicals. The curriculum emphasizes patient-centered care, evidence-based practices, and professional confidence. Students who graduate from this program are also well prepared to sit for the NCLEX-RN exam and begin entry-level work as licensed nurses. 

Unlike many other programs, there are no prerequisites for this program, and many of the campuses do not have a waitlist. If a campus has a waitlist, students don’t need to reapply and can wait until a spot is available for them in the program. To help students succeed, there are many support services, including academic advising, tutoring, financial aid counseling, and 24/7 technical support. 

  • Location: 19 campuses in five states
  • Duration: 18 months
  • Accreditation: Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing
  • Tuition: $409 per credit 

Association of Women, Health Obstetric and Neonatal Nurses

The Association of Women, Health Obstetric and Neonatal Nurses (AWHONN) is the premier association for nurses in women’s care and obstetrics and they offer outstanding continuing education options for nurses who work in this field. All nurses must complete continuing education units to maintain their licenses, and this is an excellent way to meet those requirements while gaining more skills in labor and delivery care. 

The online courses vary in length but most can be completed in about an hour. Many courses are free for AWHONN members. Non-members’ fees are around $30 to $40 per course. Topics include abortion, polycystic ovarian syndrome in teenagers, implications of pregnancy in bariatric patients, and vitamin K prophylaxis. 

  • Location: Online 
  • Duration: Varies
  • Accreditation: American Nurses Credentialing Center’s Commission on Accreditation. Accredited
  • Tuition: Varies

Nurse.com

Aspiring and current labor and delivery nurses can complete their continuing education requirements online through Nurse.com. Courses offered are accredited and meet most requirements for licensure and certification maintenance. Topics include cultural considerations for childbirth, the importance of folic acid, breastfeeding basics, and domestic abuse. Nurses can complete the coursework on their own time and learn about new and interesting topics that can help them be better healthcare providers.

Labor and delivery nurses pursuing certification can complete the online Inpatient Obstetric Nursing (RNC-OB) certification review course. This $199 program will help prepare nurses for their certification exam and provide 8.75 contact hours of continuing education. 

  • Location: Online
  • Duration: Varies
  • Accreditation: American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC)
  • Tuition: Free with membership

Please check out the registered nurse and nurse practitioner pages for more information on degree programs.

How Long Does it Take to Become a Labor and Delivery Nurse?

The minimum amount of time to become a labor and delivery nurse is two years, as that is how long it takes on average to complete an associate’s degree in nursing. However, a four-year bachelor’s degree is preferred and highly recommended.

How To Become a Labor and Delivery Nurse  – Step-by-Step Guide

Step 1: Graduate from High School or Complete a GED (Four Years)

A high school diploma or GED is the first step to becoming a labor and delivery nurse. This base level of education prepares students for future studies and demonstrates an ability to complete an educational program. Aspiring labor and delivery nurses should focus on math and science classes as well as any college preparatory or advanced placement courses. 

Step 2: Complete a Nursing Program (Two to Four Years)

All labor and delivery nurses must complete a general nursing program. These programs vary in length from two to four years, depending on the level of degree pursued. An associate’s degree in nursing is sufficient to become a registered nurse, although a bachelor’s of science is preferable. 

Step 3: Pass the NCLEX-RN exam (Timelines Vary)

All states require nurses to pass the National Council Licensure Examination Registered Nurse (NCLEX-RN) exam. This test measures nursing knowledge and skill and determines if a candidate is safe to practice as a nurse. 

Step 4: Apply for State Licensure (Timelines Varies)

Once a nurse has passed the NCLEX_RN, they can obtain a registered nurse license through their state’s board of nursing. Requirements vary by state. More details can be found in the certification and licensure section below.  

Step 5: Obtain Entry-Level Work in Labor and Delivery (Timelines Vary)

Once education and licensing requirements have been met, nurses can apply for entry-level work in labor and delivery. Initially, they may have to work under a mentor or complete a fellowship to gain the necessary skills. 

Step 6: Earn a Labor and Delivery Nurse Certification (Optional, Timelines Vary)

The most common voluntary certification labor and delivery nurses earn is the  Inpatient Obstetric Nursing (RNC-OB) through the National Certification Corporation (NCC). More details can be found in the certification and licensure section below.

What Do Labor and Delivery Nurses Do?

Labor and delivery nurses primarily work in hospitals, although some may work at stand-alone birthing centers. They work alongside certified nurse-midwives or obstetricians to help babies safely enter the world. Typical duties can include:

  • Checking patients in who are in labor or waiting for a c-section or induction
  • Monitoring patient and baby’s vital signs
  • Administering medication by doctor’s orders
  • Watching patients closely for any possible complications
  • Comforting patients through labor, including helping them change position 
  • Educating patients on the labor process and their options
  • Assisting with baby delivery
  • Performing initial newborn exams
  • Helping the doctor with post-labor sutures

Labor and Delivery Nurse Certifications & Licensure

All labor and delivery nurses must be licensed registered nurses in the state where they practice. Requirements vary by state’s nursing regulatory body, but all include having completed a nursing education program and passing the NCLEX-RN exam. Many states required background checks and drug screenings as well. 

While certification is not required for labor and delivery nurses, this optional step can be professionally advantageous. Some employers may require certification, and it can help when applying for a job or seeking a promotion. The primary certification for labor and delivery nurses is the Inpatient Obstetric Nursing (RNC-OB) through the National Certification Corporation (NCC). The eligibility requirements for this certification are:

  • Hold an unencumbered nursing license
  • Twenty-four months and at least 2,000 hours of specialty experience. This experience can include patient care, administration, research, and education. 
  • Employment in this specialty in the past 24 months

Once eligibility has been determined, nurses will be approved to take the exam. The exam costs $325, takes three hours, and consists of 175 questions. Topics include:

  • Complications of Pregnancy 
  • Fetal Assessment
  • Labor and Birth
  • Recovery, Postpartum, and Newborn Care 
  • Professional Issues

How Much Do Labor and Delivery Nurses Make?

Labor and delivery nurses are categorized as registered nurses for salary determination purposes by the  Bureau of Labor Statics (BLS May 2021). On average, the 3,047,530 registered nurses in the US earn $82,750. The percentiles for wages are:

  • 10th percentile: $59,450 
  • 25th percentile: $61,790
  • 50th  percentile (median): $77,600
  • 75th percentile: $97,580
  • 90th percentile: $120,250

Labor and Delivery Nurse Career Alternatives

Here are a few alternatives to a career as a labor and delivery nurse. 

Become a Certified Nurse Midwife

Certified nurse midwives are advance practice nurses who have received additional training in labor and delivery, in addition to women and infant care. While they most often care for pregnant or postpartum women, they can provide services to women at any stage of their lives. 

  • Typical Education: Master’s or doctorate
  • Licensing or Certifying Organization: American Midwifery Certification Board (ACMB)

Become a Doula

Doulas provide emotional and physical support to women during childbirth and postpartum. While doulas are not healthcare providers, they do have a deep understanding of the childbirth process and can provide education and advocacy for pregnant and laboring patients. 

  • Typical Education: Certificate
  • Licensing or Certifying Organization: DONA International 

Become a Lactation Consultant

Breastfeeding can be challenging for both new and experienced parents. Lactation consultants can support and educate parents at any point on their breastfeeding journey. They can provide care to clients in the hospital, in clinics, or even in their own homes. 

  • Typical Education: Certificate
  • Licensing or Certifying Organization:  International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners (IBLCE)
Kimmy Gustafson

Kimmy Gustafson

Writer

Kimmy is a freelance writer with extensive experience writing about healthcare careers and education. She has worked in public health, at health-focused nonprofits, and as a Spanish interpreter for doctor’s offices and hospitals. She has a passion for learning and that drives her to stay up to date on the latest trends in healthcare. When not writing or researching, she can be found pursuing her passions of nutrition and an active outdoors lifestyle.

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