Labor and Delivery Nurse: In-Demand Specialty for Travel Nursing Jobs
Labor and delivery nurses provide care before, during and after delivery to the mother, the fetus, and the newborn after birth.
Though the reported number of births in the United States has declined for the fourth year in a row and some rural hospitals have elected to close down their maternity wards, nurses who choose labor and delivery as a specialty will have lots of job opportunities. Many hospitals are investing significant amounts of money to expand their maternity departments or partner with birth centers.
The growth in the use of birth centers will also keep demand for labor and delivery nurses high, as will the continuing national nursing shortage. In order to ensure that their labor and delivery rooms are well-staffed, facilities will continue to utilize labor and delivery travel nurses.
What is a Labor and Delivery Nurse?
Labor and delivery nurses provide care for expectant mothers before, during and after their delivery. They are also responsible for fetal monitoring and care of the infant immediately after birth. They work with an extremely low patient ratio in order to provide high-quality direct patient care and the best possible outcomes, often working one-on-one within a labor and delivery team made up of obstetricians and other support staff.
Labor and delivery nurses act as advocates for the patient and their partners, educating them on what is happening and what to expect from the birthing process. They must be able to make decisions quickly, stay calm, and respond appropriately to a host of different situations.
Their responsibilities include direct patient care and constant evaluation of the mother, including:
- Monitoring the cervix for dilation and tracking contractions
- Documenting the status of both mother and fetus including interpreting fetal heart monitor and EKG results
- Communicating maternal and fetal status to other members of the care team
- Advocating for the physical and emotional needs of the mother
- Providing education and support to the mother and her support team in the delivery room, including coaching on breathing and pushing through labor
- Examining the mother and infant after delivery
- Helping with postpartum recovery, including after cesarean surgery
Labor and delivery nurses are most frequently employed in hospital maternity wards, as of the nearly 4 million births that occur in the United States each year, 98% happen in hospitals. Still, the use of birth centers is on the upswing, and there was a 76% increase in the number of freestanding birth centers between 2010 and 2017. That number is expected to increase, and with it will come even more opportunities for skilled labor and delivery nurses.
Labor and Delivery Nurse Education Requirements, Certifications and Professional Groups
Labor and delivery nursing represents a highly specialized skill, but the road to the profession still begins with becoming a licensed Registered Nurse. Though labor and delivery nurse candidates can get jobs in their field with an Associate’s Degree in Nursing (ADN), many hospitals are now requiring their registered nursing staff to have a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN). Nurses with an ADN can anticipate being required to complete a BSN within a limited amount of time after they are hired. With either degree, the candidate must pass the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN), which is the requirement for licensure.
Labor and delivery nursing positions generally require a minimum of one year of hands-on nursing experience. Labor and delivery nurses also must be certified in Advanced Cardiac Life Support and Basic Life Support.
Though much of labor and delivery nursing knowledge comes from hands-on experience, there are also continued education programs and certification programs providing specific education on topics including stages of labor, best practices in labor and delivery, and Cesarean section birth and care.
Some labor and delivery nurses may choose to go on to become a Certified Nurse-Midwife (CNM). CMNs are advanced nurse practitioners, who provide more extensive health care to pregnant women, beyond delivering babies and including gynecology care. Nurse midwifery care is similar to an OB/GYN doctor, including assistance with family planning and prenatal care.
The Association of Women’s Health, Obstetric and Neonatal Nurses (AWHONN) offers networking opportunities, resources and events for labor and delivery nurses, as well as courses in other important areas including Post-Birth Warning Signs and Fetal Heart Monitoring. The National Certification Corporation offers labor and delivery nurses the opportunity to become Inpatient Obstetric Nursing certified once they have a minimum of 2000 hours in direct patient care, education, administration, or research. The American College of Nurse-Midwives is a professional association that offers resources for RNS who are interested in nurse-midwifery programs and professional development as a nurse-midwife.
Labor and Delivery Nurse Salary and Job Growth Potential
A recent survey conducted by Indeed.com indicated that the average salary for a labor and delivery nurse in the United States was $114,690, with salary impacted by a nurse’s years of experience, education and certifications, and locations.
Compensation is also determined by the type of healthcare facility. Labor and delivery nurses can significantly increase their compensation by volunteering to work on-call or overtime, or by signing on for shift differentials.
The average annual pay for a labor and delivery nurse in the United States is $114,690 per year.
Labor and delivery is one of the most important areas in the hospital from a public relations standpoint. Though the area is often one of the least profitable in the organization, and can even end up losing money, it is also often the single most important area of a healthcare system for driving loyalty and future usage. That means medical centers will continue to invest in hiring skilled health care providers to offer high-quality, one-on-one care to laboring mothers.
In order to fill the need in the face of the growing nursing shortage, hospitals will turn to travel labor and delivery nurses to ensure that their staff levels are high.
Top Paying Cities for Labor and Delivery Nursing in 2021
According to Indeed.com, here are the best paying cities for case management nurses in 2021:
- Bronx, NY: $145,677 per year
- New York, NY: $130,583 per year
- Baltimore, MD: $121,939 per year
- Atlanta, GA: $112,799 per year
- Charlotte, NC: $95,946 per year
The Pros and Cons of Being a Labor and Delivery Nurse
Pros of Labor and Delivery Nursing
- Ability to provide direct patient care to women as they expand their families
- Work environment is collaborative and often joyful, especially when witnessing the birth of a new infant
- Rewarding to use interpersonal skills to provide comfort and assuage fears
Cons of Labor and Delivery Nursing
- Work can be emotionally and physically draining
- Not every delivery has a positive outcome
- Often witness disturbing patient situations, including addicted parents, unsupportive spouses
Labor and Delivery Travel Nursing Jobs
Labor and delivery nurses provide high-quality care for women during one of the most important and memorable moments of their lives.
These healthcare professionals work in a fast-paced environment that is one of the most hands-on of all nursing specialties. The job requires calm and empathy and exposes them every day to one life’s most profound experiences.
Labor and delivery travel nurses can add to the excitement of their jobs by choosing and changing the locations where they work on a regular basis, while they also enjoy the benefits of the higher compensation, travel reimbursement, and perks that come with travel nursing. A travel nursing recruiter can help you locate new jobs in the place of your choice!