Obstetric Nurse: In-Demand Specialty for Travel Nursing Jobs
Obstetric nurses — also known as OB nurses, OB/GYN nurses or gynecology nurses — play a crucial role before, during, and after pregnancy.
Though the birth rate in the United States has dropped steadily since 2008, the need for obstetric nurses has not reflected that decline. In fact, recent studies have pointed in the opposite direction, indicating a significant need for new mothers and their infants to be treated as separate patients and for expansion of staffing in labor and delivery and perinatal units.
The demand for lower patient-to-nurse ratios combined with the national nurse shortage means a real and continuing need for obstetric nurses and obstetric travel nurses.
What is an Obstetric Nurse?
Obstetric nurses work in tandem with obstetricians to educate pregnant women about preparing for conception and carrying a baby, as well as for delivery and maintaining their health post-pregnancy. They work in physicians’ offices, hospital maternity wards, and birthing centers, serving as a familiar face during regular prenatal checkups and as a coach during delivery.
Obstetric nurse responsibilities vary based on the individual nurse’s work environment. For those who work within an obstetrician’s office, duties revolve around prenatal and postnatal care of the mother. Obstetric nurses play a pivotal role in routine checkups, in providing counseling and support, and assisting in the collection of blood and urine samples, and conducting various exams, including prenatal screenings and pelvic exams.
Obstetric nurses who work in hospitals and birthing centers are responsible for the process that surrounds delivery, including:
- Monitoring equipment to gauge fetal heart rate and other vital signs and communicate their information to physicians
- Prepping mothers for delivery, including making sure that all supplies necessary are on hand and ready
- Providing labor coaching and accompanying women into the operating room in case a Cesarean section is required
- Offering support for expectant family members in the delivery room
- Caring for women after their infant’s birth, including helping with feeding/breastfeeding, assessing newborn health, and ensuring that the new mother is monitored and cared for in case of complications
Obstetric nurses also provide postpartum care to mothers in the hours after birth. They monitor and manage both the newborn and the mother, providing care for normal births and those involving complications and special attention.
They also provide general nursing care including administering pain medication and assisting with recovery, as well as specialized care for C-section incisions and similar post-birth needs.
Obstetric Nurse Education Requirements, Certifications, and Professional Groups
Obstetric nurses often earn either a four-year Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) or a two-year Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN). Aspiring obstetric nurses must also pass the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN) exam, which confers licensure.
From there, nurses who want to become obstetric nurses can gain clinical experience by working in an obstetrician’s office or in the labor and delivery department of a hospital or birthing center. Once they have 2,000 hours of experience, they can pursue Inpatient Obstetric Nursing Certification through the National Certification Corporation.
Obstetric nurses who join the Association of Women’s Health, Obstetric and Neonatal Nurses (AWHONN) may benefit from a wealth of personal and professional growth opportunities to advance their nursing careers. They’ll also have the opportunity to network with like-minded healthcare professionals who share their commitment to reproductive health.
Obstetric Nurse Salary and Job Growth Potential
Nurses who work in obstetrics have a wide range of specialized healthcare skills. As a result, the national median salary for an obstetric nurse is higher than other nursing specialties.
According to Indeed.com, the national average base salary for an obstetric nurse is $135,547, variable based on education and certifications, years of experience, and location.
Obstetric nurses can boost their income by volunteering to work on weekends, overtime, and shift differentials. Their salary is often supplemented by the value of the benefits they receive, including medical, vision and dental insurance, on-site childcare, and more.
The national average salary for an obstetric nurse is $135,547.
Obstetric nurses can expect to work long hours and to be busy round-the-clock, as infants choose their own, unpredictable timetable for their birth. Obstetric nurses need to be comfortable with unpredictability and need to be available to provide compassion and support in the long hours leading up to delivery — or in situations where delivery does not end as hoped.
Their empathy and abilities are entirely portable, making their profession well suited to pursue travel obstetric nurse positions.
Top Paying Cities for Obsteric Nurses in 2021
According to Indeed.com, here are the best paying cities for obstetric nurses in 2021:
- Beverly, MA: $115,538 per year
- Fort Defiance, AZ: $112,785 per year
- New York, NY: $104,236 per year
- Fort Carson, CO: $95,928 per year
- Tacoma, WA: $95,791 per year
The Pros and Cons of Being an Obstetric Nurse
Pros of Obstetric Nursing
- Satisfaction of being part of an extremely cohesive care team
- One-on-one direct patient care
- Joy of caring for newborns and witnessing the strength of women as they go through labor and delivery
Cons of Obstetric Nursing
- Not every patient has a positive outcome — fetal/pregnancy losses are devastating
- Well-intentioned family members can add stress for patients and staff
- Long hours and round-the-clock scheduling
Travel Nursing as an Obstetric Nurse
The care and training that goes into being an obstetric nurse easily transfer to different locations. Opportunities exist everywhere and in environments ranging from small health clinics and birthing centers to major medical center labor and delivery departments.
Working as a travel obstetric nurse offers a competitive salary supplemented by attractive benefits, often including bonuses, non-taxable housing and meal stipends, in addition to traveling the U.S. and discovering new places.