Nurses can choose from a wide range of career paths. Maternity nurses chose to work with expectant and delivering mothers and their newborn babies in the hopes of providing the best experience possible for their patients.
What Is a Maternity Nurse?
A maternity nurse is usually a registered nurse who has chosen to specialize in working with pregnant women and new mothers. The maternity nurse might also be a licensed practical nurse who works under the close supervision of a registered nurse in the maternity ward.
Maternity nurses are responsible for the care of expectant mothers, especially during labor and delivery. Some maternity nurses might provide care for the newborns as well. Other job duties can include care for women who have miscarried or aborted a pregnancy as well as care for those who have had uterine surgery or other gynecological issues.
Maternity Nurse Overview
Many maternity nurses work in a traditional hospital setting, but there are several other medical facilities that can use their expertise, including:
- Military hospitals
- Specialized school settings
- Correctional facilities
- Offices of physicians
- Midwifery practice
- Birthing centers
The hours for a maternity nurse can vary widely depending upon both the nature of the job and the location. For instance, a maternity nurse might work long yet set hours at a birthing facility, while maternity nurses who are on call to assist with home births could find themselves working for long hours in unfamiliar places.
During labor, maternity nurses might administer medications to the mother. They track vital signs and progress, including the dilation of the cervix and the effectiveness of pain medications. The maternity nurse works to keep the mother comfortable and safe during the labor and serves as the "go-between" for the patient and the doctor. Sometimes a maternity nurse may deliver the baby if the doctor is unavailable.
Maternity nurses must be very familiar with all aspects of labor and delivery, including the tools and technology used in birthing centers and hospitals. They must be able to understand ultrasound reports, read labor monitors, and perform simple procedures that the mother's health might require.
One of the most important skills a maternity nurse needs is the ability to be supportive of their patients, no matter the situation. Though the job is often filled with happy mothers and healthy babies, there is also the unfortunate stress of those cases without a positive outcome.
Maternity Nurse Salary and Career Outlook
Those who want to work as a maternity nurse should earn, at a minimum, a licensed practical nursing degree. Most maternity nurses are registered nurses who have chosen to specialize. There are three paths to becoming a registered nurse: You can earn an associate's degree, a bachelor's degree, or a diploma from an approved nursing program. For the best chance of advancement, maternity nurses might opt to earn their master's degree, at which point they may also become certified nurse midwives.
Jobs for registered nurses are expected to grow by 22 percent from 2008 to 2018, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In 2009, the mean annual wage for registered nurses was $66,530, with the bottom ten percent making less than $43,970, and the top ten percent bringing home more than $93,700.