Labor and delivery nurses are registered nurses with special training. Their job is very similar to that of a nurse midwife, but nurse midwives are advanced practice registered nurses. Nurse midwives provide primary medical care to women at all stages of life, from adolescence to later in life. Labor and delivery nurses only assist in the labor and birthing process.
- Antepartum: Helping patients who have been hospitalized due to complications with their pregnancies
- Labor and delivery: Giving care to women who have gone into labor
- Circulating: Providing operating room care to patients during cesarean deliveries
- Scrub Nurse: Assisting surgeons during cesarean deliveries
- Postpartum: Caring for patients after delivery
Additional duties performed by labor and delivery nurses include formulating care plans for mothers and their newborns, and monitoring patients. Providing emotional and psychological support to patients and their families can be an important role, as well. Having a baby is a joyous time for many, but it can also be frightening to new mothers. Labor and delivery nurses can provide a critical layer of comfort and support throughout the entire pregnancy process.
Labor and delivery nurses usually work in hospital nurseries under the direction of a doctor, providing essential care for newborn infants. Some may become educators, developing the skill sets of those who are training to become labor and delivery nurses. Others receive advanced education and go on to become clinical nurse specialists or advanced practice nurses.
Labor and deliver nurses typically start by first becoming a registered nurse. Here are the key steps along that path:
- Focus on a college prep courses in high school.
Make sure to get a strong background in biology and chemistry, Germano said. This will help you when you enter college and later when you enter advanced nursing programs. Some high schools offer courses in medical terminology and other resources on how to become a midwife.
- Volunteer at your local hospital or women's clinic.
This could provide you a first-hand look at your chosen career and help you connect with people .who know how to become a labor and delivery nurse or how to become a nurse midwife.
- Become a registered nurse.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, most registered nurses follow one of three paths: earning an Associate's degree in nursing, a bachelor's degree in nursing or a diploma from an approved nursing program. The bachelor's degree typically takes four years to complete while the other two take two to three years.
- Get licensed.
All states require registered nurses to have a license, and you earn one by passing the National Council Licensure Examination. Some states may have additional requirements
Steps to Becoming a Nurse Midwife
Labor and delivery nurses typically only care for women who are in labor, or have just given birth. Nurse midwives care for women throughout the duration of their pregnancy, and even far beyond that. Labor and deliver nurses who are interested in becoming a nurse midwife will have a few additional educational requirements.
- Earn a bachelor's degree.
If you earned an associate degree or a diploma from a nursing school, you will need to return to school and earn a bachelor's degree to become a nurse midwife. Most APRN program require candidates have a bachelor's degree, but some do offer a bridge program for registered nurses who earned an associate degree.
- Gain clinical experience.
Many programs training midwives and labor and delivery nurses like to see students have had experience in the field before accepting them into the program.
- Earn your master's degree.
Many advanced practice nurses earn a master's degree through an accredited APRN program. A master's degree is required to be a licensed midwife or an advanced practice registered nurse.
- Earn a doctorate (optional).
Although a master's degree is all that is required, many nurse midwives go on to earn a Doctor of Nursing Practice degree.
- Get certified.
The National Council of State Boards of Nursing recommends that all advanced practice nurses, including nurse midwives, pass a national certification exam and earn a second license specific to their specialty, such as midwifery. The American Midwifery Certification Board oversees the Certified Nurse-Midwife and Certified Midwife designations. Nurse midwives must recertify every five years.
- Develop great communication skills.
During the clinical training that will be part of your nurse midwife program, focus on developing good communication skills. Nurse midwives also need to be independent and critical thinkers, reliable and empathetic.
The field of nursing is one of the fastest growing today, according to the BLS. To find out more about how new labor and delivery nurses and nurse midwives can really stand out in their job, we sat down with Elaine Germano, senior education policy advisor at the American College of Nurse Midwives
Q: How has nurse midwifery changed in recent years?
Nurse midwives now provide all the services of a nurse practitioner in addition to helping with the pregnancy and birth process. We actually provide primary care services for women starting in adolescence and continuing throughout a woman's life -- in addition to providing midwifery services. This is a big change from just 25 years ago.
Q: What kind of qualities do all good nurse midwives have?
First and foremost, they have a desire to serve, to take care of women and their newborns. You have to be able to work as a team member but also to take change when necessary. For the birth process, you have to have patience and be willing to sit on your hands and offer support while being acutely observant and able to act quickly.
Q: How do you know if you'll enjoy being a nurse midwife?
I recommend to people thinking of a career as a nurse midwife that they volunteer in a women's clinic or try to become a doula. A doula is a trained professional who provides help and support to mothers before, during and just after birth. This is a way for someone to be very involved in the birth process without being a registered nurse.
Q: What the greatest challenges facing nurse midwives?
You have to adjust to the role of being in charge, especially if you've worked as a nurse for sometime and you're not accustomed to being the primary care provider. But the rewards are tremendous. There is a real excitement and commitment in our profession that may be different from other advanced practice registered nurse roles. When you become a midwife in the U.S. you really become an advocate for women.