How to Become a Labor and Delivery Nurse (2024)

Are you passionate about supporting women through one of the most significant moments of their lives, childbirth? Becoming a Labor and Delivery Nurse (L&D nurse) has unique challenges and immense rewards. This article guides you through the essential steps on how to become a labor and delivery nurse, helping you turn your passion for maternal and newborn care into a professional reality.

Career Summary

Labor and Delivery Nurse Salary

Many factors influence the typical labor and delivery nurse salary. However, here are the average labor and delivery nurse salary figures according to Glassdoor:

  • Entry-Level: US$ 83,000
  • Median: US$ 105,000
  • Senior: US$ 133,000

Compared to the general average salary across the United States, which was reported to be $59,428, all labor and delivery nurses receive a higher salary.

What does a Labor and Delivery Nurse do?

A labor and delivery nurse is a healthcare professional who provides comprehensive care to expectant mothers during childbirth. They monitor vital signs, offer emotional support, administer pain relief when needed, track labor progress, and assist in the delivery process.

They also immediately care for newborns, educate mothers about postpartum and newborn care, maintain detailed medical records, and collaborate with other healthcare team members to ensure a safe and positive birthing experience for both mother and baby.

Labor and Delivery Nurse Career Progression

  • Junior Labor and Delivery Nurse: You will provide primary care and support to expectant mothers during labor and delivery, including monitoring vital signs and assisting with routine tasks under the supervision of more experienced nurses.
  • Staff Labor and Delivery Nurse: In this role, you will provide direct patient care during labor, assist with deliveries, administer medications, monitor progress, and offer emotional support to mothers.
  • Charge L&D Nurse: You will assume a leadership role among the nursing staff, coordinating patient care, delegating tasks, and ensuring the smooth flow of operations within the labor and delivery unit.
  • Clinical L&D Nurse Specialist: As a specialist in labor and delivery, you will provide advanced clinical expertise, mentor junior nurses, and participate in research and evidence-based practice to improve patient outcomes.

Best Aspects of Working as a Labor and Delivery Nurse

  • Witnessing the miracle of childbirth firsthand.
  • Providing essential care during life-changing moments.
  • Building strong connections with grateful families.
  • Job security and career advancement opportunities.
  • Constant learning in a dynamic field.

Worst Aspects of Working as a Labor and Delivery Nurse

  • Exposure to high-stress situations and emergencies.
  • Irregular and demanding work hours, including nights and holidays.
  • Coping with patient complications and unexpected outcomes.
  • Witnessing difficult and traumatic deliveries.
  • Dealing with difficult patients or family members in emotionally charged situations.

Useful Skills to Have as a Labor and Delivery Nurse

  • Clinical Competence
  • Empathy and Compassion
  • Stress Management
  • Attention to Detail
  • Effective Communication

Popular Labor and Delivery Nurse Specialties

  • Perinatal Nursing
  • Neonatal Nursing
  • Lactation Consulting
  • Intrapartum Nursing
  • High-Risk Obstetrics

How to Become a Labor and Delivery Nurse

When considering how to become a labor and delivery nurse, it is crucial to understand that a career demands robust education and practical experience. A solid educational foundation provides nurses with theoretical knowledge. At the same time, hands-on experience in a clinical setting hones their skills and prepares them to handle the unique challenges of labor and delivery scenarios.


Education is the cornerstone in the journey to becoming a skilled L&D nurse. The knowledge acquired through formal education ensures they can provide safe and effective care to expectant mothers and their newborns.

Do I need a degree to become a Labor and Delivery Nurse?

To become a Labor and Delivery Nurse, you typically need a nursing degree. This can be an Associate’s Degree in Nursing (ADN) or a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN). However, some employers prefer a BSN, which can provide more opportunities for advancement in the field.

Why is it important to get a degree in Labor and Delivery Nurse?

  • Fundamental Knowledge and Skills: A nursing degree provides the foundational knowledge and practical skills essential for Labor and Delivery Nursing. This specialty involves unique challenges and scenarios, such as managing high-risk pregnancies and understanding fetal development.
  • Credibility and Competence: A degree in nursing demonstrates competence and credibility in the healthcare field. It shows that you have undergone rigorous training and can handle the responsibilities and complexities of caring for mothers and newborns.
  • Meeting Licensure Requirements: To practice as an L&D nurse, you must be a licensed registered nurse (RN). A degree is a prerequisite for taking the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN), essential for licensure.
  • Specialized Training: Labor and Delivery Nursing degrees often include specialized coursework and clinical experiences in obstetrics, gynecology, and neonatal care. This specialized training is invaluable in preparing nurses for the specific challenges and situations they will encounter in this field.

How long does it take to get a degree in Nursing?

Embarking on a Labor and Delivery Nurse career begins with the fundamental step of obtaining a nursing degree.

The journey to this qualification involves choosing from several educational pathways, each with its timeline:

  • Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN): This route is often seen as the quickest path to becoming a Registered Nurse, essential for a career in labor and delivery. It typically spans two years and is available at community colleges and some universities. The ADN program focuses on core nursing skills and fundamental medical knowledge.
  • Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN): Spanning approximately four years, a BSN program offers a more extensive nursing education, including in-depth studies in patient care, nursing theory, and clinical practice. Offered at various universities, this degree is increasingly becoming the preferred standard in the nursing field, including for specialized areas like labor and delivery.
  • Accelerated BSN Programs: These intensive programs are designed for those who already hold a bachelor’s degree in another field and wish to pivot to nursing. Their duration is condensed, typically lasting between 11-18 months. Despite their rigorous nature, they are an efficient way to enter nursing.
  • RN-to-BSN Programs: Tailored for those who already possess an ADN and want to advance their education, these programs usually take 1-2 years to complete. They offer the flexibility of part-time or full-time study, enabling nurses to continue working while they upgrade their qualifications.
  • Master of Science in Nursing (MSN): An MSN is the next step for nurses aspiring to reach advanced practice roles or specialize further. This degree usually takes an additional 1.5 to 2 years post-BSN. The MSN curriculum is diverse, from leadership and management to specific nursing specialties, including labor and delivery.

How much does it cost to study Nursing at university?

The cost of obtaining nursing education varies substantially based on the program type and the educational institution choice.

The financial outlay can range widely for an Associate’s Degree in Nursing (ADN). Generally, costs can fall between $10,000 to $40,000. This broad range reflects variances in program specifics, such as duration (usually two to three years), whether the program is offered full-time or part-time, and the array of required prerequisites.

The financial commitment escalates when it comes to a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN). Public universities typically present a more economical option, with average costs around $37,600.

In contrast, private institutions can command fees exceeding $150,400. These figures typically encapsulate tuition, room and board, and other associated fees.

The significant cost disparity between ADN and BSN programs underscores the importance of thorough financial planning for prospective nursing students. You should explore various funding avenues, including scholarships, grants, and financial aid, to mitigate the impact of these educational expenses.

Can I become a Labor and Delivery Nurse through online education?

It is possible to become a Labor and Delivery Nurse through online education but with some critical considerations. Online nursing programs, particularly for obtaining your Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN), are increasingly available and offer flexibility for students. These programs typically cover theoretical coursework online, while clinical practice components must be completed in person at healthcare facilities.

One should enroll in an accredited online nursing program to pursue this path. Accreditation ensures the program meets specific educational standards, which is crucial for eligibility for the NCLEX-RN licensing examination required to practice as a registered nurse.

However, it’s important to note that hands-on experience is vital in nursing, especially in a specialized field like labor and delivery. Online programs partner with hospitals and clinics to provide this practical training. This program component cannot be completed online and usually requires a commitment to on-site, supervised clinical hours.

Upon completing an online nursing program and passing the NCLEX-RN, aspiring nurses often gain experience in general nursing before specializing. Specialization in labor and delivery nursing typically involves additional on-the-job training and may require further certifications.

What are some web resources to learn skills to become a Labor and Delivery Nurse?

Several specialized online resources offer tailored training and educational opportunities for individuals pursuing a Labor and Delivery Nurse career.

Here are some notable resources:

  • AWHONN (Association of Women’s Health, Obstetric, and Neonatal Nurses): AWHONN provides various educational programs, including Fetal Heart Monitoring (FHM), Obstetric Patient Safety (OPS) Program, Neonatal Orientation and Education Program (NOEP), and Perinatal Orientation and Education Program (POEP).
  • These programs offer online and in-person training, encompassing critical labor and delivery nursing aspects such as fetal heart monitoring, obstetric emergencies, neonatal patient safety, and perinatal care​​​​​​​​.
  • National Certification Corporation (NCC): NCC offers continuing education modules in maternal, newborn and obstetrical care. These modules cover various topics such as teratology, breastfeeding challenges, prenatal alcohol exposure, anxiety and mood disorders in the postpartum period, and complications during pregnancy like diabetes and preeclampsia​​.
  • This platform provides continuing education courses on perinatal nursing, focusing on best practices for labor and delivery nurses. The courses cover a wide range of topics, including perinatal infections, women’s hormones, breastfeeding, heart disease in women, maternal heart health, ethics, and postpartum depression​​​​​​.

Practical Experience

Practical experience is indispensable in developing a competent labor and delivery nurse. Through hands-on clinical exposure, nurses gain the confidence and adaptability needed to navigate labor and delivery units’ dynamic and often high-pressure environments.

What are internship opportunities for a Labor and Delivery Nurse?

Internships play a pivotal role in shaping the practical skills and experience of future Labor and Delivery Nurses. These opportunities are designed to immerse you in the real-world maternal and neonatal care environment, offering hands-on experience in a supportive and educational setting.

Here are some key types of internships to consider:

  • Hospital Maternity Ward Internships: Many hospitals provide internships in maternity wards. These programs often include rotations through labor and delivery, postpartum, and neonatal intensive care units (NICUs), offering a comprehensive view of maternal-child health nursing.
  • Birthing Center Internships: Internships at birthing centers expose you to a more holistic approach to childbirth. These centers often focus on natural birthing methods and provide a unique perspective on patient-centered care in a less medicalized setting.
  • High-Risk Pregnancy Internships: Some facilities specialize in high-risk pregnancies. Interning in such environments enables you to understand the complexities and specialized care required for pregnancies with higher risk factors.
  • Community Healthcare Internships: Opportunities in community healthcare centers or public health organizations can provide experience in prenatal and postnatal care, often focusing on underserved populations. These internships can be eye-opening regarding the broader societal factors affecting maternal and child health.
  • University-Affiliated Clinical Internships: Partnering with academic institutions, these internships offer a blend of academic learning and clinical experience, often linked to your nursing studies. They’re ideal for those still in nursing school or recent graduates.
  • Specialized Internships in Neonatal Care: For those interested in the neonatal aspect of labor and delivery nursing, NICU internships provide focused experience caring for premature and critically ill newborns.
  • Research-Based Internships: These are geared towards those interested in the research and policy aspects of maternal and neonatal care. Hospitals and universities often offer these positions, providing insight into the latest developments and practices in the field.

What Skills will I learn as a Labor and Delivery Nurse?

As a Labor and Delivery Nurse, you will acquire specialized skills for providing quality care to mothers and newborns. These skills blend clinical competencies with interpersonal and emotional support abilities.

Here’s an overview:

  • Clinical Skills in Maternal and Newborn Care: You’ll learn to manage various aspects of labor and delivery, including monitoring fetal heart rates, assisting with labor induction, and recognizing signs of complications. Skills in neonatal resuscitation and initial newborn care are also key.
  • Advanced Obstetric Skills: These include administering and monitoring epidural analgesia, performing episiotomies (if within your scope of practice), and managing emergencies like postpartum hemorrhage.
  • Patient Education and Support: You will develop the ability to educate and support expectant mothers and their families through labor and delivery, including pain management techniques, breastfeeding education, and postpartum care.
  • Communication Skills: Effective communication is crucial in labor and delivery nursing. You will learn to communicate clearly with doctors, midwives, and other healthcare professionals and provide empathetic and clear information to patients and their families.
  • Critical Thinking and Decision-Making: Labor and delivery can be unpredictable, requiring nurses to make quick and informed decisions. You’ll develop skills in assessing patient needs, prioritizing care, and adapting to changing situations.
  • Emotional Support and Compassion: Emotional support to mothers and families during labor and delivery, which can be stressful and joyous, is crucial. You’ll learn to offer comfort, reassurance, and guidance.
  • Teamwork and Collaboration: Working effectively as part of a multidisciplinary team, including obstetricians, midwives, pediatricians, and other nurses, is essential in ensuring safe and effective patient care.
  • Cultural Competence: You’ll gain skills in providing culturally sensitive care and respecting patients’ and their families’ diverse backgrounds and values.
  • Technical Proficiency: This includes handling various medical equipment and technology used in labor and delivery settings, such as fetal monitors, IV pumps, and electronic health record systems.
  • Stress Management: Working in a high-pressure environment, you’ll develop abilities to manage your stress and maintain a calm, composed presence, which is vital for both patient care and your well-being.

These skills are critical for delivering effective patient care and for your professional development and satisfaction as a labor and delivery nurse.

What is the Work-Life Balance of a Labor and Delivery Nurse?

Labor and Delivery Nurses often face a challenging work-life balance due to the demands of shift work, including nights, weekends, and holidays, and the emotional intensity of their roles.

The job is physically demanding, requiring long hours on their feet and participation in stressful or high-stakes situations. While opportunities for flexible scheduling or part-time work can offer some relief, the irregular and on-call nature of the job can impact personal life and family commitments.

Despite these challenges, many nurses find the profession rewarding and are supported by a collaborative and caring work environment and personal coping strategies to manage stress.

What’s the Career Outlook for Labor and Delivery Nurses?

The career outlook for Labor and Delivery Nurses in the USA, as part of the broader category of Registered Nurses, is quite promising. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the employment of registered nurses is projected to grow 6 percent from 2022 to 2032, which is faster than the average for all occupations.

This growth is expected due to the aging population and increased demand for healthcare services. Additionally, there are anticipated to be about 193,100 job openings for registered nurses each year over the decade, many of which will arise from the need to replace workers who retire or move into different occupations​.

What are the Job Opportunities for a Labor and Delivery Nurse?

Labor and delivery nurses are vital in healthcare, offering specialized care in one of life’s most significant moments. The scope of their job opportunities extends across various settings, each demanding unique skills and profound dedication.

Here’s an insightful look into the career paths available for Labor and Delivery Nurses:

  • Hospital-Based Labor and Delivery Nurse: The most common role. These nurses work in hospital maternity units, assisting during labor, delivery, and postpartum care. They monitor the mother and baby, provide support during childbirth, and assist with any complications.
  • Obstetric High-Risk Unit Nurse: Specializing in high-risk pregnancies, these nurses work in units dedicated to expectant mothers with health issues that could complicate pregnancy or delivery. Their role involves close monitoring and specialized care.
  • Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) Nurse: Some labor and delivery nurses extend their care to newborns needing immediate medical attention in the NICU. They care for premature babies or those born with health issues.
  • Birthing Center Nurse: Birthing centers offer a homelike setting for those seeking a more natural childbirth experience. Nurses here support less medicalized birth processes while providing professional care and assistance.
  • Prenatal Clinic Nurse: Focused on the prenatal stage, these nurses work in clinics offering care and guidance to women throughout their pregnancy. They perform routine check-ups and educate expecting mothers.
  • Lactation Consultant: Specialized in breastfeeding support, these nurses assist new mothers in learning how to breastfeed and address any breastfeeding challenges they may face.
  • Perinatal Educator: These nurses focus on educating expectant parents about pregnancy, childbirth, and early parenthood. They often conduct classes and workshops in hospitals or community centers.
  • Home Health Nurse: Providing postpartum and newborn care in the comfort of the patient’s home. This role involves visiting new mothers and babies to ensure their health and well-being after discharge.
  • Research Nurse in Obstetrics: Engaged in research to improve practices and outcomes in labor and delivery. They may work in academic settings or for health organizations.
  • Administrative Roles: Experienced labor and delivery nurses can move into managerial or administrative positions, overseeing departments and influencing policy and practice in maternity care.

Each of these roles plays a crucial part in the journey of childbirth, showcasing the diverse and fulfilling career paths available to Labor and Delivery Nurses.

What Type of Organizations Hire a Labor and Delivery Nurse?

Labor and Delivery Nurses are integral to maternal and newborn care, and their skills are sought after by various healthcare settings. When considering the employment landscape for Labor and Delivery Nurses, it’s essential to recognize the diverse range of facilities that require their specialized skills, such as:

  • Hospitals
  • Birthing Centers
  • Obstetrics and Gynecology Clinics
  • Community Health Centers
  • Home Health Care Services
  • Public Health Agencies
  • International Healthcare Organizations

Each employment setting offers unique opportunities and challenges for Labor and Delivery Nurses, allowing them to apply their specialized maternal and newborn care skills.

Should I Become a Labor and Delivery Nurse?

Becoming a Labor and Delivery Nurse is a significant career choice that requires thoughtful consideration of the critical points discussed in this article, along with a deep understanding of your interests, skills, and long-term goals.

Throughout this journey, we’ve explored the essential qualifications, the rigorous training, and the profound responsibilities of this role. Remember, this profession isn’t just about technical skills; it’s equally about compassion, resilience, and the ability to provide support during some of the most pivotal moments in a family’s life.

Your decision should be grounded in a realistic assessment of your ability to handle high-stress situations, your passion for providing care during childbirth, and your willingness to continuously learn and adapt.

Consider how this career aligns with your personal values and professional aspirations. Does the idea of being at the forefront of bringing new life into the world energize you? Are you ready for the emotional and physical demands of this role?

Reflect on the long-term perspective as well. The healthcare industry is evolving, and the roles of specialized nurses are also changing. How does this path fit into your vision for your future? Will it provide the growth opportunities, work-life balance, and personal satisfaction you seek?

Ultimately, deciding to become a Labor and Delivery Nurse is deeply personal and profoundly impactful. It’s a career that offers immense rewards and challenges in equal measure. If your heart and mind align with the demands and joys of this profession, then this journey might be the fulfilling path you’re destined to take. Let your passion, skills, and goals guide you in making this life-changing decision.

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How to Become a Labor and Delivery Nurse (2024)


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