10 Pros and Cons of Being a Labor and Delivery Nurse
Written By: Jennifer Schlette MSN, RN
If you are considering a career in the medical field, one of the most rewarding professions is that of a labor and delivery nurse. You will get to be at the center of an incredible moment for parents-to-be while also being responsible for their safety. However, no matter how fulfilling it may seem on paper, there are some things you should know about this profession before jumping into it. Do you know what are the pros and cons of being a labor and delivery nurse? Being a labor and delivery nurse is no easy task. It requires a lot of patience, skill, and knowledge to take care of new parents during one of the most critical times in their lives. There are definitely some great things about being a labor and delivery nurse, as well as some not-so-great things that can make you reconsider your career choice. To help you decide whether or not becoming a labor and delivery nurse is right for you, here are the top 10 pros and cons of being a labor and delivery nurse to consider.
What Does A Labor and Delivery Nurse Do?
A labor and delivery nurse is a registered nurse who cares for women and their families during their pregnancies, before, during, and after their deliveries. This type of nursing care is usually divided into three stages: prenatal care (expecting mothers), intrapartum care (mothers in labor), and postpartum care (mothers who have just given birth).
In the prenatal period, the labor and delivery nurse’s responsibilities include monitoring the mother's health throughout her pregnancy. This includes checking for any symptoms of complications such as morning sickness, hypertension, and anemia; taking blood pressure and weight measurements; recording data such as contractions and cervical dilation; instructing mothers about how to take care of themselves and providing information about services that are offered by the hospital.
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During the intrapartum period, the labor and delivery nurse is responsible for monitoring and treating the mother and baby. This includes monitoring how the labor is progressing; managing common complications such as hemorrhage, infection, or poor fetal heart rate; monitoring medications that the mother is taking such as blood thinners, steroids, and magnesium sulfate, which can cause problems during delivery. You will be responsible for keeping records on when each contraction occurs and how long it lasts, when the baby's head is presenting, when crowning occurs, and when the umbilical cord has stopped pulsating; as well as managing medication given to the mother during labor by the anesthesiologists, pediatricians, or family physicians. You will also be in charge of assessing any changes in fetal heart rate which could indicate a need for early delivery of the baby and administering pain medication if needed during the labor.
In the postpartum period, the labor and delivery nurse will be responsible for assessing the mother after birth and the newborn and caring for both mother and baby during the pre-discharge period. You will be providing discharge education, such as in the care of the newborn.
Where Does A Labor and Delivery Nurse Work?
Labor and delivery nurses will typically work in a hospital, but this is not always the case. A labor and delivery nurse may work in a smaller birth center or even at home in rural areas. You may also find a labor and delivery nurse working in public and private obstetrics and gynecology (OBGYN) clinics as well as clinics that specialize in high-risk pregnancies or prenatal care.
How Much Does A Labor and Delivery Nurse Make?
As a labor and delivery nurse, you can expect to make an excellent living. As with many nursing careers, labor and delivery nurses' salaries will grow with experience. The average annual labor and delivery nurse salary is $99,043 a year, which means you would be earning $47.62 an hour. If you are just starting out in the profession, the entry-level salary you can expect is $38.94 an hour, roughly $81,000 a year. If you have been working for a bit of time, you can expect a mid-level salary of $55.05 an hour, about $114,000 a year. A top-level salary for a labor and delivery nurse is $64.42 an hour, $134,000 a year.
Steps To Becoming A Labor and Delivery Nurse
The first step to becoming a labor and delivery nurse is attending and graduating from an accredited nursing program. You will need to earn either an associate's
degree. Keep in mind that many employers will only hire nurses with a bachelor's degree.
The next step to becoming a labor and delivery nurse is to pass the National Council Licensure Examination or NCLEX
exam. This test covers all the principles of nursing as well as medical terminology. This may be taken many times before you are able to pass it. Once you have passed this exam, you will have to apply for state licensure based on your home state's requirements.
Next, you will need to earn certain certifications in order to work as a Labor and Delivery nurse. You will need to earn certification in fetal monitoring (C-EFM), advanced cardiac life support (ACLS), and the neonatal resuscitation program (NRP).
Some institutions will require that you receive training in medical/surgical nursing, neonatal intensive care (NICU)-level training, and other area or hospital-specific programs for nurses and in the postpartum care unit for at least one year prior to working in labor and delivery.
TOP CONS OF BEING A LABOR AND DELIVERY NURSE
(The following are the top 10 disadvantages of being a Labor and Delivery Nurse.)
1. You may have to be part of some pretty sad situations.
One of the top disadvantages of being a labor and delivery nurse is that you will have to be part of some pretty sad situations. You will work with patients who may be suffering from losing their children. You will have to deal with stillbirths and babies born too early to survive. You may have to help a mother through labor to deliver a child who was a victim of fetal demise. Being a labor and delivery nurse is not full of rainbows and unicorns. It is hard, and it is sad sometimes. It is not for everyone.
2. You may have mothers who will suffer complications.
Another one of the biggest disadvantages of being a labor and delivery nurse is that you may have mothers who suffer complications during the birthing process. Labor and delivery nurses see everything from small tears in the vagina to uterine ruptures. Other complications that may occur can be rather severe such as with an amniotic emboli. Some mothers, unfortunately, may not survive the birthing process. Terrible tragedies can happen in this line of work.
3. It can be emotionally draining.
As a labor and delivery nurse, your job can be emotionally draining. This critical care environment can be emotional for all those who are involved. Yes, you will have highs, but you will also have lows, and those lows will be pretty bad. Over time experiencing all the highs and lows, you may become burned out. Then what?
4. You have a high risk of being exposed to pathogens.
One of the cons of being a labor and delivery nurse is that you will be exposed to pathogens in the workplace. You can become infected with viruses, bacteria, or parasites that are transmitted through the birth canal. Though you are more likely to catch something from a newly delivered baby than from an expectant mother, many pathogens can be carried by both. You may become ill, and you can bring some of these pathogens home to your loved ones.
5. You may have to deal with any emergencies.
One of the downsides to being a labor and delivery nurse is that you pretty much always need to be prepared for anything. You will be expected to respond to any emergency that arises with the mother or the newborn. Often, you will be required to make fast decisions with minimal information and no time to process them. So, I really hope you can think on your toes.
6. You will be working in an extremely physically demanding environment.
As a labor and delivery nurse, you must remember that your job will be extremely physically demanding. Each day you will be required to push, pull and lift your patients. It is also necessary for you to move quickly to meet the increasing needs of your patient. Not only must you use your body (and brain), but you will need to keep both areas equally fit to remain a successful labor and delivery nurse. You will find that you will be exhausted and sore at the end of the day.
7. You will be on your feet all day.
One of the pros and cons of being a labor and delivery nurse that you will have to think about is that you will be on your feet for your entire shift. You definitely will be burning those extra calories, but your feet will ache at the end of the day. You will be running from patient to patient. There will not be much time for rest during your shift. You will have to have good stamina for a career as a labor and delivery nurse. So, if you thought a career as a labor and delivery nurse would have you holding babies all day long, well, then think again.
8. You may miss many meal breaks or leave on time
As a labor and delivery nurse, your days may be so busy you will have to go without a break during your long shifts. You may miss your meals just because you are so busy. I really hope you handle hunger well because your lunch break will be more like a quick snack if you even get that.
9. You will need extra certificates.
As a labor and delivery nurse, you may be required to have additional certifications. The American Nurses Association
states that certified labor and delivery nurses (RNC-OB
) may be required to have additional certification. These certifications include fetal monitoring (C-EFM
), advanced cardiac life support (ACLS
), neonatal resuscitation program (NRP
), medical/surgical nursing, neonatal intensive care (NICU)-level training, and other area or hospital-specific programs for nurses. So, if you thought sitting in a classroom and having to take the test was over, well, you were wrong.
10. You can be sued
One of the biggest disadvantages of being a labor and delivery nurse is that you may be named in a lawsuit
. This can be a pretty scary thought, especially for those who have never been involved in a lawsuit. As nurses, you are some of the most influential people in the birth process. Mothers rely on you for your help and knowledge; therefore, it can come as no surprise that lawsuits involving labor and delivery nurses are more common than many may think. Being named in a labor and delivery nurse lawsuit can be very stressful for nurses. For many, it is a daunting task to fight a lawsuit from beginning to end. Most people would rather avoid a lengthy and expensive legal battle altogether.
TOP PROS OF BEING A LABOR AND DELIVERY NURSE
(The following are the top 10 advantages of being a Labor and Delivery Nurse.)
1. You get to be a part of bringing a new life into the world.
One of the top pros of being a labor and delivery nurse is that you get to help bring a new life into the world. It is definitely one of the most joyful and incredible experiences that you could ever be a part of. Not many people can say that they have seen a baby being born and experienced the wonderful feeling of helping make another human's life possible. It is an inspiring time that you will never forget, and one that will most certainly change your life for the better.
2. You can travel and work.
Another one of the top pros of being a labor and delivery nurse is that you could get to travel
. You can hop on a plane and see the world, all while working in the hospitals of other cities! Having the ability to work and travel is one pro of being a labor and delivery nurse. You can comfortably travel anywhere in the world and experience new things while also paying your bills just by working!
3. You will earn an excellent salary.
As a labor and delivery nurse, you will be earning an excellent salary. Earning such a great salary is one of the biggest advantages of being a labor and delivery nurse and will enable you to enjoy the lifestyle you deserve. This salary will support all your needs and some of your wants! The average annual salary for a labor and delivery nurse is $99,043 a year, around $47.62 an hour. The entry-level salary you can expect is $38.94 an hour, roughly $81,000 a year. A mid-level salary will have you earning $55.05 an hour, which is about $114,000 a year. A top-level salary for a labor and delivery nurse is $64.42 an hour, $134,000 a year.
4. You will be able to further your education.
One of the biggest pros to being a labor and delivery nurse is that you will have the means to further your education. Not only can you earn a bachelor's
degree if you are currently holding an associate’s degree, but most hospitals will pay for part or all of it, but you'll also become eligible for scholarships and grants from the American Academy of Nursing
as well as your state department of labor. You can even go on to pursue an advanced degree, such as a Master of Science in Nursing
or a Ph.D.
5. You will have job security.
As a labor and delivery nurse, you will definitely have job security. You can find a job anywhere, and you will not have to go searching hard either. You can find a job
as a labor and delivery nurse just about anywhere. Remember that dedicated, reliable labor and delivery nurses can earn a very high income.
6. You can save lives.
Not everyone can say that they go to work and save lives. Well, you can say that as a labor and delivery nurse. It is part of your job to keep the mothers and their babies safe during delivery. The fact that you get to go to work and save lives is definitely one of the pros of being a labor and delivery nurse and has got to make you feel good about the work that you do.
7. You will be educating new parents to help them care for their baby
One of the pros of being a labor and delivery nurse is educating new and old parents about how to care for their newborns. Most of the time, your clients are grateful for the information provided and ask intelligent questions. You are helping them to become better parents.
8. You will feel great about the work you are doing.
As a labor and delivery nurse, you should feel great about the work you are doing. The work you do every day directly impacts your patients and their families. You help new babies to be born, delivering them into the world of family and friends. You help women and their families in the most critical moments of their lives. You ease pain and stress; you lift fears and bring hope to mothers when they need it most. You are a hero.
9. You are a critical member of the healthcare team
One of the advantages of being a labor and delivery nurse is that you are a vital member of the healthcare team. In case you did not know, this is a pretty high calling. It takes a lot of dedication and hard work to be a critical member of any healthcare team.
10. You will never get bored
One of the pros and cons of being a labor and delivery nurse that you will need to consider is that your job will never leave you feeling bored. Yes, you will have very busy days on your feet, but the hours you are at work will fly by. While some nurses may complain about the lack of variety in their department, one never gets bored while working on labor and delivery. There is always something new to see or learn. You will work with people from all walks of life. You will meet unexpected scenarios and have to think on your feet. You will develop a variety of skills to save lives, ease pain, and change lives. It is a fast-paced job where you never know what the day may bring.
My Final Thoughts
You may be surprised to find that labor and delivery nurses have one of the most challenging jobs in nursing. So, what are the pros and cons of being a labor and delivery nurse? It is a job with long hours, tough physical demands, and often high levels of stress. But it has its share of perks, too – like working closely with new moms during an emotional time or having regular opportunities for growth as you gain more experience on the unit. There are many reasons why someone might want to become a labor and delivery nurse, but if you decide this is your calling, just know there will be some tradeoffs along the way before those rewards come knocking at your door! It does not take much to see that there are also some bad ones with all the good points! The decision is up to you -- but I hope my article on the top 10 pros and cons of being a labor and delivery nurse has helped make your choice easier. Good luck out there in nursing land!
Jennifer Schlette MSN, RN
Jennifer Schlette is a registered nurse in pediatric critical care in New York City. She is the former Director of Undergraduate Nursing at a college located in New York. After obtaining her BSN from the College of Mount Saint Vincent, she went on to complete her MSN.