How to Become a Labor and Delivery Nurse

NursingOctober 13, 2023

How to Become a Labor and Delivery Nurse

Labor and delivery nurses play a pivotal role in bringing new life into the world. In addition to providing support to expectant mothers, labor and delivery nurses, or L&D nurses, are witness to the joy of families as they watch their newborns take a first breath. Students pursuing careers in this field not only have an opportunity to make a significant impact in their patients’ lives, they often find working as an L&D nurse to be uniquely fulfilling and a potentially lucrative career path.

The first step in how to become a labor and delivery nurse is to develop the skills and knowledge to support pregnant women, their unborn babies, and their families throughout this transitional time. Completing a nursing school program can provide graduates with the foundational knowledge to pursue their dream of becoming an L&D nurse. 

What Does a Labor and Delivery Nurse Do?

Labor and delivery nurses are an essential part of the child-birthing process. These dedicated healthcare professionals not only assist patients during prenatal visits, support women during labor, and monitor newborns’ vital signs, they also educate new and expectant mothers about childbirth recovery. 

Although the exact duties of L&D nurses can vary based on the facility they work in, common job duties are as follows:

  • Supporting expectant mothers during prenatal appointments 
  • Instructing and guiding childbirth preparation classes 
  • Providing patients with information and assistance throughout labor and delivery 
  • Guiding and supporting women throughout the labor process 
  • Educating new mothers on post-childbirth recovery 
  • Administering medications during labor as instructed

Schedules of L&D nurses vary depending on whether they work at a hospital, private healthcare office, outpatient care clinic, or standalone birthing facility, or if they attend home births. Nurses employed at facilities that keep standard business hours, such as physicians’ offices, may work 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Professionals employed by facilities that provide 24-hour care or who provide at-home birthing services may have more fluid schedules. They may work night, weekend, holiday, and on-call shifts.

Steps to Become a Labor and Delivery Nurse

Students interested in becoming labor and delivery nurses must complete several benchmarks. Common steps toward becoming an L&D nurse include the following:

1. Earn a Nursing Degree

Students interested in pursuing the fastest pathway toward becoming a labor and delivery nurse often start by earning a practical nursing credential or an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN). A practical nursing program can take as little as 15 months to complete. It also prepares students to take the NCLEX-PN exam and become licensed practical nurses (LPNs). 

ADN programs are designed to provide aspiring nurses with the essential knowledge and skills to start their careers in as little as two years. Completing an ADN program also prepares graduates to take the NCLEX-RN exam if they choose, which, upon passage, allows them to work as registered nurses (RNs). Many employers prefer that L&D nurses hold a registered nursing license.

2. Pass the NCLEX-PN or NCLEX-RN

After completing their nursing degree, aspiring L&D nurses must pass the NCLEX-PN or NCLEX-RN exam before they can gain state licensure as an LPN or RN. These computer-based tests consist of between 85 and 205 questions (NCLEX-PN) or between 74 and 145 questions (NCLEX-RN) and are graded in a pass-fail format. The exams are offered numerous times each year at testing centers throughout the U.S.

3. Develop Key Skills

Aspiring labor and delivery nurses must be diligent in assessing changes in the health status of their patients, especially during childbirth. Students interested in working in this field will be well-served by developing the following skills and proficiencies:

  • Ability to thrive under pressure 
  • Critical thinking skills
  • Communication skills
  • Compassion 
  • Cultural competence
  • Empathy

4. Gain Work Experience

Aspiring L&D nurses typically need to acquire nursing experience before advancing to the position. Most L&D nurses gain work experience in public or private hospitals, at freestanding birthing centers, and group or private practice medical offices, among others. 

5. Earn a Certification

Professionals looking to become labor and delivery nurses may choose to complete one or more certification programs to advance their credentials. Sample certifications include:

  • Neonatal Resuscitation Program (NRP)
  • Electronic Fetal Monitoring (C-EFM)
  • Inpatient Obstetric Nursing (RNC-OB) 

6. Continue Professional Development

L&D nurses interested in furthering their education may choose to complete a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) program. BSN graduates can also pursue a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) or Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) to become advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) or certified nurse practitioners (NPs) in the obstetrics field. APRNs often enjoy enhanced career advancement and earnings potential. 

Job Outlook for Labor and Delivery Nurses

The U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics (BLS) projects jobs in the field of registered nursing to grow by 6% between 2022 and 2032, which is faster than what’s projected for the U.S. job market as a whole. Practical nursing positions are expected to grow 5% during the same period. 

The BLS projects approximately 193,100 job openings for RNs and 54,400 positions for LPNs will become available each year from 2022 to 2032. Many of these vacancies are expected to become available due to the need to replace nurses who leave the workforce for various reasons, such as to raise a family, retire, or transfer to alternate occupations. 

Complete a Nursing School Program to Pursue Your Dream of Becoming a Labor and Delivery Nurse

If you are interested in pursuing a streamlined route toward becoming a labor and delivery nurse, explore the benefits of completing the Practical Nursing or Associate Degree in Nursing offerings from Fortis. The nursing programs at Fortis equip graduates with the fundamental skills to become licensed practitioners, as well as with the knowledge to provide care for expectant women as they prepare for labor.

Are you ready to take the next step in your educational journey? Discover how completing a nursing school program with Fortis can prepare you to start your career as a labor and delivery nurse. 

Recommended Readings

5 Ways Nurses Are Making a Difference in Patients’ Lives
Specialty Spotlight: Pediatric Oncology Nursing
A Nursing Career in the Military  

American Academy of Pediatrics, Neonatal Resuscitation Program
Betterteam, Labor and Delivery Nurse Job Description
National Certification Program, Electronic Fetal Monitoring (C-EFM)
National Certification Program, NCC Credential in Inpatient Obstetric Nursing (RNC-OB)
National Council of State Boards of Nursing, NCLEX
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Registered Nurses
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Licensed Practical and Licensed Vocational Nurses