As a labor and delivery (L&D) travel nurse, you have the ability to coach a woman through one of the most transforming life events she’ll ever experience — childbirth! As rewarding as this specialty is, it also comes with great responsibility. After all, this is fragile situation that can quickly change from positive to negative. You need to be confident in your abilities and able to think quickly under pressure.
Labor and delivery nurses typically work in the maternity department of a hospital, but they also might work in a freestanding birth center. Some facilities have one unit for labor, delivery, and recovery and a separate unit for postpartum care. Others have an all-in-one area where patients go through the entire hospital stay in a single private room. Patients who need Cesarean sections may go to an operating room located in the maternal care unit or go to a general operating suite somewhere else in the hospital. Newborn nurseries may be located in the same area as the mothers or in a different location. Regardless of how a hospital is set up, most L&D nurses cross train and work in all related areas.
The career outlook for nurses overall is excellent, however, because labor & delivery is such a popular area of nursing, it may be difficult to find open positions in the field. The turnover rate tends to be lower among labor & delivery nurses, and job openings are often few and far between. The overall employment of registered nurses is projected to grow by 22 percent between 2008 and 2018, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The average annual salary for a labor & delivery nurse is $55,000, according to SimplyHired.com, a site that calculates average salaries based on what is listed in the job postings it receives. However, a number of factors can affect your salary, including how many years of experience you have, what certifications you have, what region of the U.S. you live in, and whether you are working in a metropolitan or rural area.
The first step toward becoming a labor & delivery nurse is to earn a degree in nursing. Most nurses have earned either an Associate of Science in Nursing (ASN) or a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) from an accredited college or university. Less common is earning a nursing diploma, a program typically offered through hospitals. During your nursing education, it is important to take elective courses in labor & delivery or to specialize in labor & delivery. After completing a nursing program, all future nurses go on to take an exam called the NCLEX (National Council Licensure Examination) so they can become licensed to practice nursing in their state. After gaining experience as a staff nurse and later accumulating clinical experience working in labor & delivery, you can proceed to become board certified in an area of labor & delivery nursing.