How to Become a Labor and Delivery Nurse: The Complete Guide

Updated on January 14, 2024

A career in labor and delivery nursing provides unmatched opportunities to support mothers through childbirth while also caring for newborns during their precious first moments of life. As a labor and delivery (L&D) nurse, you would be integral in ensuring safe deliveries and facilitating initial bonding in the pregnancy’s final yet most rewarding phase.

This specialty field enables nurses to fully leverage their passion for women’s health and maternal wellbeing. The profound emotional connections formed through seeing parents’ joy upon finally meeting their babies also create lifelong memories for many L&D nurses.

This comprehensive guide covers key steps for those interested in entering the impactful and growing labor and delivery nursing field. Within this increasingly critical profession, compassionate registered nurses help bring new lives into the world daily through knowledge, care, and dedication over long yet fulfilling shifts.

What Does a Labor and Delivery Nurse Do?

Labor nurses care for women undergoing perhaps life’s most intense yet rewarding experience – giving birth. Responsibilities span:

Opportunities even exist for working in outpatient birthing clinics and hospital labor wings.

Specialized Nursing Education Needed

The journey starts by earning either:

Both qualify candidates to sit for RN licensure exams. However, those able BSN studies establish stronger clinical foundations plus current/future pay bumps while enabling quick future MSN Master’s entries.

During studies, landing obstetrics unit rotations exposes forthcoming nurses to birthing processes and common complications and cements passion, confirming career direction. Units seeing higher volumes provide immense experience.

Earning Nursing Licensure

All states mandate licensure verifying clinical abilities before independently handling labor patients. Two key steps:

  1. Pass the National Council Licensure Exam (NCLEX). This comprehensive RN assessment evaluates readiness, covering nursing knowledge from anatomy to interventions.
  2. Become Licensed In-State Upon NCLEX success, submit applications with transcripts to State Boards of Nursing like the Texas Board of Nursing or Florida Board of Nursing, who formally approve registered licensed status legally required in healthcare settings.

Gaining Inpatient Obstetric Nursing Certification

Ambitious nurses committed to professional growth pursue niche credentials like Inpatient Obstetric Nurse (RNC-OB) certification showing mastery of women’s reproductive nursing through written tests of expertise sponsored by the National Certification Corporation.

Actively maintaining RNC-OB status through continuing education demonstrates dedication. Patients view certified nurses as premium providers, while employers offer salary perks and management opportunities to credentialed staff with upskill initiatives.

Finding Labor and Delivery Nurse Positions

Insatiable demand exists for passionate L&D nurses at hospital labor and delivery units like those in outpatient birthing clinics and wellness centers, surrogacy or midwifery facilities, and women’s urogynecology/urology practices.

Cast wide nets through multiple hospitals while tailoring resumes and cover letters for women-centered settings. Patience pays off for ideal culture/team fits.

Understanding Key Responsibilities

Whether in hospitals or clinics, core responsibilities include:

Non-stop compassion and advocacy make challenging 12+ hour shifts immensely worthwhile.

Career Growth Prospects

Years enlarging clinical expertise open doors to specialty L&D nurse careers like:

Many nurse managers in hospital women’s health departments began by developing their talents by caring for laboring mothers earlier in their careers. Beyond hospitals, opportunities to teach university nursing students or author textbooks/journal articles beckon those also drawn to academia.

Income Outlook for Labor Nurses

The Bureau of Labor Statistics spots robust job growth for registered nurses overall owing to aging populations and expanded insurance coverage. Focusing experience within women’s health ensures abundant job security. Median salaries exceed $75,000, while many L&D nurses earn over $90,000 later on.

Years ExperienceAverage Salary
0-2 years$60,000 – $70,000
3-5 years$70,000 – $78,000
6-10 years$78,000 – $86,000
10-15 years$86,000 – $95,000
15+ years$95,000+

Networking Creates Community

Tight-knit nurse communities sprout by:

Connections translate into clinical collaborations, coveted case study coauthorships, and mentorships furthering expertise.

Getting Your Start

Pursuing a career as a labor and delivery nurse allows you to participate in a profoundly meaningful specialty – caring for mothers and welcoming babies during childbirth. If you feel passionate about women’s health and are drawn to supporting families during pregnancy culminations, this field provides incredibly fulfilling roles.

Take steps toward becoming an L&D nurse today by enrolling in an accredited nursing program’s maternity or obstetrics clinical rotation to gain firsthand experience. Attend information sessions at hospital labor and delivery units to speak with currently practicing nurses. Additionally, shadowing shifts and engaging in newborn care volunteer work can help prepare you for this unique specialty.

With a dedication to advancing your nursing education and getting hands-on training focused on childbirth, you’ll soon have the immense privilege of guiding patients during delivery as a knowledgeable, compassionate labor and delivery nurse. In this richly rewarding role, you can build lifelong bonds with families during intense, emotional moments while progressing an impactful career caring for mothers and babies.


What degree do you need to become a labor and delivery nurse?

You need either an Associate’s Degree in Nursing (ADN) or a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) to qualify for registered nursing licensure and work as a labor and delivery nurse.

How much do labor and delivery nurses get paid?

The average salary for labor and delivery nurses ranges from around $60,000 for new nurses to over $95,000 per year for experienced L&D nurses in management or advanced specialties.

What certification is required?

Earning nursing certification like the Inpatient Obstetric Nurse (RNC-OB) credential to demonstrate in-depth expertise in women’s reproductive care and obstetric procedures can help labor nurses qualify for senior positions and higher salaries.

What qualities make a good labor and delivery nurse?

Compassion, physical stamina, critical thinking, communication skills, attention to detail, and the ability to remain calm under intense pressure represent essential qualities for succeeding as a labor nurse.