How to become a labor and delivery nurse in 2023? + Salary — smart'n - NextGen Learning Support for Nurses (2024)

If you're passionate about becoming a nurse, maternal and infant health and want to play a vital role in bringing new life into the world, you're in the right place. This comprehensive guide will walk you through the steps, education, and skills required to pursue a career as a Labor and Delivery Nurse. Whether you're just starting out or looking to transition into this specialized field, we've got you covered. Get ready to explore the rewarding journey of becoming a Labor and Delivery Nurse, the requirements for labor and delivery nurse, and make a lasting impact on the lives of mothers and babies. Let's get started!

What is a labor and delivery nurse?

A labor and delivery nurse, also known as an L&D nurse, is a healthcare professional specializing in providing specialized care and support to pregnant women during childbirth. They undergo specialty training to assist women in delivering babies.

While general registered nurse (RN) positions involve diverse patient care responsibilities, L&D nurses have a specific role focused on working with expectant mothers in labor.

While most L&D nurses work in hospitals, there is a growing number of birthing centers across the country.

Becoming an L & D nurse offers promising career prospects as the demand for such professionals remains high in hospitals, birthing centers, and clinics. To pursue this rewarding career path, aspiring individuals can gain experience as registered nurses and specialize in labor and delivery.

What does a labor and delivery nurse do?

Labor and delivery nurses collaborate with obstetricians and gynecologists to assist pregnant women in the process of delivering their babies. They possess the skills to create a safe and comfortable environment for expectant mothers throughout their pregnancy and labor. These nurses establish strong connections with their patients to provide personalized and individualized support, maintaining a low caseload to ensure ample time and dedication for each mother.

The responsibilities of L and D nurses encompass several critical tasks, such as:

  • Monitoring and timing contractions during labor and delivery.

  • Offering expectant mothers information on the different stages of pregnancy.

  • Administering pain management techniques, including epidurals and other medications.

  • Assisting doctors in inducing labor when necessary.

  • Monitoring the vital signs of the mother and the baby's heart rate.

  • Identifying and addressing potential complications arising from commonly used medications during labor and delivery.

  • Maintaining effective communication with doctors to provide timely and accurate updates.

  • Providing continuous support, encouragement, and comfort throughout the pregnancy and labor process.

  • Recognizing any complications and promptly notifying the doctor.

  • Preparing for cesarean (C-section) deliveries, including emergency situations.

  • Educating mothers on breastfeeding techniques and newborn care.

While labor and delivery nurses often work as generalists, they can choose to specialize in specific areas to cater to unique groups of expectant mothers. Some examples of specializations include high-risk pregnancies, advanced maternal age, fetal development issues, cesarean section (C-section) births, and expertise in anesthetics and pharmacology.

How to become a labor and delivery nurse?

1- Earn a nursing degree

The first step towards having a labor and delivery nurses role involves completing a nursing degree. One option is to pursue an associate degree in nursing (ADN) which can qualify you to become a registered nurse. This two-year program equips aspiring nurses with the necessary skills for a healthcare career. Obtaining an ADN can serve as an initial step on the path to becoming a labor and delivery nurse.

Alternatively, earning a bachelor's degree in nursing (BSN) requires an additional two years of study, but it offers more diverse career opportunities. Employers may prioritize hiring BSN-educated nurses for labor and delivery positions.

Having a BSN may also open doors to increased responsibilities and leadership roles in the workplace. Furthermore, if you have plans to pursue an advanced degree in the future, a BSN is typically required.

There are hybrid and fully online degree programs available for both ADN and BSN degrees. It is important to ensure that the nursing board in your state approves your chosen program for pursuing a career as a labor and delivery nurse.

2- Pass the NCLEX Exam and Become a Registered Nurse (RN)

Upon completion of a nursing degree, you will be required to pass the National Council Licensing Exam (NCLEX) in order to become a registered nurse (RN). This exam assesses your knowledge and proficiency in essential medical competencies, serving as a validation of your readiness to practice as an RN.

Opting for an accredited Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) program can adequately prepare you for this examination, making it a wise choice. The NCLEX certification holds national recognition.

The subsequent step towards becoming a labor and delivery RN typically involves acquiring state licensure. The respective state's board of nursing assumes responsibility for ensuring that nurses practicing within its jurisdiction possess the necessary qualifications to deliver optimal patient care. Licensure requirements may vary depending on the specific nursing jobs and each state's regulations. Generally, the application process for state licensure entails:

Holding an advanced RN degree from an accredited nursing program.

  • Submission of official transcripts.

  • Attainment of a passing score on the NCLEX exam (each state board determines its own passing score).

  • Completion of an application, which may involve background checks and fingerprinting.

  • Payment of an application fee.

  • Documentation of clinical experience.

State labor and delivery nurse license renewal is typically required every two years. This renewal process may necessitate submitting proof of work hours and completing continuing education courses. Thoroughly researching the specific requirements of your state is crucial.

If you want to prepare for your NCLEX exam and pass your nursing license exam, take advantage of a quality NCLEX study tool like Smart’n.

Using Smart’n, you can access 2,500+ practice questions (including NextGen) and concise rationales. It also allows you to practice and assess your critical thinking and clinical judgment via NGN NCLEX-style case study practice, track your progress, and analyze your knowledge in each step. By becoming familiar with the format and types of questions, you can focus your studying on the areas where you need the most improvement.

3- Gain experience as a registered nurse

Begin your nursing career by gaining experience as a registered nurse (RN). While specific requirements may vary, it is generally advisable to gain some experience in a general medical-surgical or obstetrics/gynecology (OB/GYN) setting before specializing in labor and delivery nursing. This experience will provide you with a solid foundation of nursing skills.

4- Advance your education

Further education is necessary to progress in the labor and delivery nursing jobs beyond an RN degree. Some individuals opt to pursue specialization as nurse practitioners in obstetrics and gynecology. These nurses acquire advanced knowledge and skills to handle high-risk patients, complex situations, and complications that may arise during labor and delivery.

Alternatively, labor and delivery nurses may choose to become certified nurse-midwives. This path involves obtaining certifications as a certified nurse-midwife or certified midwife through the American Midwifery Certification Board. By attaining these designations, nurses can expand their scope of practice to provide comprehensive care to women throughout pregnancy, childbirth, and postpartum periods.

5- Earn certifications

Enhancing your qualifications as an RN can be accomplished by obtaining a certification in your specific area of interest. For labor and delivery nurses, a common certification is the Inpatient Obstetric Nursing (RNC-OB) certification offered by the National Certification Corporation. Achieving certification as a labor and delivery nurse can provide you with a competitive advantage and increase your attractiveness in the job market.

Ways to stand out as an L & D nurse job candidate

  • Continuously learn and stay updated

Stay current with the latest advancements and best practices in labor and delivery nurses role by pursuing continuing education courses, attending conferences, and keeping up-to-date with relevant research. This demonstrates your commitment to ongoing professional development.

  • Showcase strong communication skills

Effective communication is vital in L and D nursing. Highlight your ability to communicate clearly and empathetically with patients, their families, and the healthcare team. Good communication skills contribute to positive patient experiences and outcomes.

  • Demonstrate teamwork and collaboration

L&D nursing involves working closely with a multidisciplinary team. Emphasize your ability to collaborate effectively, respect diverse perspectives, and contribute to a cohesive team environment.

  • Highlight critical thinking and problem-solving abilities

Labor and delivery nurse often presents complex and rapidly changing situations. Showcase your critical thinking skills, adaptability, and ability to make sound decisions under pressure. Provide examples of how you have effectively managed challenging situations in the past.

  • Emphasize compassionate and patient-centered care

Labor and delivery can be a highly emotional and sensitive time for patients. Highlight your ability to provide compassionate care, support patients' individual needs, and promote a positive birth experience.

  • Utilize networking and professional connections

Build relationships with professionals in the field, attend nursing events, and join relevant nursing associations or organizations. Networking can lead to valuable connections, mentorship opportunities, and insider knowledge of job openings.

What is the career outlook for labor and delivery nurses?

The nursing shortage is expected to persist for a significant period due to the impending retirement of many nurses in the coming decade. As labor and delivery (L&D) nursing is physically demanding and involves long shifts, it is a suitable choice for new nurses who can empathize and work alongside their patients during labor.

In terms of job opportunities, specializing in L&D nursing can further enhance your job security. The Bureau of Labor Statistics' projections indicates a substantial demand for nurses in this field, highlighting the potential need for a considerable number of baby delivery nurses.

Average salary and working conditions

Salaries for labor and delivery nurses can vary based on location and years of experience. On a national average, full-time labor and delivery nurses earn approximately $65,438 per year.

Labor and delivery nurses primarily work in specialized hospital units dedicated to pregnant women. These units contain various rooms that serve different purposes:

  • Triage rooms

Triage rooms are where expectant mothers go upon arriving at the hospital unit to assess the progress of their labor.

  • Antepartum rooms

Antepartum rooms are specifically for monitoring expectant mothers who are sick but have not yet gone into labor.

  • Operating room

The operating room is used for cesarean sections (C-sections) when mothers require surgical delivery.

  • Labor room

The labor room is where expectant mothers go to give birth and often remain for recovery immediately after delivery.

  • Infant nursery

While many hospitals now prefer newborns to stay with their mothers, some may have an infant nursery where babies are monitored closely after delivery to allow mothers time to recover.

  • Postpartum room

The postpartum room is a quiet space dedicated to mothers and their newborns, providing a place for recovery. Family members can also visit the newborn in this room.

As an L&D nurse, you may assist in multiple deliveries during a single shift, which can occur during the day or overnight. Given the duration of the birthing process, labor nurses often work three 12-hour shifts. These extended shifts allow nurses to build rapport with patients, helping expectant mothers stay calm. In situations where a mother is still in labor, L&D nurses may work beyond the standard 12-hour shift.


In conclusion, becoming a labor and delivery nurse is an incredibly rewarding and fulfilling career path for those passionate about maternal and infant health. Throughout this blog, we have explored the essential steps and qualities needed to embark on this journey.


1- What are the qualities of a labor and delivery nurse?

A labor and delivery nurse, also known as a perinatal nurse or obstetric nurse, plays a crucial role in assisting women during the childbirth process. These nurses possess a diverse skill set and exhibit specific qualities to ensure the safety and well-being of both the mother and the newborn. Here are some of the qualities of a labor and delivery nurse:

  • Clinical Knowledge

  • Communication skills

  • Empathy and compassion

  • Adaptability and flexibility

  • Critical thinking and problem-solving

  • Continuous learning

  • Advocacy

2- What degree is best for labor and delivery nurse?

  • Earn a bachelor's degree in nursing (BSN).

  • Pass the NCLEX-RN exam to get the RN license. You can take the exam and earn your RN license before you finish your BSN program.

  • Gain work experience. ...

  • Consider advancing your career with a master's degree in nursing (MSN).

How to become a labor and delivery nurse in 2023? + Salary — smart'n - NextGen Learning Support for Nurses (2024)
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