Supporting women as they bring new life into the world — there’s nothing like it. Labor and delivery nurses experience that joy and satisfaction day in and day out.

But becoming a labor and delivery nurse doesn’t happen without hard work, determination, education, licensing, and practical experience.

If the thought of serving moms and their newborns in the labor and delivery unit interests you, find out what it takes to become a labor and delivery nurse in this guide. 

We’ll walk you through the steps to becoming a labor and delivery nurse and answer some commonly asked questions to help you know if this nursing specialty is right for you. 


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How To Become a Labor and Delivery Nurse Step-By-Step

With over three million births per year in the United States in 2021, labor and delivery nurses (L&D nurses) continue to be in demand. To keep the nursing industry staffed with necessary L&D nurses, new nurses must enter the field.

Becoming a labor and delivery nurse doesn’t happen overnight, of course. To begin practicing, a potential L&D nurse will need to:

  • Learn about the field
  • Earn a nursing degree
  • Pass the NCLEX exam
  • Acquire certifications and licensing; and
  • Gain valuable experience

After working for a while as an RN, a labor and delivery nurse may also want to pursue an advanced degree.

Does the process of becoming a labor and delivery nurse sound daunting? Let us break it down for you by walking through the following six steps.


how to become a labor and delivery nurse nstep by step


Step 1: Research the Labor and Delivery Field To See if It’s Right for You

Do you think you want to be a labor and delivery nurse? 

Before you jump in, register for classes, spend money on a degree, and invest a lot of time and energy, you should do some research to learn what the L&D nursing profession involves. Knowing what labor and delivery nursing looks like and requires on a daily basis can give you a realistic idea of what to expect.

To get a better look at the profession, it’s helpful to:

  • Define the labor and delivery nurse’s role
  • Understand the duties a labor and delivery nurse performs; and
  • Be familiar with the skills and qualities a labor and delivery nurse should possess


What Is a Labor and Delivery Nurse?

Labor and delivery nurses care for both mothers and babies — for the mother during labor and childbirth and for infant with initial postpartum care.

Under the supervision of a physician, labor and delivery nurses support women giving birth at locations including:

  • Hospitals maternity units
  • Delivery rooms; and
  • Birthing centers 


What Does a Labor and Delivery Nurse Do?

Labor and delivery nurses monitor patients and provide support throughout the entire labor and birthing process. They also may be required to respond to emergencies and provide necessary interventions.

Once the baby is born, L&D nurses provide initial newborn care to the infant, which may include monitoring vitals and watching for any complications.

Because every woman’s labor and delivery experience is unique and requires close monitoring, labor and delivery nurses usually have a small caseload to give each patient the attention they need throughout their birthing journey.

Labor and delivery nurses will perform myriad duties during their shifts, which may include:

  • Administering medication
  • Monitoring vital signs
  • Monitoring contractions and the baby’s heartbeat
  • Conducting exams to determine labor progression
  • Preparing and maintaining IVs
  • Educating patients, spouses/partners, and other family members
  • Assisting doctors during labor
  • Communicating with the physician
  • Assisting in emergencies
  • Providing support and encouragement to mothers during labor
  • Identifying complications
  • Preparing for c-sections
  • Coaching on breastfeeding and newborn care


What Skills and Qualities Are Needed To Be a Labor and Delivery Nurse?

Because of the L&D environment, which can include intense emotions and fast-paced emergencies, labor and delivery nurses possess the following characteristics:

  • Excellent communication skills to provide clear and effective communication to patients, other caregivers, and family members
  • Ability to make quick decisions and remain calm during high-stress or emergency situations
  • Strong assessment skills to read patients’ pain levels and understand their psychological and medical needs
  • Empathetic, compassionate, and caring to provide a comfortable environment for the mother and other family members and support them emotionally
  • Medical skills to appropriately administer medications, check vitals, and respond to various medical situations
  • Ability to stay calm and keep their own emotions in check while separating work life from personal life and managing their stress


becoming a labor and delivery nurse


Step 2: Earn a Nursing Degree

After researching what labor and delivery nurses do and assessing your own characteristics and skills, the next step to becoming a labor and delivery nurse is to earn a nursing degree.

Nurses can begin nursing with either an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) or a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN). 

An ADN is a two-year degree that allows students to gain core knowledge and clinical skills. A BSN is a four-year degree that may open more doors for more job, leadership, and earning opportunities.

Labor and delivery nursing students may also add electives to their course load, which may prepare them for an L&D specialty

All nursing degrees will include coursework and clinical rotations.


Step 3: Pass the NCLEX Exam

Once you’ve obtained a nursing degree, the next step is to pass the NCLEX exam (National Council Licensing Exam). 

This exam is used to measure a nurse’s medical competencies and readiness to become a registered nurse and covers these eight main categories:

  1. Management of care
  2. Safety and infection control
  3. Health promotion and maintenance
  4. Psychosocial integrity
  5. Basic care and comfort
  6. Pharmacology
  7. Reduction of risk
  8. Physiological adaptation

In most states, you must wait at least 45 days after graduation before taking the NCLEX. Check with your state’s regulations and get advice from your educational institution to decide when is the best time to sit for the exam.

Though most nurses pass the NCLEX the first time, it can be taken up to eight times in one year with a 45-day waiting period between each attempt.


Step 4: Obtain Certifications and Licensure

Earning a certification in the labor and delivery field is a way for nurses to draw the attention of potential employers and make themselves more marketable. Becoming a certified labor and delivery nurse can also mean a higher salary.

Inpatient Obstetric Nursing (RNC-OB) is a common certification for L&D nurses that can be obtained through the National Certification Corporation. Labor and delivery nurses may also pursue other certifications, like:

  • Intrapartum nursing
  • Postpartum nursing
  • Fetal monitoring and nursery

Though obtaining certifications may be optional, becoming licensed in the state where you practice is mandatory. 

Though licensure requirements vary by state and type of nursing, many state licensing boards may require the following to become a licensed RN:

  • An RN degree from an accredited nursing program
  • Official transcripts
  • A passing score on the NCLEX exam, which is determined by the state board
  • A completed application plus any fees
  • Background check and fingerprinting
  • Nursing experience

Working as a staff L&D nurse may be your preference, but travel nursing is a career path that is also a viable option for many nurses. 

Travel L&D nurses must also be licensed in the state where they work. Many states participate in the Nurse Licensure Compact, which means nurses with a license in a compact state can apply for a multistate license as long as they meet the licensure requirements.

If you’d like to practice labor and delivery nursing while seeing the world, travel nursing may be an option to research. 

Trusted Nurse Staffing helps nurses find the most desirable jobs in choice locations. And the Trusted Nurse Staffing team is there to help you navigate the entire process and to support you every step of the way.

Use the Pronto job search to find available labor and delivery travel nurse assignments.


steps to become a labor and delivery nurse


Step 5: Gain Labor and Delivery Nursing Experience

Once you’ve earned your degree, passed the NCLEX, and obtained licensure, you are ready to get to work and start gaining beneficial experience.

A nursing education and clinical experience are necessary to become a nurse. But nothing beats actual work experience to expose you to various scenarios and real-world circumstances that will further develop your nursing skills and mature you in your profession.


Step 6: Consider an Advanced Degree

Some L&D nurses may want to further their education by earning a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) or by becoming a nurse practitioner.

Earning advanced degrees can result in:

  • More responsibility on the job
  • Higher salaries
  • Increased job opportunities
  • Expertise in the labor and delivery field

With an advanced degree, like an MSN, nurses may be able to work as:

  • Administrators
  • Educators
  • Advanced Practice Registered Nurses
  • Clinical nurse specialists
  • Certified nurse-midwives
  • And more


become a labor and delivery nurse


4 FAQs About How To Become a Labor and Delivery Nurse


#1: Is a Labor and Delivery Nurse the Same as a Midwife?

No. Though L&D nurses and certified nurse-midwives (CNM) are similar, a certified nurse-midwife receives advanced training and certification. A CNM earns a master’s degree and is able to work as an advanced practice registered nurse.

While labor and delivery nurses work with women right before they give birth, a certified nurse midwife may also work with expectant mothers throughout their pregnancy.

It may also be helpful to know that a CNM is different from a certified midwife (CM). A certified midwife is not a registered nurse but may have a general healthcare degree and is a graduate of a midwifery program.


#2: How Long Does It Take To Become a Labor and Delivery Nurse?

Depending on the type of degree a nurse pursues and other variables, it can take two to six years to become a labor and delivery nurse. 


#3: How Much Does a Labor and Delivery Nurse Make?

Labor and delivery nurse salaries vary depending on: 

  • Location
  • Experience
  • Type of degree
  • Specializations; and 
  • Certifications 

The average salary for a labor and delivery nurse in the United States is $79,300, but the range is usually between $72,200 and $89,800.

Labor and delivery travel nurses may have higher salaries and receive a wide range of benefits. Travel nurses with Trusted Nurse Staffing receive benefits like:

  • Sign-on bonuses
  • Completion bonuses
  • Travel, meal, and housing stipends
  • Health insurance
  • Wellness benefits
  • And more

To learn more about Trusted Nurse Staffing and how our team can help you find an L&D assignment in your desired location, search for travel nursing jobs on Pronto today.


steps to become a labor and delivery nurse


# 4: Can a Labor and Delivery Nurse Work as a Travel Nurse?


Hospitals and other medical facilities may experience temporary or long-term staffing shortages for many reasons. When shortages occur, medical facilities rely on travel nurses to fill in the gap and provide continued care and service to patients. 

As a labor and delivery travel nurse, not only will you be doing the work you love, but you also have the opportunity to:

  • Work in a variety of environments and healthcare facilities
  • Meet new people
  • Visit new places
  • Earn a competitive salary
  • Receive perks and benefits


Become a Labor and Delivery Travel Nurse With Trusted Nurse Staffing and Do What You Love While Seeing the World

If you’ve been a staff labor and delivery nurse for some time or if you are just getting your feet wet, travel nursing may be what you’re looking for to settle your craving for adventure and travel.

Trusted Nurse Staffing is here to help you find the job of your dreams in a location you desire. Our contracts are flexible and include 6, 8, and 13-week assignments. 

Your Trusted Nurse Staffing representative will walk with you every step of your travel nursing journey, including:

  • Analyzing your education and experience to help craft your resume for your desired position
  • Listening to your goals and availability
  • Proving a list of possible assignments
  • Connecting you with your top choices
  • Assisting you will all necessary compliances
  • Supporting you by answering questions and promptly responding to your concerns
  • Extending your contract or helping you find your next assignment

Get started today by searching for available L&D nursing jobs on Pronto.