OB laborists, or OB hospitalists, are OB/GYN physicians who have chosen to work in hospitals, solely focusing on labor and delivery. Instead of working with a number of specific patients, laborists are the attending obstetricians for the entire hospital. You'll deal with emergency births, cover for regular OB/GYNs who are not present when their patients go into labor and manage patients who don't have an obstetrician.
Job Duties and Responsibilities
Your role focuses on giving inpatient care to pregnant women, managing labor and delivery on both an emergency and routine basis. Unlike regular OB/GYNs, you typically won't have an existing relationship with your patients, and you won't manage their care after discharge. You may also have other responsibilities, including educating other medical staff, establishing care protocols for labor and delivery programs and working on research projects. More experienced laborists may move into management roles or teaching. Hospitals that employ OB laborists have a qualified obstetrician on site 24/7, so you typically need to work to a shift schedule.
Education and Training
To become an OB laborist, you first need to train as a physician. This requires a bachelor's degree and four years at medical school. Once qualified, you then take on specialty residency training in obstetrics and gynecology for four years. Once you've completed your residency program, you can practice as an OB/GYN. If you decide to add to an obstetrics subspecialty, such as care in high-risk pregnancies, to your skills, you'll have another three years of training.
Licensing and Certification
Like all physicians, you need a license. State requirements may vary, but all physicians must pass a national exam, such as the U.S. Medical Licensing Examination, before they can practice. Board certification may not be essential, but may be useful -- the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology manages certification in this field. To qualify, you must pass a written test, prove that you have experience of women's health care and then pass an oral exam. Additional board certification in an obstetrics subspecialty involves a written and oral exam after training.
OB Laborist Salaries
OB laborist salaries may be fixed, variable or a combination of the two. For example, a hospital may choose to pay laborists a regular annual salary, or may pay variably based on performance measures such as the number of births or length of patient stays. Industry salary data tends to focus on the dual OB/GYN hospitalist role; the most recent survey that also polled laborists appeared in the American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology in 2010. According to this data, approximately 30 percent of laborists reported annual salaries of less than $151,000, just over 50 percent reported less than $200,000 and fewer than 10 percent reported more than $300,000.
Job Outlook for OB Laborists
Finding a job as an OB/GYN may not be difficult, but you may have more limited options as an OB laborist. Jobs only exist if hospitals have adopted the hospitalist model in obstetrics. According to Barton Associates, a physician staffing and recruiting firm, there were approximately 197 hospitals with laborist programs in 2013. There are signs that this kind of program is growing in popularity, however. A 2012 American Hospital Association report showed that the percentage of hospitals using hospitalist models increased from 29.6 percent in 2003 to 59.8 in 2010.
- Oblaborist.org: The Role of Laborist in Patient Care
- The American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology: Questions and Answers for the Public and Medical Organizations
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: How to Become a Physician or Surgeon
- Society of Hospital Medicine: Compensation
- The American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology: Survey of Obstetric and Gynecologic Hospitalists and Laborists
- Barton Associates: Laborists Offer a Flexible Solution for Hospitals and General Practice OB/GYNs
- ObGynHospitalist.com: Business of OB/GYN Hospitalists -- Creating the Hospital of the Future
- Keith Brofsky/Stockbyte/Getty Images