If the thought of working in the fast-paced, sometimes crazy and often frustrating world of laboring women excites you, you might consider a career as a labor and delivery nurse. Working in labor and delivery doesn't require any schooling beyond the courses every nursing student takes. But working as a nurse extern in labor and delivery while attending school, or taking steps to shine during your maternal-child health rotation, might help you snag the job of your choice after graduation.
General Nursing Requirements
Labor and delivery is considered a plum job in nursing. In some states, only registered nurses (RNs) work in this unit. If you have your heart set on L&D, as it's commonly called, check your local hospital's requirements before choosing a nursing school. While there are three common paths to an RN degree – a two-year associate's degree (ADN), a three-year diploma program or a four-year baccalaureate degree (BSN), according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics – with the fierce competition for nursing jobs, you'll be more marketable for specialty jobs such as labor and delivery if you have a BSN.
Standing Out During Clinicals
Your only chance to make an impression on the powers-that-be on the labor floor – the ones who could hire you after graduation – might be during your clinical rotation. Every nursing program includes some time, if not an entire semester, in maternal-child health, which includes labor and delivery, postpartum, newborn nursery and pediatrics. Be on time, follow the dress code to a T, don't text the day away and listen more than you talk, the Online-Education website suggests. If you have an option to spend more time in one unit than the others, hang out around labor and delivery, watch as many deliveries as you can and show interest in learning whatever anyone will teach you while you're there. Enthusiasm is remembered.
Snagging an Externship
Some hospitals offer nurse externships, which usually last for a summer between semesters. An externship can show you what nursing is really all about while you're still in school. And if you want to become known to your hospital's labor and delivery unit as a person they might want to hire after graduation, working as an extern – which means working under the supervision of an L&D nurse -– is invaluable. If you do clinical rotations at a few different hospitals, ask about externships long before you're eligible to apply and try to finagle your clinical rotation at that hospital.
You can't work anywhere as a nurse until you pass the National Council Licensure Examination, better known as the NCLEX. Once you do, you can start studying for certifications that could boost your chances of spending your days – or nights – on the labor floor. Most labor and delivery nurses are certified in intravenous administration, which you can obtain by attending a certification course. You will also need basic life support certification and, for most labor and delivery jobs, neonatal resuscitation, fetal monitoring and advanced life support certification. While the hospital will send you for these classes if you're hired, obtaining them in advance might show that you're serious about working in this area.
A registered nurse with more than 25 years of experience in oncology, labor/delivery, neonatal intensive care, infertility and ophthalmology, Sharon Perkins has also coauthored and edited numerous health books for the Wiley "Dummies" series. Perkins also has extensive experience working in home health with medically fragile pediatric patients.