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“Having a child is a special time in a family’s life. It is an unforgettable experience. If you ask any woman about the birth of her child, she can recount many details after several years. As a Labor & Delivery nurse, I have the privilege of sharing in this special time. Like many nurses, I enjoy making a difference in people’s lives and I am privileged to help women birth their babies every day. Usually a joyous time, childbirth can be a scary experience for some, especially if it is complicated by medical conditions. With education and empathy, I can help my patients through this experience and help them find the wonder and joy of birth. Labor & Delivery nursing provides me with autonomy, a range of experiences, and a usually satisfying and fast-paced career.”

Michelle Davis RNC, BSN


While recent trends move nursing and health care out of the hospital and into the community, some areas of nursing remain predominately in the hospital setting. One of these areas is Labor and Delivery (L&D) nursing.

L&D registered nurses use professional judgment, critical thinking, and fast decision making skills. They care for women who are laboring, having complications of pregnancy or having recently delivered. They work closely with patients, families, and other health care professionals.


L&D registered nurses provide care to women and their newborns during the antepartum, intrapartum, postpartum, and neonatal stages of this important life event. They assess each mother and baby and develop an individualized plan of care. L&D registered nurses collaborate with physicians and other health care providers to provide the best plan of care for each patient. They implement the plan of care by monitoring the mother and baby and by teaching patients about their care and topics related to women’s health and newborn care. L&D nurses evaluate the effectiveness of the care plan and modify it as needed to meet the changing needs of the mother, newborn, and family. They also provide psychosocial and emotional support to patients and families. 

L&D registered nurses assume many different roles, including:

  • Antepartum Nurse – provides care to patients who have complications of pregnancy requiring hospitalization.
  • L&D Nurse – provides care to patients in labor who have uncomplicated or complicated deliveries.
  • Circulating Nurse – manages patient care in the Operating Room during a cesarean delivery.
  • Scrub Nurse – works directly with the surgeons during a cesarean delivery by passing instruments, etc, to the physicians.
  • Postpartum Nurse – provides care to patients who have recently delivered.

Nursery Nurse – provides care to newborns.L&D registered nurses also may work as clinical coordinators responsible for patient assignments and coordinating patient care. L&D registered nurses also may hold positions in clinical education, research or medical sales. With further education, they can be managers or advanced practice nurses, for example a nurse practitioner or a perinatal clinical nurse specialist.


High Risk Obstetrics

Practice Settings:

L&D registered nurses work in a variety of urban and rural settings including:

  • Hospital L&D Units
  • Clinics
  • Physician offices
  • Maternity Centers
  • Birthing Centers


L&D nursing requires empathy, critical thinking, decision-making, and communication skills. Most L&D registered nurses have some general medical-surgical nursing background. L&D nurses must be able to communicate well with patients, families, and other health care providers. They must be skilled in prioritizing patient needs and cope well with a fast-paced, sometimes stressful environment.


RN license with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN), Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN), or hospital diploma. L&D registered nurses are also required to be educated in neonatal resuscitation and fetal monitoring.

Certification exams may also be taken in specialty areas after two years of specialty practice. These include areas such as Intrapartum Nursing, Postpartum Nursing, Fetal Monitoring, and Nursery. Registered nurses who complete certification requirements may use the RN,C designation.

Salary Range: 

The median annual wage for registered nurses in 1997 was $41,400 and the median hourly wage was $18.88, according to the U. S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. However, some 30 percent of all registered nurses earn between $40,000 and $50,000 and another 16 percent earn from $50,000 to $89,000.


Association of Women’s Health, Obstetric and Neonatal Nurses
2000 L Street, NW, Suite 740
Washington DC 20036
(202) 261-2400
Fax: (202) 728-0575