How to Become a Labor and Delivery Nurse

Trish Lawrence
by Trish Lawrence   Career Advice Contributor 

You’ve decided to pursue a career in nursing. Good for you! You’ve chosen an exciting, challenging career with a massive global need. Nursing jobs can also vary widely, offering many different work settings, schedules and specialties. One of the most popular ― and rewarding ― areas of nursing is labor and delivery.

Labor and Delivery (or L&D) is a unique specialty that attracts and creates passionate, highly skilled and well-respected nurses.

These nurses work with pregnant and new mothers as well as babies to support the entire childbirth experience.

L&D is also a notoriously competitive specialty, but with solid credentials and a professional resume and cover letter, it’s not impossible.

With that said, working in labor and delivery won’t be the right fit for every nurse.

Here are three questions to consider as you explore a career in L&D.

What does a labor and delivery nurse do

A typical L&D nurse will assist pregnant women before, during and after childbirth.

Most labor and delivery nurse job descriptions include:

  • Work with doctors to address prenatal complications that arise throughout pregnancy
  • Assist the laboring mother through the four stages of labor
  • Monitor and assess patients throughout postpartum recovery
  • Care for newborns, including performing newborn screenings and assisting with breastfeeding
  • Provide continuous education for mothers and family
  • Assist the doctor or midwife with any procedures
  • Communicate with healthcare providers
  • Administer medications and perform nursing tasks, as ordered

Is labor and delivery right for me?

On any L&D unit, you’ll find a variety of personality types and demeanors:

  • Introverts and extroverts
  • Recent graduates and seasoned professionals
  • Quiet and energetic personalities
  • Morning people and night owls

What you should not find on an L&D unit are nurses with poor work ethic, self-centered attitudes or those who prefer to work alone. One Charleston, SC-based nurse and clinical manager we spoke with said that they value culture fit and teamwork over experience. “A bad fit is a bad hire if they’re not going to blend well with and enhance the team,” she explains.

Female nurses inspecting report from cardiotocograph with birthing mother in foreground

Here are a few qualities of successful L&D nurses:

  1. Friendly. Are you comfortable meeting people and capable of earning their trust quickly? You have people’s lives and their loved ones’ lives in your hands the moment they arrive on your unit.
  2. Team player. Between the doctor, the nurses and the techs, no one can do their job without the other. You need to be able to get along with others, especially in stressful situations.
  3. Efficient. Can you manage your time well and prioritize tasks? Sometimes a shift will pass by quickly, leaving you copious amounts of charting to catch up on, so you need to take advantage of “free” time when you have it.
  4. Compassionate. Can you provide a comforting yet confident presence? Can you explain difficult situations clearly and respectfully?
  5. Physically fit. Helping women endure labor, delivering babies and providing post-delivery care can be physically strenuous. You will always have the help of your coworkers and tools to help with ambulating patients, but you’ll also work long hours on your feet, moving swiftly as patients’ needs change. There is a certain amount of stamina required.
  6. Mentally and emotionally fit. Labor and delivery has the benefit of being one of the happiest places in the hospital, but it can also be the saddest. Not all deliveries go as planned, and injuries and deaths of the mother and child are possible. You’ll need to be ready to spring into action at any minute, helping doctors make quick, sometimes difficult decisions.

If you can claim these qualities, you may have the right personality for labor and delivery. Demonstrate how you’ve built and developed these skills in your cover letter and resume, providing details and evidence whenever possible. If you have a particular story that illustrates these qualities, share them during an interview or in your cover letter.

How do I become a labor and delivery nurse as a new grad?

You’ll need to take certain steps and obtain labor and delivery nurse certifications before you can qualify to work:

  1. Become a registered nurse by passing your NCLEX exam after graduating from nursing school
  2. Maintain good standing with the Board of Nursing
  3. Become NRP certified
  4. Gain ACLS and BLS certifications

In addition to these certifications, labor and delivery managers tend to prefer nurses with a Bachelor of Science in nursing (BSN) over an associate’s degree in nursing (ADN) these days. Keep that fact in mind when you choose a nursing program, or be ready to show your potential employer that you are willing (or better yet, already on your way) to receiving a BSN.

Here are some other ways to stand out, especially as a newly graduated nurse:

  • Create a professional resume. Your resume is the place to package your skills, education and experience into a compelling case to the hiring manager. Whenever possible, back up your accomplishments with evidence, such as formal recognition from your superiors or the number of volunteer hours you worked.
  • Make connections. While you’re doing your L&D clinical in nursing school, make it a point to meet the manager and be as involved and helpful as possible while you’re on the unit.
  • Work as a PCT. Many nursing students work as patient care technicians (PCT) during their school years to gain hands-on experience. If you can get a job as a PCT on a labor and delivery or postpartum unit, you’ll have an edge over the competition.
  • Volunteer. Give your time to the women’s health department of your local hospital. You can also find a medical mission trip focused on women’s health.
  • Put in the grunt work. Be ready and willing to work long hours late nights to prove that you are serious and dependable.
  • Ask for recommendations. Ask your women’s health nursing instructors and the labor nurses you work with during your clinicals to write letters of recommendation for you.

If you’re looking for your first nursing job, your cover letter and resume are powerful tools that can show how you have the qualities and credentials necessary to succeed in this competitive field.

LiveCareer’s Resume Builder and Cover Letter Builder will guide you in making your best case to the hiring manager and finding the right labor and delivery job for you. You can also check out our Labor and Delivery Nurse Resume Samples, as well as our Labor and Delivery Nurse Cover Letter Sample, for inspiration on how to write both documents.

About the Author

Career Advice Contributor

Trish Lawrence Career Advice Contributor

Trish Lawrence, BSN, is a Registered Nurse with a multi-state compact license, qualifying her to apply to jobs and work in 25 states. She has worked in South Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Uganda as an RN after receiving her bachelor's degree in Nursing in 2011 from the Medical University of South Carolina. She has experience in several areas of nursing, but most of her time as an RN has been spent in Labor and Delivery and Postpartum nursing. Lawrence has served in the leadership role of charge nurse, oriented new employees, sat in on potential hire interviews, and served on the Recruitment and Retention committee at her hospital.


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