Obstetric nurses play a crucial role before, during, and after a pregnancy. They work in tandem with obstetricians to educate women about preparing for conception and carrying a baby, as well as for delivery and maintaining their health post-pregnancy. They work in physicians’ offices, hospital maternity wards, and birthing centers, serving as a familiar face during regular prenatal checkups and as a coach during delivery.
Though the birth rate in the United States has dropped steadily since 2008, the need for obstetric nurses has not reflected that decline. In fact, recent studies have pointed in the opposite direction, indicating a significant need for new mothers and their infants to be treated as separate patients and for expansion of staffing in labor and delivery and perinatal units. The demand for lower patient-to-nurse ratios combined with the national nurse shortage means a real and continuing need for obstetric nurses and obstetric travel nurses.
Obstetric nurse responsibilities vary based on the individual nurse’s work environment. For those who work within an obstetrician’s office, duties revolve around prenatal and postnatal care of the mother. Obstetric nurses play a pivotal role in routine checkups, in providing counseling and support, and assisting in the collection of blood and urine samples and conducting various exams.
Obstetric nurses who work in hospitals and birthing centers are responsible for the process that surrounds delivery, including:
Obstetric nurses also provide care to mothers in the hours after birth. They monitor and manage both the newborn and the mother, providing care for normal births and those involving complications and special attention. They also provide general nursing care including administering pain medication and assisting with recovery, as well as specialized care for C-section incisions and similar post-birth needs.
Obstetric nurses often earn either a four-year Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) or a two-year Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN). Aspiring obstetric nurses must also pass the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN) exam, which confers licensure. From there, nurses who want to become obstetric nurses can earn their stripes by working in an obstetrician’s office or in the labor and delivery department of a hospital or birthing center. Once they have 2,000 hours of experience, they can pursue Inpatient Obstetric Nursing Certification through the National Certification Corporation.
Obstetric nurses who join the Association of Women’s Health, Obstetric, and Neonatal Nurses may benefit from a wealth of personal and professional growth opportunities, as well as a network of like-minded care providers dedicated to the health of both women and newborns.
Nurses who work in obstetrics have a wide range of specialized skills required by the unique and highly specific needs of their patients. As a result, the national median salary an obstetric nurse commands is higher than other nursing specialties.
According to Salary.com, the national average base salary for an obstetric nurse is $72,061, with variables based on level of education, years of experience, the skills they bring to the job, and the area of the country where they work. Obstetric nurses can boost their income by volunteering to work on weekends, overtime, and shift differentials. Their salary is often supplemented by the value of the benefits they receive, including medical, vision and dental insurance, on-site childcare, and more.
The national average base salary for an obstetric nurse is $72,061.
Obstetric nurses can expect to work long hours and to be busy round-the-clock, as infants choose their own, unpredictable timetable for their birth. Not only do obstetric nurses need to be okay with unpredictability, they also need to be available to provide compassion and support in the long hours leading up to delivery, or in situations where a delivery does not end as hoped. Their empathy and abilities are entirely portable, making their profession well suited to pursue travel obstetric nurse positions.
|Satisfaction of being part of an extremely cohesive care team.||Not every patient has a positive outcome — fetal/pregnancy losses are devastating.|
|One-on-one direct patient care.||Well-intentioned family members can add stress for patients and staff.|
|Joy of caring for newborns and witnessing the strength of women as they go through labor and delivery.||Long hours and round-the-clock scheduling.|
The care and training that goes into being an obstetric nurse easily transfers to different locations. Opportunities exist everywhere and in environments ranging from small offices and birthing centers to major medical center labor and delivery departments.
Working as a travel obstetric nurse offers a competitive salary supplemented by attractive benefits, often including bonuses, non-taxable housing and meal stipends, in addition to traveling the U.S. and discovering new places.