3 Essential Skills for Labor and Delivery Nurses

3 Essential Skills for Labor and Delivery Nurses

Skills every labor and delivery nurse will need to master

By Riley Morales, RN, contributor

Labor and delivery (L&D) nurses have one of the most important jobs in healthcare, tending to mothers and their newborns. L&D nurses monitor the labor process to identify any birthing challenges, help mothers during the initial postpartum period, tend to newborns and help educate families on infant care—to name only a few of their responsibilities. To say L&D nurses have a “big job” doesn’t come close to representing the significant role they play in assisting mothers and bringing new life into our world. 

If you are interested in a career as a labor and delivery nurse, you will need strong clinical and interpersonal skills, and adept usage of electronic medical records (EMRs) will also be required. However, the following skills often top the list as the most essential in this specialty.

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Three skills every L&D nurse needs

Skill 1: Excellent communication skills

During labor, things can happen quickly. It is imperative for L&D nurses to have excellent communication skills to assist other caregivers, coach the patient during labor and facilitate treatment should an emergency occur.

L&D nurses must also have good bedside manner. This helps provide psychological and emotional support to patients and their families during labor and the postpartum period. An appropriate balance of empathy, patience and firmness can allow nurses to easily coach and guide new families in caring for newborns. 

Skill 2: Patient assessment

Assessment skills are vital to performing the L&D nurse’s role successfully. You must be able to examine and attend to multiple patients, identify and document trends in EMRs, detect irregularities in mothers or newborns (excessive bleeding, irregular heartbeats, etc.), and monitor patient progress through various other assessments. 

These assessments could include:

  • Assessment of maternal status
  • Description of uterine activity
  • Assessment of fetal status
  • Description of findings in a vaginal exam
  • Summaries of maternal and fetal status, and 
  • Plans for clinician interventions, pain management and delivery

Labor and delivery nurses are a commanding force in the delivery room. Although you will have a support system such as other physicians and delivery coaches, you will be the one using your assessment skills to make decisions that could save the life of a mother or her baby. 

Skill 3: Prioritization of patients

Labor and delivery nurses typically care for more than one patient at a time, at various stages of labor, making prioritization skills a must. During any one shift, an L&D nurse may be responsible for caring for laboring mothers, guests of the mothers, postpartum mothers and newborns. There is a lot to handle, and nurses must be able to identify where their presence is needed most.

Using critical thinking and prioritization, effective assessment skills, strong communication skills and adept documentation in EMRs, labor and delivery nurses can confidently navigate even the most complicated situations. 

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