8 Ways to Be a Better L&D Nurse

8 Ways to be a Better L&D Nurse

By Debra Wood, RN, contributor

Every nurse wants to be the best he or she can be, and labor and delivery nurses are no

“Labor and delivery nursing is a unique experience where we have the honor to care for individuals and their families during one of the most memorable moments of their lives,” said Susan Utterback, DNP, MSIT, RN-BC, director of women’s services at Jefferson Abington Hospital in Abington, Pennsylvania, and co-director, Women’s & Children’s OnPoint Council.

“Caring for these families requires the skill to show compassion, respect and attention to individual needs, while at the same time being able to astutely assess the well-being of the birthing patient and [her] infant or infants to ensure their well-being,” she added. 

We offer a number of strategies for L&D nurses to become more skilled clinicians.

8 Tips for L&D Nurses

1. Continually learn new things
L&D nurses, like all nurses, must stay informed about changes in healthcare and best practices as new evidence emerges. Nurses also must learn about new technologies and complementary techniques. Additionally, research continually contributes to changes in nursing practice.

“The nurse must be able to provide this high level of supportive care yet be able to competently and confidently navigate monitoring and other technology when needed,” Utterback said. “Education is important to understanding normal physiology and processes and recognizing when complications arise.”

2. Go for a BSN
“Obtaining a Bachelor of Science in Nursing is highly beneficial,” said Jamil Norman, PhD, RN, CNE, academic coordinator for Walden University’s RN-BSN program. “There are statistical links to better patient outcomes from nurses with a BSN.”

3. Seek simulation experiences
Most hospitals have simulation centers for learning or improving nurses’ skills, said Kristen J. Bayer, MSN, APN, FNP-C, director of nursing and an associate professor at Concordia University Chicago in River Forest, Illinois. Instructors develop a script for what the nurse needs to learn. Then the instructor will program the simulator and during the session, may respond for the mannequin from a control room. Some simulators can deliver a baby, or cry, or bleed. 

“I am a huge proponent of increasing simulation,” Bayer said. “The real teaching happens in the debriefing after the simulation session.” The debriefing starts with positive feedback and what was done well, and then covers opportunities for improvement.

Simulation often is used to give nurses and other members of the team experience in
infrequent but serious obstetrical conditions, such as severe pre-eclampsia or a post-partum hemorrhage.
“You may not see that for years, if ever, but if you do, you need to know what to do,” Bayer said. 

4. Pursue credentialing
Certification shows a nurse has certain competencies in labor and delivery. Many hospitals prefer hiring certified L&D nurses. They also may pay more money to specialty certified nurses.

“Nurses that are credentialed in their specialty area are recognized as credible and standout among their peers,” Norman said. “Certifications such as the RNC-OB indicate clinical competency in labor and delivery and serve as a mark of distinction in the profession.”

The National Certification Corp. offers certification for labor and delivery nurses. In addition, employers often want Basic Life Support and Advance Cardiac Life Support certification, fetal monitoring certification and Inpatient Obstetric Nursing and Neonatal Resuscitation Program certifications.

“All labor and delivery nurses must be efficient at reading electronic fetal heart monitors, but nurses certified in this skill indicate their knowledge base through credentialing,” Norman said. 

5. Find a mentor
Among our tips for L&D nurses is finding a mentor. Mentors can help guide L&D nurses through a successful career. Mentors offer support and, typically, advice from experience in the field.

“Mentors play a significant role in helping to guide and encourage nurses to further develop their skills in labor and delivery and advance their careers,” Norman said. “They provide valuable information and can be resourceful. The mentor/mentee relationship provides a safe space to ask questions and a consistent role model and leader for the mentee.”

Bayer added that nurses need to help each other to become skilled professionals.

6. Improve communication
Everyone can benefit from honing their communication skills. But nurses especially must clearly pass on information about changes in a patient’s condition to physicians and midwives.

“The collaboration between the members of the labor and delivery team requires an ability to communicate professionally, accurately and effectively, sometimes in very challenging scenarios,” Utterback said.
Obstetrical nurses also must educate pregnant women and their support persons about what is happening during the birthing process.

Communication skills are essential to being an effective nurse,” Norman said. “Even more so, the best labor and delivery nurses focus on listening skills and understand nonverbal cues, which help with patient-centered, effective communication. Additionally, effective communication helps to build trust and a rapport, which are critical for providing exceptional care.” 

7. Network
A great way to learn new skills is through membership in a professional nursing association.

“Professional nursing organizations provide opportunities for growth and expanding knowledge in concentrated areas,” Norman explained. “The Association of Women’s Health, Obstetric and Neonatal Nurses (AWHONN) focuses on improving health outcomes of mothers and newborns through research, advocacy and education. Labor and delivery nurses engaged in professional organizations such as AWHONN have an opportunity to network with experts and engage in continuing education opportunities focused on women’s health.”

Likewise, Utterback said, “I highly encourage all nurses to be involved in their professional organizations and network with colleagues to ensure they stay current with evidence-based practice.”

8. Take to the road
Another tip for L&D nurses is to broaden your horizons with travel nursing assignments
throughout the United States. Travel nursing is a great way to gain more experience as a L&D nurse and learn best practices in different units. Nurses who travel can pick up lots of tips from fellow L&D nurses to improve their skills and knowledge. 

See also:
The 5 Best Things About Being a Labor & Delivery Nurse gives you access to hundreds of L&D travel nursing jobs with the nation’s leading staffing agencies.

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