Dear nursing student with dreams of becoming a labor and delivery nurse,
I know you. You're sitting in class reading about pregnancy and childbirth. This is why you became a nurse, helping people. But not necessarily putting yourself at risk to catch all sorts of diseases. Nursing isn't just death. Nursing can be about life, brand new life.
You know that the worst smell is C Diff. You know that lifting obese adults is hard on the back. You'd rather change a baby's diaper than an adult's. You want to go home happy after your shift, giddy with the excitement of hearing a baby's first cry.
Unfortunately, most professors tell you that you need to get a solid six months to a year "on the floor," meaning med-surg, before transferring into a specialty, LD, ER, ICU, etc.
I am here to say that while they have good intentions, and working on the floor helps the hospitals, it is not necessary.
You do not have to be a top student to become a registered nurse, but you do need to be very aware of pathophysiology to work in a specialty. Critical thinking, prioritization, and precision are necessary for any specialty. I graduated Summa Cum Laude with a 3.9 and not one of my interviewers cared in the slightest.
First off, it is challenging to start with labor and delivery.
The equivalent to starting in med-surg is starting in mother-baby or post-partum. Once the patient is "recovered" from either the vaginal birth or the cesarean, the risk of hemorrhage has substantially decreased. The risk of the baby going to the NICU, neonatal intensive care unit, has also decreased.
I started with eight months on our MCU, Maternal-Child Unit because labor and delivery did not have any openings. I also wanted to start slower, learn what normal was, and also learn time management and "how to be a nurse" not just a person with a license and textbook knowledge.
When another local community hospital opened a labor and delivery unit, a lot of disgruntled staff transferred, leaving many openings. Although I had more to learn in post-partum, I took the leap to L&D because I may not see another great opportunity to move for years.
Openings in L&D tend to occur when a current staff member moves or retires!
If you already know L&D, ER, or ICU is your calling, tell your professors you want to do your leadership clinical or capstone in one of those areas. Scout out potential hospitals and work there as a patient tech, OR tech, or CNA. I did not work as a CNA before earning my RN, but it has been helpful for other nurses on my floor in getting their job.
I have a secret to finding out which hospitals likely have openings beyond searching all of their career pages. Search for travel "L&D RN" positions in the state of your choice. Units with a nursing shortage typically hire travelers and are more willing to hire someone even without the previous 2-3 years of experience that most units want.
If you have any other questions, want to chat about life as an L&D, feel free to email me, email@example.com!
Best of luck,
Vera Lou Shaw, BSN, RN