How to Become an Obstetrics Nurse

An obstetrics nurse helps manage pregnancies and deliver babies. Discover your first steps on the path to this rewarding career.

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by Blake Weil

Published August 15, 2022

Reviewed by Shrilekha Deshaies, MSN, CCRN, RN

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How to Become an Obstetrics Nurse
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One of the most rewarding experiences is helping to bring a new life into the world. An obstetrics nurse does just that, helping expecting mothers through pregnancy and ultimately helping with the delivery process.

Obstetrics nurses have to go through schooling, licensure, and eventually certification once they obtain job experience. A career in obstetric nursing is a great choice for a compassionate person eager to help others. It requires empathy, scientific understanding, patience, and dedication to get through long hours and late nights.

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Ready to start your journey?

What Does an Obstetrics Nurse Do?

An obstetric nurse helps patients throughout pregnancy, ultimately assisting with labor and delivery. Over time, an obstetrics nurse might take on additional responsibilities, managing teams or helping with particularly difficult pregnancies.

After gaining experience, many obstetric nurses pursue a master’s degree in nursing to specialize as certified nurse midwives (CNM). These nurse practitioners have the authority to independently practice, often overseeing obstetrics nurses themselves.

Obstetrics Nurse Responsibilities

  • Educate women about their pregnancy, guiding them through its different stages and answering any questions
  • Prepare patients to see the doctor, giving basic examinations and documenting data
  • Monitor the patient, keeping the doctor informed about any changes during pregnancy
  • Help ease patient stress, caring for their mental state during the difficult and emotional time of pregnancy
  • Assist the doctor with the labor and delivery process, including surgical deliveries

Obstetrics Nurse Not for You? Check Out These Careers.

What Are the Steps to Become an Obstetrics Nurse?

Obstetrics nurses have a series of important checkpoints on the road to their careers. First, they need to obtain their education, either an ADN or BSN. Then, they must obtain an RN license. At that point, they can work as a nurse. After gaining clinical experience as an OB/GYN nurse, they may then pursue certification.

Step 1: Earn a Nursing Diploma, ADN or BSN

All people pursuing a career in nursing must receive a degree in nursing. This is because nursing licensure requires a nursing degree. Possible degrees are the two-year associate degree in nursing (ADN), or the four-year bachelor of science in nursing (BSN).

On average, tuition for a four-year degree at a public institution was $9,400 in the 2020-21 school year, while a two-degree cost $3,900, according to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). As BSN nurses can handle more complex roles, it is often easier for them to find a job. Many nurses with ADNs pursue their bachelor’s degrees while working as nurses.

Step 2: Obtain RN Licensure

Once a student has obtained their degree in nursing, they need to obtain a registered nurse (RN) license. Nurses must pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN) to qualify for RN licensure. This exam costs $200 to sit for.

While all states require RNs to take the NCLEX-RN, each state has its own specific licensing requirements. Some states that are part of the Nurse Licensure Compact (NLC) recognize licenses from each state, allowing nurses to work in any member state.

Step 3: Get a Job in an OB/GYN Setting

Once they have obtained a license, nurses must look for a job in a clinical OB/GYN setting. Working in this setting, they’ll gain practical experience working with pregnant women and helping to deliver babies. According to Payscale, the average salary for an obstetrics nurse with less than one year of experience was $50,460 as of 2021.

Step 4: Apply for Certification

The National Certification Corporation, which specializes in gynecological specialty certifications, offers a computer-based exam for certification in inpatient obstetric nursing. The test costs $325 to register for.

Applicants for certification must have a minimum of 2,000 hours of clinical work as an RN and two years of experience providing hospital care to pregnant women. Applications and tests are available at any time of the year, but applicants must take the exam within 90 days of being informed they are eligible to sit for it.

What to Know Before Becoming an Obstetrics Nurse

Accreditation

Accreditation is the process of certifying that a school meets certain educational standards. Organizations that provide accreditation, called accrediting bodies, are licensed by the U.S. Department of Education. It is important to make sure you attend an accredited program, as nurse licensing bodies require a degree from an accredited program.

Licensing and Certification

Obstetrics nurses must have a valid nursing license. License requirements vary from state to state, but certain NLC states recognize each other's licenses.

Additional certification is not required to work as an obstetrics nurse. However, certification can make it easier to find specialized work or allow for easier career advancement.

Cost

On average, tuition for a four-year degree at a public institution was $9,400 in the 2020-21 school year, while a two-degree cost $3,900, according to the NCES. The NCLEX-RN licensing exam costs $200 to sit for, while the National Certification Corporation certification exam costs $325 to sit for.

Salary

As of 2021, Payscale reports an average salary of $62,300 for obstetrics nurses. Nurses earn the most in California, Alaska, Hawaii, Oregon, and Washington, D.C, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Frequently Asked Questions About Becoming an Obstetrics Nurse

What qualifications do you need to become an obstetrics nurse?

To become an obstetrics nurse, you need a nursing degree. This can either be a two-year ADN or a four-year BSN. Then, you need to pass the NCLEX and earn nursing licensure in your state. After that, you can practice as an obstetrics nurse.

You can obtain further qualifications after beginning work as an obstetrics nurse. You can take certification exams to prove your expertise as an obstetrics nurse. Additionally, if you choose to pursue a master’s degree in nursing, you can study to become a nurse midwife and practice independently.

What is the fastest way to become an obstetrics nurse?

The fastest way to become an obstetrics nurse is to earn an ADN. An ADN is a two-year degree and is the minimum required degree to practice as a nurse.

After that, you need to take the NCLEX and get a nursing license in your state. Some states have additional licensing requirements.

You can practice once you have obtained a degree and license. As such, the quickest you can become an obstetrics nurse is a bit over two years.

Is an OB nurse the same as a labor and delivery nurse?

An OB nurse (obstetrics nurse) can assist in labor and delivery and may act as a labor and delivery nurse. However, an obstetrics nurse does more than just labor and delivery, whereas a labor and delivery nurse solely focuses on those areas.

In addition to labor and delivery, an obstetrics nurse helps patients throughout their entire pregnancy. This can include regular exams, providing prenatal care, answering patient questions, and keeping records of changes in pregnancy.

Do obstetrics nurses perform surgery?

Obstetrics nurses do not perform surgery on their own. However, an obstetrics nurse may assist a doctor, usually an OB/GYN, in a surgical delivery (cesarean section). While this isn't an everyday occurrence, this means that obstetrics nurses need to be familiar with surgical safety and comfortable with blood.

How much money can I make as an obstetrics nurse?

Payscale reports an average salary of $62,300 for obstetrics nurses as of 2021. However, the top 25% of earners can earn more than $99,000.

Obstetrics nurses can maximize their income through education, certification, and experience. If you have a BSN instead of an ADN, you may be able to earn a higher salary. You can also earn a higher salary by earning a certification in obstetrics nursing.

Some obstetrics nurses go on to earn a master's degree. With a master's degree, they can practice as a nurse midwife and earn a higher salary.

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