The perinatal nurse assists patients at all stages of their fertility journey. Also known as obstetric nursing, those who specialize their nursing education in this way provide care for women attempting to conceive, those who are pregnant, and who have recently given birth. Obstetric nurses work in close collaboration with others in the field of fertility, from doctors to doulas, and guide patients through every step of having babies.
As highly trained specialist nurses, they advise patients on nutrition, self-care, and medically needed procedures at each phase of their experience. This ensures the best possible care for both mother and child and provides a positive experience for everyone involved. So critical is their role in this process that, in North America, they have their organization—the Association of Women’s Health, Obstetric and Neonatal Nursing (AWHONN).
The average earning power of a perinatal nurse in the United States hovers around $30 per hour, according to PayScale. However, experience does make a difference. Individuals who offer this can claim as much as $41 per hour. Because these nursing professionals work in a variety of settings, that can also impact their rate of pay, based on the demands of the context and the prestige of their employers.
Initially, while these nurses are well paid, a salary at the lower end of the spectrum can be expected. You may only earn $22 to $25 per hour for your skills, but as you garner experience, your services will make more.
While general nursing education prepares you for many of the challenges you face in a practice setting, obstetric or perinatal nurses fulfill particular patient needs related to pregnancy and fertility. In a working environment, these nurses will take a patient history with a precise focus on fertility concerns or needs experienced during and following pregnancy. These nurses coordinate with physicians, other nurses, and medical personnel to optimize care of expectant and new mothers.
They may also provide particular care to both new mothers and babies who experience complications during and immediately after childbirth. But one of the most multifaceted aspects of the profession is that of an educator. Perinatal nurses educate expectant mothers in areas of nutrition and wellness, how to prevent or care for illness or medical complications in their new babies, and how to use or restart a birth control regimen in the safest manner possible.
Because one of the primary roles of these nurses is patient care, it’s essential that they have excellent communication skills. Both regarding educational needs and treatment regimens, the ability to maintain an intelligible dialog with the patient is crucial. This necessary skill dovetails with the critical quality of excellent organization and capacity to keep focus in a sometimes-chaotic schedule of treatments, births, and patient needs.
Physical and intellectual strength is also in high demand since some work environments call for quick, concise action and unassisted exertion. As well, even the most auspicious birth is an occasion fraught with feelings. Emotional resilience is a must-have for obstetric nurses. To continue useful practice, you must have a means of swift recharging, or it will lead to burnout.
Perinatal nursing is a highly specialized field of practice, mainly pursued by those who have already attained a basic nursing degree. Once an RN or other nursing professional has accrued two years of practical experience and 2,400 hours of on site time in an obstetric setting, they apply to take the Inpatient Obstetric Nursing certification exam.
While that’s the most direct path to a starting position as an obstetric nurse, you may find that additional educational achievements provide greater access to the posts in your desired setting. Those with a Master of Science in Nursing or a Doctorate of Nursing Practice often receive preferential placement during their first years, simply because they have a more refined education that may treat directly with their field of interest.
Pros and Cons of the Profession
Every form of nursing is challenging—physically, mentally, and emotionally. Perinatal nursing brings the benefit of being a part of the most transformative and joyous experience for many women and their partners, according to All Nurses. If you choose to work in the delivery room, you will actively assist new life into the world, and there’s little that equals the emotional quality it brings with it.
Knowing the difference you make, the positive outcomes to which you actively contribute is a huge bonus in this particular profession. Currently, there is a critical shortage of nurses across the discipline and in every context. This factor directly contributes to the escalating rate of maternal mortality, even as infant mortality rates plummet. Perinatal nurses can help ensure that mothers are protected at every phase of their pregnancy, from conception to postpartum.
The drawbacks are that you must offer as much aid to those who treat you with disrespect as those who are a joy to assist. You will confront bigotry and every variety of human unkindness; you will be required to help patients who outweigh you, who have infectious diseases, and who are uncooperative. You will also confront the deepest human sadness in those who lose a child. The primary challenge is that, simultaneously, you may also assist in smooth deliveries. Here is where that emotional resilience comes in handy.
Apart from Education
As with most fields, being familiar with the realm in which you want to work is a bonus. Even if you are just beginning in your education as an RN, you can still explore the world of perinatal nursing. Your greatest asset will always be personal connections with those already in the field. Do not be shy about joining conversation groups online or in the real world. As well, investigate national and international nursing organizations and, if permitted, become a member.
Attending a few conferences during your first years of education is also enormously beneficial. Students often receive discounted fees for associations that hold these meetings, which can be helpful. Go to local or nearby meetings of obstetric nurses and ask questions. Attend lectures, panels, and discussion groups. Even purely social connections will enrich your educational path and provide valuable connections as you enter your profession.
Because of the aforementioned shortage across the nursing discipline, perinatal nursing is a growing field. As you read this, there are thousands of job openings for perinatal nursing professionals. Especially if you elect to pursue a higher degree beyond your RN with experience, the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a 31 percent growth rate for nurses engaged in the field of gestation and delivery over the next decade.
Whether you’re an RN or have a higher degree of education, you will find a warm welcome from hospitals, universities, fertility clinics, and public care clinics. In fact, you may even elect to take a quasi-administrative role, such as a non-critical obstetric nurse in a hospital. Such positions require the ability to assess and organize obstetric nursing staff, programs, and patient data, according to GlassDoor.
In whatever context you choose to practice, the perinatal nurse is an indispensable part of successful pregnancy and safe delivery of new life. You’ll assist women in caring for themselves and their unborn children, provide helpful advice to those recently delivered of babies or organize a phalanx of nursing professionals to care for dozens of patients each day. The critical need for educated, compassionate, and resilient nursing professionals in the field of obstetrics cannot be overstated.