The National Center for Health Statistics reports that 3,988,076 babies were born across the U.S. in 2014. That’s equivalent to 62.9 births per 1,000 women of child-bearing age from 15 to 44 years old. Birth defects, such as low weight, Trisomy 21, cleft palate, and spina bifida, affect one in every 33 babies delivered. Maternal and neonatal health departments nationwide are teaming with trained professionals to handle demand for high-quality care after birth. Postpartum nurses represent one RN specialty focused specifically on overseeing the recovery of new mothers and their infants. Whether they’ve delivered vaginally or via C-section, postpartum nurses ensure the steps are taken for women to heal properly. Postpartum RNs also teach inexperienced parents important skills like breastfeeding and changing diapers.
According to Salary.com, postpartum nurses fall into the obstetrics category where RNs in the United States earn an annual median salary of $67,358. Postpartum nurses reap a median hourly wage of $32 and biweekly paycheck of $2,591. Healthcare facilities often compensate postpartum nurses with bonuses, pensions, vacation, and other benefits for a total average income of $94,732. California and Hawaii pay the most at $94,120 and $84,750 respectively.
Immediately following nursing school, newly hired postpartum nurses can expect to fall into the bottom 10th percentile of earnings with a base salary under $55,787. However, experienced postpartum nurses can watch their salaries eventually rise above $84,383. Being promoted to head nurse in labor and delivery units leads to an average salary of $95,842. Advanced leadership training to become an obstetrics director rewards a $235,545 mean income too.
Postpartum nurses have the primary duty of performing assessments on mothers and newborns after delivery to avoid preventable complications. They carry out collaborative treatment plans designed by the obstetrics staff to ensure positive outcomes for both patients. Postpartum RNs are often responsible for cleaning babies, monitoring vital signs, administering pain medication, changing C-section dressings, removing catheters, watching for red flags of postpartum depression, and coaching mothers through breastfeeding. Education is another crucial role to help young parents cope with the stress of a child. Postpartum nurses basically handle L&D unit patients’ physical and emotional needs until their hospital discharge.
Welcoming new life into the world requires in-depth clinical skills since childbirth complications are all too frequent. Postpartum nurses must have a kind, sympathetic demeanor and mental strength to guide new parents through recovery. Communication skills are essential since postpartum RNs must collaborate with intrapartum and neonatal nurses as well as obstetricians for appropriate care. Postpartum nurses should possess patience and teaching skills to facilitate effective mother-baby bonding. Being detail-oriented with good organizational abilities is a must for maintaining thorough nursing records. Postpartum RNs should possess critical thinking and problem-solving skills should conditions like hemorrhage or uterine infections develop. Having training for neonatal resuscitation and monitoring is also key.
Degree and Education Requirements
Getting hired as a postpartum nurse requires more than just empathy and compassion though. Birthing departments only hire postpartum RNs who hold unencumbered state licensure after nursing school graduation. Holding an associate degree in nursing (ADN) or Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) is highly preferred to diplomas. If you’re already registered, returning to school for an on-campus or online RN-BSN program can foster advancement. Taking nursing courses specifically in maternal health, neonatal care, and obstetrics is suggested. Attending graduate school for a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) could push open doors for APRN roles like Certified Nurse Midwife or Perinatal Nurse Practitioner.
Pros and Cons of the Position
Carrying for couplets in the labor and delivery unit can provide both advantages and drawbacks that aspiring postpartum nurses should consider. On the plus side, this RN specialty offers a satisfying salary with above-average benefits and potential for promotion. Sunny job outlooks in nursing means postpartum RNs won’t be unemployed for long. Postpartum nursing is never “routine,” which keeps postpartum nurses on their toes and averts boredom. Nurses report high job satisfaction for helping healthy parents and newborns bond for a loving relationship. Postpartum RNs also have the opportunity to teach about important topics like vaccines and circumcision. However, postpartum nursing can be hectic and stressful with RNs juggling several patients at once. It can be emotionally difficult to handle NICU and fetal demise cases. Some postpartum nurses work circulating 12-hour shifts for irregular night and weekend hours. Succeeding in postpartum nursing also requires investing in RN continuing education regularly.
Graduating from a CCNE- or ACEN-accredited nursing school is only the first step. Future postpartum nurses must then sit for the National Council Licensure Exam (NCLEX-RN) and pass a state-issued criminal background check. This multiple-choice test typically takes six hours with two optional breaks at Pearson VUE centers. Once you ace this entry-level exam, begin applying for staff nursing jobs at the bedside. Most postpartum nurses need two to three years of experience before advancing into L&D specialties. Take the time to sharpen your skills treating various medical conditions from placenta previa to preeclampsia. Many colleges offer online RN-BSN courses for furthering your knowledge while working full-time. Earning certification is another good career step. For instance, the National Certification Corporation offers the Maternal Newborn Nursing (RNC-MNN) credential for 24+ months of experience. The ANCC Board also provides a Perinatal Nursing exam.
Healthcare Traveler magazine listed labor and delivery nursing, including postpartum RNs, among the seven most in-demand specialties. The United States is poised for a critical nursing shortage because over 40 percent of the workforce is at least 50. Retiring baby boomers will leave plentiful vacancies for new RNs to keep patient services efficient, even though the birth rate is declining. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that RN-level employment is rising much faster-than-average by 19 percent. By 2025, it’s expected that the shortage will be 260,000 registered nurses. Competition could be stronger for postpartum nurses since working with babies is a big attractant, but prospects are good in hospital maternity wards, birthing centers, private clinics, and midwifery practices.
Overall, postpartum nurses are skilled healthcare practitioners who treat mothers and babies recovering from the taxing childbirth process. These RNs offer valuable guidance through the first two to five eventful days of a newborn’s life before their release. Postpartum nurses utilize their top-notch clinical judgment to quickly address warning signs of complications to lower risks of mother and infant morbidity. Joining the L&D team as a postpartum nurse will provide a fast-paced, yet gratifying career positively touching new parents’ lives.