What Is a Typical Day Like for a Labor and Delivery Nurse?

What is a Typical Day Like for a Labor and Delivery Nurse?The typical day for a labor and delivery nurse can be both thrilling and exhausting. While nurses have many personal traits in common, their job descriptions are as varied as the medical specialties to which they attach (see: What is the Best Way to Choose a Nursing Specialty?). A surgical nurse and a psychiatric nurse, for example, play very different roles in patient care. One of the most challenging—and gratifying—nursing specialties resides in the maternity ward. In fact, assisting with the miracle of new life requires an even temperament and solid work ethic. Both traits are exercised often during a typical day for a labor and delivery nurse.


When an obstetric patient is admitted to the maternity ward, a labor and delivery nurse will first take her blood pressure and monitor other vital signs, including the fetal heart rate. Also important to check are the timing and intensity of contractions, as well as the cervical dilation. At this stage, the nurse (and supervising physician or midwife) has enough information to determine whether it is a true or false labor. If it is a true labor, the nurse assists the patient in getting changed into a hospital gown and settled. Sometimes, a warm bath is drawn for the mother to hasten delivery time. If any complications are detected at this time, the nurse alerts the obstetrician or midwife, who makes the decision whether surgical birth is required.


On an ordinary day, the labor and delivery nurse performs myriad duties when the expectant mother is in labor. Setting up intravenous fluid delivery; assisting in the administration of epidurals and pain medication; and prepping the patient for surgery in the event of an expected or unexpected caesarian require close consultation with the attending physician. Less clinical but equally important tasks involve breath coaching if a spouse or partner is absent; helping the expectant mother use the bathroom and making her otherwise comfortable; and ejecting extraneous family and friends from the delivery room at the right time. Keeping the woman’s stress level to a minimum is always conducive to a healthy childbirth.


During delivery, the nurse must be available to aid the obstetrician. This is especially important when there are other variables complicating the pregnancy. A patient with diabetes or hypertension presents new challenges, as does one giving birth to multiple children. Monitoring vital signs and providing the doctor with the necessary instruments is incumbent on the labor and delivery nurse. Helping to position the mother optimally for ease of birth is also a crucial responsibility, requiring competent knowledge of anatomy and physiology.


Immediately following delivery, the nurse is often charged with attending to the newborn’s body temperature: drying the infant off, placing him or her on the mother’s abdomen and covering the child with a towel and cap. If there were delivery complications, the baby may have to be handed over to a neonatology unit. Likewise the mother may require additional care after a traumatic childbirth.

Never Really Typical

Rarely will the maternity unit see a dull day. Whether births are normal, short and sweet, or arduous, complicated and dangerous, the staff will run the full range of emotions before a week is out. Expecting the unexpected is the one constant in a typical day for a labor and delivery nurse.