A perinatal nurse, also known as an obstetrical nurse, is responsible for providing care to women during pregnancy, childbirth, and during the immediate postpartum period. The nurses work closely with obstetricians, midwives, and nurse practitioners in the care of the pregnant woman. During pregnancy, the perinatal nurse may work in a medical clinic providing routine care to women during all trimesters of the pregnancy. Routine care may include taking blood pressure readings, monitoring the patient’s weight and blood sugar levels, and providing educational information to women and their families on how to have a healthy pregnancy and contribute to the well-being of her baby. In high-risk pregnancies, perinatal nurses may also administer non-stress tests, medications, and electronic fetal monitoring.
WHAT DOES A PERINATAL NURSE DO?
During childbirth, perinatal nurses are responsible for monitoring the condition and safety of the mother and the infant. The perinatal nurse can also provide emotional support to the woman during labor. During a caesarean section, perinatal nurses work with the surgeon to ensure the safety of the mother and infant. Following birth, the nurse provides medical support to the new mother, as well as assisting the woman in postpartum care and hygiene. The nurse also provides information to the family on how to care for the new baby, including how to hold the baby, information on breastfeeding or bottle-feeding, and newborn safety.
Perinatal nurses can be employed in various settings. For those that work with pregnant women prior to childbirth, nurses will work in medical offices, prenatal clinics, midwife offices, infertility clinics, and perinatology medical practices. Those nurses that work with women during childbirth will practice in labor and delivery units, operating rooms, and postpartum units of hospitals and specialized childbirth centers.
EDUCATION AND CERTIFICATION REQUIREMENTS
Perinatal nursing requires both a college degree and a master’s degree in nursing. During the process of earning the master’s degree, the student must also complete internships and various clinical tasks in order to gain experience. Following graduation, the nurse must pass the NCLEX-RN examination. In addition, nurses must pass an exam demonstrating proficiency in the area of perinatal nursing. Some employers might also require the nurse to obtain the education and credentials to become a nurse practitioner.
In addition to the educational requirements, perinatal nurses can receive several certifications. These certifications include the RNC-OB for inpatient obstetrics, the RNC-MNN for maternal newborn nursing, and the C-EFM for electronic fetal monitoring.
The average salary for a perinatal nurse is approximately $51,000 a year. The average salary depends on the area of the country, as well as the type of perinatal nursing that is being done. Nurses working in major cities typically earn a higher salary than those working in rural areas, and nurses working in private practices typically earn higher salaries than those working in hospitals.
As with most other areas of nursing, it is expected that the need for perinatal nurses will continue to increase during the next decade. As the population increases, the rate of pregnancy will also increase, creating a need for additional nurses specialized in the perinatal period and childbirth.