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Many student nurses become enamored with Labor and Delivery nursing and the infectious joy surrounding most births. This specialty, however, is not without its challenges to effective care. It requires nurses to remain vigilant and current on the advances in obstetrical care while working with pregnant patients from all walks of life.

Be Prepared to Teach

Many expectant women and young girls arrive unprepared for childbirth, having foregone prenatal instruction or obtained their childbirth education from the internet and YouTube. They may have misconceptions that foster unrealistic expectations for delivery.

For example, in an effort to have a “painless birth,” an expectant mother may request an epidural in order to feel nothing at all. If not properly educated beforehand, she may panic as the loading dose of the epidural begins to wear off and she feels the pressure of the baby moving down. The primary responsibility for re-educating these women falls on the L&D nurse.

Go With the Flow

The pace of activity on the L&D unit can vary to extremes. There can be long lulls of relative inactivity suddenly interrupted by a dash to the operating suite. Potential emergencies can be as dire as a patient delivering prematurely due to deliberately rupturing her own membrane. Therefore, nurses must be able to perform well with the ebb and flow of activity and under a variety of circumstances. A nurse who needs constant stressors to stay sharp may not adapt well to these fluctuations. Fostering good teamwork is critical to staying attentive at all times.

Put Your Game Face On

Nurses in Labor and Delivery must also be capable of maintaining a calm demeanor and appearance even in the face of tremendous stress and even fear. For example, they must have the fortitude to deliver a stillborn infant and care compassionately for the mother, despite this being the most unpleasant outcome.

On most Labor and Delivery units, the nurses will look out for each other. They may take measures to protect each other emotionally where stillbirths are involved by sharing those assignments. This ensures that no one nurse is assigned a disproportionate number of stillborn deliveries.

To learn more about the ins and outs of Labor and Delivery nursing, go here.

Elizabeth Binsfield, BA, RN
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