What Does an Obstetrics Nurse Do?

Jul 29, 2020
The Trusted Team

A lot of nurses want to become obstetric nurses because of the joy of bringing someone’s child into the world. As incredible as it is, it’s also a very specialized area of nursing that involves plenty of critical thinking, time management, and always being ready for an emergency.

What are the typical responsibilities of an Obstetrics Nurse?

Many responsibilities exist for an obstetrics nurse. The overall responsibility of the obstetrics nurse is to help women at all stages of their pregnancy.

The typical responsibilities of an obstetrics nurse include:

  • Triage nurse - As an obstetrics triage nurse, the nurse has to determine if the patient is in labor or not. The patient arrives with a complaint, and the nurse gathers the information for the healthcare provider to help treat the patient.
  • Antepartum care - During pregnancy, patients often have problems that they need to be admitted for such as flu, pyelonephritis, or a car accident. 
  • Assist in labor - The nurse helps patients in every stage of labor. The obstetrics nurse is responsible for starting the IV, administering medications, and documenting in the chart.
  • Assist in deliveries - The Obstetrics nurse helps assist the physician or midwife in the delivery of the infant. Vaginal deliveries typically take place in the patient’s room, whereas c-sections take place in an operating room.
  • Operating Room procedures - Obstetric nurses participate in obstetric OR procedures such as D&Cs, elective sterilizations, cerclage placement, and cesarean sections.
  • Other obstetrics procedures - Other procedures the obstetrics nurse assists with include internal monitoring, amnioinfusion, speculum exams, nitrazine testing, and interpretation of fetal monitoring.

What should nurses entering this specialty expect to encounter on a regular basis?

Deliveries are the number one encounter nurses will participate in as an obstetric nurse, and usually the driving force for going into the speciality. The nurse will be providing a lot of education to the new mother and her partner for the care of herself and her newborn. 

The nurse will also be:

  • Performing cervical exams
  • Applying external fetal monitors
  • Starting IVs
  • Performing blood draws
  • Assisting patients preop, intraoperative, and postoperative
  • Educating patients
  • Assisting with feeding newborns (breast or bottle feeding)
pregnant woman profile shot obstetrical nursing obstetrics nurse

My experience as an Obstetrics Nurse

I have been an obstetrics nurse since 2006. I have worked in tertiary centers, which involve very high-risk populations, as well as a smaller community hospital. The difference between a tertiary center and a small community hospital is that in the tertiary center, you see everything and have a lot more patients to care for. 

In smaller hospitals you will be performing more hands-on skills because residents aren’t there to do it. I recommend nurses start in a tertiary center to become very well rounded and then take those skills to a smaller hospital. 

What are some of the benefits of working as an Obstetrics Nurse? 

Being part of a patient’s biggest moment of their life is unforgettable. I tell new nurses, “It never gets old.” Every patient has a story, no labor is the same, and you always have to be prepared! 

Other benefits include:

  • A happy place to work
  • Incredible rapport with patients
  • You don’t have a “list” for the day- your patient’s labor and delivery will determine your day
  • Adrenaline-rush type of nursing (like an ER, but obstetrics related)

What are some of the not-so-great parts of working as an Obstetrics Nurse?

Working as an obstetrics nurse is not always “rainbows and butterflies.” When it’s good, it’s amazing, but when it’s not good, it’s absolutely heartbreaking. The extremes are... well, extreme.

Not-so-great parts of working in obstetrics include:

  • Patients addicted to drugs
  • Emergencies, such as a hemorrhages or shoulder dystocias that have bad outcomes
  • Fetal deaths (which can lead to compassion fatigue over time)
  • Maternal deaths
  • Low staffing levels (which can create a chaotic environment when it’s busy)
  • Long shifts with no breaks at times (often a culprit of nurse burnout)

Share your favorite piece of advice for nursing new grads or students looking to become an Obstetrics Nurse

Advice I have for nurses entering the field of obstetrics nursing:

  • Ask questions - no questions are “stupid”
  • Research - you aren’t going to be able to learn everything, have great resources available to look up conditions you might not know
  • Shadow before you apply because the job is very different than what a lot of nurses think it is
  • Become certified - the NCC offers certification exams for obstetrics nurses
  • Be ready to critically think - you have to be able to critically think in this specialty field 

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