What is a Perinatal Nurse?
Compassion is key for those interested in this competitive field.
Perinatal Nurse: Job and Education Details
What you’ll do: Care for women before, during, and shortly after the birth of their baby
Where you’ll work: Hospitals and clinics
Degree you’ll need: Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) or Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN)
Median salary: $75,330
Perinatal nurses work with women before, during, and shortly after birth. They help patients during one of the most significant life transitions someone can undergo, so they need an extra big dose of empathy. After earning your RN license, you can go on to work in a hospital, clinic, or other medical setting to help women and their babies.
How to Become a Perinatal Nurse
Becoming eligible to work as a perinatal nurse involves two steps: earning a nursing degree and becoming a licensed registered nurse (RN).
To begin, you’ll need to complete a two-year Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) or four-year Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN). These degrees make you eligible to take the National Council Licensure Examination for RNs, or NCLEX-RN. Passage of this exam and subsequent licensure is required to practice as an RN. Although an ADN qualifies you to take the NCLEX-RN, an associate degree isn’t enough for many perinatal nursing jobs—or most RN-level nursing jobs, for that matter.
“In most parts of the U.S., you now need a bachelor’s to work in a hospital,” says Kathryn Dailey-Deaton, an RN specializing in perinatal nursing. Perinatal nursing is an especially competitive field, so you’ll want an education that makes you as strong a job candidate as possible.
In addition, “because it’s a competitive and specialized area of nursing, it’s hard to get a job without experience,” Dailey-Deaton says. She suggests several ways to gain that experience:
Licenses and Certifications
In addition to a RN license, certifications are available that are specific to the skills needed as a perinatal nurse. Some are required, while others are optional but beneficial; several are advanced and available only after years of experience.
What Do Perinatal Nurses Do?
Perinatal nurse duties can be expansive. Some perinatal nurses work with patients from antepartum through the few days following the baby’s birth. Some specialize in just one aspect of perinatal nursing.
A perinatal nurse’s duties can be organized into three categories: antepartum, labor and delivery, and postpartum.
“As a perinatal nurse, I like being with families and supporting them, whatever they are experiencing,” Dailey-Deaton says. “Giving birth is one of the most vulnerable experiences of your life, and it’s so special to be with them and earn their trust.”
Where You’ll Work
Perinatal nurses can work in a variety of settings. These include:
What’s the Difference: Perinatal Nurse vs Neonatal Nurse
“Pregnancy itself is a high-risk condition,” Dailey-Deaton says, so it makes sense that there are so many types of nursing specialties for pregnancy, delivery, and newborns.
Registered nurses earn a median salary of $75,330, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The data aren’t separated by specialty, so the BLS does not provide median salary for RNs working as perinatal nurses specifically.
In general, though, nurses focusing on perinatal care earn salaries similar to those of RNs in other fields, Dailey-Deaton says. “Years of service, certifications, and education—not nursing specialty—get you a pay raise,” she adds.
Perinatal nurses earn salaries similar to those of RNs in other fields.
If you further your education and earn more advanced nursing degrees and licenses, you have a good chance of increasing your earning potential. The BLS shows that clinical nurse specialists (CNSs) who are healthcare diagnosing or treating practitioners may earn a higher salary, a median of $84,490, while nurse practitioners (NPs) earn a median $117,670 per year.
In the next decade, the job outlook for RNs is steady and about average. The BLS projects a 9% increase in jobs from 2020 to 2030.
The demand for perinatal nurses is in line with RNs in general. Keep in mind that “perinatal nursing is very competitive,” Dailey-Deaton says. That means that at least in some areas, there are more nurses than available positions. Looking for jobs in places that typically see fewer applicants (such as nursing positions in rural areas) can increase your chances of working as a perinatal nurse.
Is Perinatal Nursing for Me?
“Perinatal nurses run the gamut of all personalities, but it’s best for people who are compassionate, patient, and kind,” Dailey-Deaton says. The period around birth is fraught with many feelings for families, and perinatal nurses must be ready to handle the whole range of emotions.
“There’s an expectation that perinatal nursing is very happy and joyful, but that’s not all,” Dailey-Deaton continues. “The perinatal experience runs from traumatic experiences to the most joyous experiences. You have to be with people where they are.”
Flexibility and grace under pressure are also important. Perinatal nurses must be ready to adapt to situations that change quickly—for example, when a patient needs emergency cesarean-section—or C-section—surgery.
Perinatal nurses must be ready to adapt to situations that change quickly.
Perinatal nurses should always be learning, too. Evidence-based care changes all the time, Dailey-Deaton says, and it’s critical to stay up to date. “Perinatal care is also so surprising. There are always things that are new, that you’ve never seen before, because reproductive health is just so incredible.”
If you are interested in becoming a perinatal nurse, become familiar with the professional resources available. Understanding new developments, policies, and advocacy efforts in the field will not only keep you informed, it may also help you become a stronger job candidate.
Paying close attention to changes in perinatal nursing shows hiring managers that you are dedicated to excellence in nursing.
Some resources that may be helpful in your exploration of perinatal nursing include: