What Is a Perinatal Nurse?

Perinatal nurses help care for women and babies throughout pregnancy, birth and postpartum, and usually up until the new baby is around a month old. Perinatal nurses educate their pregnant female patients about their unborn child. One of the largest roles of a perinatal nurse is to teach patients, spouses, and family members methods and techniques that can help ensure a healthy pregnancy. They educate patients on childbirth options, and how to bond with and care for the baby after it's born.

Perinatal nurses assist patients during labor and are there to help in case complications arise. Lastly, perinatal nurses teach family members how they can best support the mom-to-be during and after pregnancy.

Becoming a Perinatal Nurse

RNs looking to enter the perinatal specialty should know that many employers prefer Nurse Practitioners (NPs) for the role. However, nurses can gain experience in a maternity ward or OB/GYN office while they train to go into the perinatal nursing field. Experience working with pregnant women, babies, and a desire to educate and make women's health a priority are necessary to be successful in the role.

What Are the Educational Requirements for a Perinatal Nurse?

Although it's not always required for the field, those prospective perinatal nurses that wish for the best employment prospects upon graduating should initially pursue a Bachelor's of Science in Nursing (BSN) instead of merely an Associate's Degree in Nursing (ADN) from an accredited school. BSNs usually take between three to four years to complete, whereas ADNs typically take two years to complete. Once a student has graduated with either an ADN or BSN degree, he or she can then sit for the NCLEX-RN examination. Upon passing the NCLEX-RN exam, students can apply for state licensure to be able to work as a registered nurse (RN).

Perinatal nurses looking to become NPs can choose to complete a Master's Degree in Nursing (MSN) and apply for further certification to bolster the chances of positioning themselves into the advanced field of perinatal nursing. As Advanced Practice Registered Nurses (APRNs), perinatal nurse practitioners, along with Clinical Nurse Specialists (CNSs), must have an MSN and a post master's certificate in their specialty. Two-year master's degree programs seek to build upon the knowledge you have acquired from undergraduate nursing study and require that you have already obtained an RN license. MSN degree programs will typically encompass classroom work and a large number of hours of practical experience including clinical, teaching and research time.

Are Any Certifications or Credentials Needed?

Many employers require prospective perinatal nurses to earn nurse practitioner credentials before hiring them. Completing your advanced degree program and becoming an NP or CNS can offer you distinct career advantages. Certification shows any potential employers that you meet the highest-level standards of practice. Additionally, passing certification exams can translate into greater career opportunities and increased salary potential. The American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) offers certification for NPs and CNSs who meet specific eligibility requirements.

Additionally, the Association of Women's Health, Obstetric, and Neonatal Nurses provide different resources for perinatal nurses, such as continuing education credits online and a handful of National Certification Corporation (NCC) certifications.

Where Do Perinatal Nurses Work?

Perinatal nurses can be found working in a variety of health-care facilities. You can find them working in any of the following workplace settings:

  • Hospitals
  • Physician's offices
  • Neonatal Intensive Care Units
  • Community Health Organizations
  • Medical Evacuation and Transport Services
  • Home Health Services

What Do Perinatal Nurses Do?

Pregnancy can be an extraordinarily complicated time for women. Their bodies begin to change and those who are pregnant for the first time or have a history of prior health-related issues must be regularly supervised to ensure that their health, and that of the baby's, is maturating normally. Similarly, healthy women pregnant for the second time and beyond will require specialized care through their pregnancies as well. This is where the perinatal nurse comes in. These nurses educate pregnant women about the specific processes they will most likely experience during the gestational period. They also assist women through labor, and should any complications arise, aid physicians in providing prompt medical care to both mother and child. Lastly, perinatal nurses sometimes teach new mothers and their families how to care for a newborn properly.

What Are the Roles and Duties of a Perinatal Nurse?

Perinatal nurses have a critical role in ensuring a patient's healthy pregnancy and delivery. Specific tasks may include:

  • Educate patients and families on childbirth options
  • Provide information to the patient on postpartum issues such as umbilical cord care, bonding with the baby, postpartum depression, and more
  • Administer care to the patient throughout pregnancy and through the first weeks of the newborn's life
  • Assess a patient's risk for pregnancy complications
  • Perform routine pregnancy tests, such as fetal stress test monitoring
  • May collaborate with nurse midwives and physicians during labor, especially if complications arise

Perinatal Nurse Salary & Employment

Perinatal and midwife nurses have very similar roles. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, advanced practice perinatal nurses earn an average salary of $107,460 as of 2016. The BLS projects the employment rate for advanced practice perinatal nurses to grow by 31% in the next ten years. This is considered much faster than the national average rate and represents a lot of prospects for those who want to become advanced perinatal nurses.

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