It takes a very special person to be a labor and delivery nurse. Hard work, emotionally and physically, is repaid time and again when each tiny miracle enters the world.
The hours leading up to that little miracle’s debut is when the toughest part of a labor and delivery nurse “job” really takes place.
Sometimes these hours can stretch into days, and the job is so much more than just medical. Labor and delivery nurses also:
- act as a mother’s guide throughout their stay
- support Mom and her partner through the labor process
- provide comfort through birth
To be the best possible nurse for new moms, especially first-time moms, you’ll want to embody a series of professional qualities.
These qualities range from the obvious things you learned during labor and delivery nurse schooling, to more subtle, personal things like communication skills and respecting boundaries.
In this article, we’ll cover a variety of skills and techniques you can master to be a truly amazing labor and delivery nurse.
Labor and Delivery Nurse: Supporting the Mother
It goes without saying that providing support is every nurse’s number one job. Sometimes the support is medical, sometimes it’s emotional.
For a new mother, leaning on her nurse for support is an inseparable part of the labor and delivery process.
Nurses should be comfortable providing all levels of support, depending on what the mother needs. Frequent types of support are:
- Talking the mother through what’s happening and what’s to come
- Holding her hand or supporting her physically in other ways
- Providing calm reassurance and encouragement
- Educating her on how and when to push
It is also a nurse’s job to read the situation emotionally. While many first time moms will rely heavily on the nurse for support, some may prefer the nurse to simply be present vs. taking on a larger role.
You may encounter this if the mother has a midwife or doula present. Or, simply prefers to labor as peacefully as possible with only her partner by her side.
There are a number of other ways to support the mother during this process. Let’s review them.
1. Ease Stress and Offer Distraction
Because of the pain associated with childbirth, many first time mothers are very stressed and scared about what’s to come.
In addition to offering pain medication, there are ways you can ease stress levels and help them have the best birth experience possible.
Helping to distract the mother is a technique that can be accomplished a number of ways.
Sometimes a calming story does the trick.
Other times, a funny joke may be perfect for the situation.
Some mothers find the unknown highly stressful. In these instances, answering questions and anticipating their stress triggers can help ease their mind.
Educate the mothers as thoroughly as possible (if that’s what they want). It can help overcome their “what if” anxieties.
2. Build a Sense of Trust
In almost every other specialty, nurses care for multiple patients at a time. Labor and delivery nurses are often assigned to only one actively laboring patient.
Because of this, nurses have an opportunity to bond quickly with mothers and build a sense of trust.
This trust is incredibly helpful for the laboring mother. As mentioned above, this can be a very scary time in addition to the pain.
Being able to trust the nurse is crucial.
A laboring mother’s partner may also lean on you and develop a sense of trust. In many cases, the patient’s partner feels somewhat helpless. They may look to you for guidance on how best to support the mother.
Additionally, their doctor or midwife will come and go, leaving you to be the patient’s go-to caregiver during much of the labor process. This also increases the need for trust.
While most nurses work a standard 12-hour shift, there may be instances when you choose to work past your shift to be with a laboring mother who needs you. Just as they’ve bonded with you, you will bond with them, and being there when the child is finally born may be important to you!
3. Give Respect and Listen
Many new moms leave the hospital with a new baby and a new definition of the word “boundaries”. Even though the mother must experience a level of poking and prodding, it’s important to be keenly aware of each individual’s comfort level.
Respecting the mother’s wishes go far beyond personal boundaries.
The truth is:
You’re a medical professional and scientifically speaking, you know best.
However labor and delivery is much more than science, and it’s no place for personal opinions unless specifically requested.
The best way to respect your patient is to have an open mind and to listen without judgment.
As you know, many mothers come into the hospital with a detailed birthing plan. They’ve likely also outlined their postpartum care plan as well.
It’s crucial that you respect these plans as much as possible so long as they are medically appropriate.
4. Set Realistic Expectations
Because many moms do have everything planned out, listening and then setting realistic expectations is a great way to provide support.
Hear each patient out entirely, then work through their plan line by line and help them understand what can be done and where they might need to be flexible.
Here is a list of common situations that you may consider mentioning to a patient when setting their expectations upon admittance:
- Inform them about the catheter as many moms don’t know about this necessity (and it’s never a fun surprise!).
- Remind them that it can take 20 minutes to an hour to receive an epidural and they should ask for it whenever they need it. There’s no need to wait until they are in unbearable pain.
- Help them to understand that rest is very important when possible. If they’re receiving an epidural, educate them on resting while the pain subsides during early labor.
- Make them aware of the dietary restrictions upon admittance. Once they are in labor, mothers are not allowed to eat anything without doctor’s orders.
Labor and Delivery Nurse: Advocating for the Mother
As a labor and delivery nurse, you will support many different kinds of mothers throughout your career.
From teen moms to late-in-life moms, first timers to pros and everywhere in between, you will be their voice when they are too scared or in too much pain.
Advocating for your patients covers a variety of things. Perhaps most importantly is communicating on their behalf when necessary.
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Oftentimes family members want to be in the room and the mother cannot express her need for privacy.
Find a time before delivery to connect with the mother and let her know you are happy to usher people to the waiting room if she needs that.
Though rare, sometimes the patient’s partner may be causing the patient undue stress. In almost every case they are trying to help, but sometimes the mother cannot express the need for a different kind of help.
As the patient’s advocate, you may need to help the partner understand what’s needed in any given situation.
Though this goes without saying, you are also the medical advocate for your patient.
This is where your labor and delivery nurse schooling kicks into high gear.
Childbirth is described as the most painful experience one can endure, so staying on top of your patient’s comfort level is of the utmost importance.
You must be vigilant in your efforts to advocate on their behalf when it comes to pain. Wrangling the anesthesiologist and getting medications from the pharmacy is a part of everyday life for labor and delivery nurses.
Maintaining a nurturing tone and ensuring the swift response of your colleagues will help each patient through their individual pain experience.
Though stressful at times, being a labor and delivery nurse is indescribably special. The chance to help someone bring another life into the world will leave you speechless time and time again.
As you continue to gain experience in your nursing career, finding ways to continually be a better caregiver is important.
To be the best labor and delivery nurse you can be, focus on supporting the mother emotionally, physically and as her advocate:
- Build trust and bond with each mother.
- Respect boundaries and personal views.
- Educate her to help reduce stress caused by the unknown.
- Listen with an open mind.
- Set clear and realistic expectations.
- Providing calm reassurance and encouragement.
- Advocate for her medical and emotional needs.
When it comes down to it, choosing to become a labor and delivery nurse ensures you’ll enjoy a rewarding and meaningful career.
Remain focused on the entirety of the mother’s well being, and you’ll send each one home feeling as though they had the most amazing nurse ever.
In what ways do you excel at being a labor and delivery nurse?
Share with us in the comments below!