Perinatal NurseBy Carrie Cronkite
A Perinatal Nurse is a nurse who cares for women during pregnancy, birth and post-partum. They also care for infants and families starting at the beginning of pregnancy throughout the first month of the infant’s life. Perinatal nurses educate pregnant women about their unborn child, teach them how to have a healthy pregnancy and relaxation techniques to help with stressful times during pregnancy. They also teach family members how they can be supportive to the patient during pregnancy.
A perinatal nurse provides prenatal care to patients in obstetrical clinics and medical offices. They work on labor and delivery units, antepartum and postpartum units in hospitals. Perinatal nurses develop a trusting relationship with their patients throughout their pregnancy, which gives patients confidence in knowing that they’ll have a nurse whose cared for them throughout their pregnancy, assist with the delivery of their baby. Perinatal nurses teach labor and delivery classes, so couples can be prepared as much as possible for this life-changing event. They collaborate with obstetricians, perinatal nurse practitioners and midwives on many occasions throughout the day for the health of their patients.
Characteristics of a Perinatal Nurse
Nurses must possess certain characteristics in order to successfully work as a perinatal nurse.
- Caring attitude
- Dedication to work
- Love for babies
- Love for maternal nursing
- Ability to work long hours
- Ability to be on-call all hours of the night
- Ability to adapt to change
- Work well under pressure
- The ability to stay calm under pressure
- The ability to make quick decisions
- Excellent communication skills
- Excellent documentation skills
- Attention to detail
- Ability to multitask
In order to become a perinatal nurse, an individual must attend and pass the National Council Licensure Exam (NCLEX). Taking an Associate in Science Nursing Degree program is fine, but a Bachelor of Science in nursing is preferable. Perinatal nurses train on the job, it would benefit new graduates to work on a medical/surgical unit for a year or two before applying for a job as a perinatal nurse. That way they would become familiar with nursing basics before delving into this specialty.
Some Perinatal Nurses continue their education to attain a Master's of Science in Nursing Degree to become a Perinatal Nurse Practitioner or a perinatal nurse specialist. This way they are able to diagnose, prescribe meds and deliver babies. Other perinatal nurse may specialize in high-risk cases and care for mothers and infants who fall in this category.
University of Washington offers a 12-month post graduate certificate program to become a perinatal nurse specialist. This discipline serves as an expert resource for nurses, patients and their families. They also serve as leaders and perform research studies. This program is attainable through distance learning.
Attaining certification in perinatal nursing demonstrates that a nurse has achieved excellence in the care of childbearing women, their infants and families. This shows that they are dedicated to their profession, which gives patients confidence in their delivery of care. This is a profession of nursing that is growing at a rapid rate and requires consistent training to stay abreast the latest medial techniques and procedures. Certification can be attained after working for two years on an obstetrical or perinatal unit or a minimum of 2000 hours.
- Perinatal nurses assess patients, check their vital signs and report abnormalities to an obstetrician.
- Identify high-risk factors in patients.
- Responsible for prenatal education.
- They are responsible for performing blood and urine test such as pregnancy testing; and other test such as fetal stress test monitoring.
- Teach patients how to breast feed post-partum.
- Perinatal nurses supervise patient care technicians and surgical technicians.
- Perinatal nurse learn skills which show the stage of labor a patient is in.
- Assists obstetricians and mid-wives with delivery of babies.
The job outlook for Perinatal Nursing is excellent as this is one area of nursing this is growing at alarming rates and is one of the highest paying nursing careers. Salary is dependent upon geographical location and years of experience. Average salary for a perinatal nurse is 65,000. In California, Perinatal Nurses make well over $90,000 and in NYC $80,000. The lowest paid state is Iowa at $50,000.
- Association of Women's Health, Obstetric and Neonatal Nurses (AWHONN): http://www.awhonn.org/awhonn/index.do
- Perinatal Nursing Certification: http://www.nursecredentialing.org/PerinatalNursing