Having worked as a labor and delivery nurse for the last two decades, Joy Weiford, RN, BSN, reflect on her professional journey and shares insights about her days, what she has learned, and thoughts for others considering this role.
After earning my Bachelor of Science in nursing degree in 1995, I spent the first 5 years working on a med/surg/diabetic floor in the hospital. The time there gave me a solid foundation of practice and knowledge for the job I currently have held since the year 2000, the role of a labor and delivery nurse. During my time as a labor nurse, I have worked to obtain special certifications in this field such as Electronic Fetal Monitoring and Inpatient Maternal Care.
In my role, I assist with triaging, admitting, laboring, delivering and recovering expectant and new mothers. I also care for patients when they must have a D&C, journeying with them and their families when they are going through the very difficult task of dealing with a fetal or neonatal loss. It can be sad, happy, thrilling, emotional or draining on any given day, but most of all I'd say it's rewarding and awesome knowing that as nurses we can have a huge impact on what could be one of the happiest (or saddest) day of someone's life--being there for them and caring for them in their most vulnerable moments.
The hospital in which I work is a teaching hospital, so it is definitely a collaborative effort with lots of teamwork. The teaching part of being a nurse is crucial. We teach patients and their families throughout their hospital stay about their medications, treatments, rationales for procedures, and self-care. We attempt to put them at ease about their labor process and to get their support person to be involved in their care as much as possible. On this labor unit we get the opportunity to teach (and learn from!) nursing students, OB residents in training, attending doctors, and of course our peers--and many times, from the patients themselves. A great nurse knows there is always room to learn and seeks opportunity to learn.
Every person brings their own skill set, personality, and strengths to the floor and that makes for awesome teamwork, which is absolutely essential in obstetrics where situations can get intense and scary very quickly. A labor nurse must learn how to decipher a fetal monitor tracing and know what constitutes an OB emergency or what can be considered a "normal finding" during the antepartum, intrapartum or postpartum periods.
If anyone were thinking of going into the nursing profession, I would encourage them, and hope they were going into it for the right reason--to help people. My mother is a retired nurse and she always inspired me to want to be a nurse too. Intelligence, empathy, grace, strength, and a desire to always be learning and growing are some of the most important qualities a nurse could possess. That and the knowledge that some of the most important lessons we can learn are from the patients themselves.