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The maternity nurse applies nursing skills to care of women who are in labor or have already given birth. She/he also cares for women who miscarried or aborted children, and looks after women with other gynecological issues, such as those who have had uterine surgery. This last depends on the hospital, and in some cases maternity nurses strictly work with laboring and postpartum mothers, and might also provide some newborn care.
In general, a maternity nurse is a registered nurse (RN). There may be licensed or practical nurses (LVNs or LPNs) working on the maternity floor, but they are supervised by RNs and cannot provide the needed level of care to laboring and postpartum moms. They usually can’t give medications or assist in deliveries, though they can take vital signs and note any machine readings.
It usually to have more than an RN for this job, though it’s popular in nursing and jobs might be difficult to find. A maternity nurse might find initial work in urban areas with heavy concentration of hospitals, or they might look to alternative places of employment like birthing centers to gain experience. Most maternity nurses simply began their careers by applying to likely jobs at hospital maternity departments.
There are many things the maternity nurse does. While moms are laboring, nurses administer different medications on doctors' orders, though they cannot give epidurals. These usually require the skill of an anesthesiologist. They evaluate pain, check vitals for signs of problems, occasionally may check the uterus for dilation level, and might make suggestions on natural pain control. The nurse typically stands between patient and doctor as go between, fulfilling the doctor’s orders and alerting him or her when labor time is near.
During the actual delivery, a maternity nurse is usually on hand, assisting doctors as needed. Though this is not preferred, such a nurse might deliver a baby vaginally, if a doctor doesn’t arrive in time.
After the birth has occurred, the maternity nurse continues to take care of the mother. She might give instructions on how to breastfeed a baby, and she’ll monitor the baby when she or he is in the parents’ care. Making sure the mother is healthy enough to go home is an important part of the nurse’s job too, and measuring things like uterus size to determine that it is shrinking appropriately is part of postpartum evaluation.
A maternity nurse can be an incredibly supportive part of the care team for laboring moms, and they don’t just care for mothers when pregnancy has a successful outcome. They may also work with mothers who have just lost children in birth or have children born very sick that will need lots of extra care. As much as this can be considered a happy job, it’s also one where sensitivity and willingness to work hard are key components.