Perinatal Nursing Schools

Explore the career requirements for perinatal nursing. Get the facts about education and licensure requirements, salary, and potential job growth to determine if this is the right career for you. Schools offering Nursing degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Does a Perinatal Nurse Do?

Perinatal nurses focus on working with pregnant women and women who've recently given birth. Their duties are typically carried out right before, during, and immediately after pregnancy, helping the patient prep for giving birth and monitoring their condition. They also provide parents with information on things like birthing procedures and childcare. Effective nurses will have the knowledge necessary for critical thinking and quick decision making while in stressful environments, with the ability to take orders from doctors and work effectively as part of a team.

The following chart gives you an overview of what you need to know about entering this field.

Degree Required Associate's degree
Key Responsibilities Treat patients per medical plan
Coordinate patients' medical treatment with physicians
Maintain accurate and complete medical records
Licensure/Certification Required Licensure and certifications required
Job Outlook (2014-2024) 16% (for all registered nurses)*
Average Salary (2015) $71,000 (for all registered nurses)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)

What Is a Perinatal Nurse?

Registered nurses (RNs) take medical histories, provide medication, create treatment plans and consult with other healthcare personnel, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). They may also observe and record patient behavior, discuss symptoms, and provide healthcare instructions.

Perinatal nurses (PNs) are RNs who specifically work with women around the time the women are due to give birth. This includes the time during pregnancy, as well as up to a few weeks after delivery. As a PN, you'll usually monitor your patients, discuss their concerns, and provide information on the stages of pregnancy and birthing options. After your patients deliver, you may monitor and evaluate their emotional, mental, and physical condition to determine if additional treatment or intervention is needed.

Your primary responsibility as a perinatal nurse is to ensure, to the best of your ability, that your patient has a positive and healthy birth experience. This may include minimizing medical interventions unless they are really needed. It may also include providing guidelines and treatment protocols for high-risk situations such as pre-eclampsia or fetal surgery. You may also provide guidance on breastfeeding, parenting, and dealing with emotional issues such as stress.

What Kind of Schooling Must I Complete?

In order to fulfill nursing licensure requirements, you'll want to attend an RN program at an accredited nursing school. If you're currently exploring basic nursing program options, the BLS stated there were three educational routes to becoming an RN: a diploma program, an associate's degree in nursing (ADN) program, and a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) program. Typical diploma and ADN programs take 2-3 years to complete. If you choose to meet your clinical requirements in maternity, you'll want to carefully review nursing programs that offer this specialization. If you'd like to specialize in women's health, some schools require you to have first completed an RN diploma program before beginning your classes. Other schools may prefer or recommend having a BSN prior to specializing in maternity.

What Will I Learn?

In addition to practical nursing classes, the BLS stated that your RN program may include courses in anatomy, chemistry, microbiology, nutrition, physiology, psychology and a supervised clinical experience. Non-clinical portions of the nursing program may be available online, and some schools allow you to complete your clinical work at a hospital near your home. Additional coursework can focus on pregnancy complications and their symptoms, as well as learning how to teach mothers to care for themselves and their newborns.

Should I Pursue an Advanced Program?

A Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) program can lead to a position as a neonatal nurse practitioner (NNP). Nurse practitioners are different from RNs in that they can serve as primary care providers. These graduate programs are often theory-based and also usually include an advanced practicum, health informatics courses, comprehensive health assessments, and a scholarly project. Upon completing this program, you would be able to take the National Certification Corporation exam for NNPs (www.nccwebsite.org). If you're already an NNP, you may also apply to a postgraduate perinatal continuing education program for more specialized study.

Another option that may interest you is becoming a nurse-midwife, which is often offered at schools as an MSN concentration. As with PNs and related positions, you would assist with prenatal, labor, and delivery, as well as newborn care. Specific tasks usually include providing gynecological exams, family planning, birth preparedness, and other types of counseling. In addition to philosophical and theoretical advanced nursing courses, a midwife master's degree program can includes introductory courses on midwifery, practice management, reproductive physiology, pharmacology, and wellness issues.

In some cases, employers may require you to have a doctorate in nursing to qualify for Perinatal Nurse Specialist (PNS) positions. These advanced 3-year programs are intended to prepare you to work in both perinatal and neonatal nursing. They can also prepare you for positions such as a nurse manager or maternity clinical nurse specialist. Coursework may include embryology, genetics, leadership skills, high-risk childbearing, health assessment, informatics, and an advanced practicum in family and child nursing. You must usually devote the last year of the program to practicum and research projects.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Neonatology nurses are another kind of specialized nurse that cares for newborn infants while they are at the hospital, taking the burden off of recovering parents. Genetics nurses screen patients for genetic diseases and disorders and offer counseling and treatment to those who have them. Critical care nurses provide life saving treatment in a hospital's ICU, helping doctors during procedures and monitoring a patient's condition. These careers typically require the same education as a unspecified registered nurse.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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