A perinatal nurse is a health-care specialist who comforts, educates, and treats pregnant women. Nurses prepare patients for diagnostic tests and guide them through labor. They also counsel mothers and their families about caring for newborns. If complications arise during or after childbirth, nurses provide expert assistance to physicians to preserve the well-being of babies and mothers. Perinatal nurses work in many different health-care settings, including obstetrics wings of hospitals, birth centers, and public health clinics.
Pregnancy can often be stressful and confusing, especially to first-time mothers. A perinatal nurse provides reassurance and educational information to expecting moms to ease their concerns. He or she explains how a fetus develops and what a mother can do to keep her baby healthy. A nurse also administers routine imaging tests and conducts physical examinations at scheduled interviews during a patient's pregnancy. In addition, many perinatal nurses teach childbirth classes and provide personal counseling to help women better prepare for labor.
It is common for a perinatal nurse to attend actual deliveries to comfort mothers and assist obstetricians. A nurse administers medication, monitors vital signs, and alerts doctors if complications arise. He or she also comforts patients and coaches them through proper breathing procedures. It is essential for a perinatal nurse to remain calm and collected during a delivery to ensure the woman receives the best possible treatment and emotional care.
Nurses also play important roles in educating and counseling families after babies are born. A nurse initiates contact between the baby and mother and explains the proper ways to hold and feed the infant. Before a family leaves the hospital or birthing center, the nurse tells them what they can normally expect to experience. Nurses often schedule regular checkups with new moms to make sure things are going well at home.
A person who wants to become a perinatal nurse is typically required to obtain a master's degree and pass a certification exam to earn nurse practitioner credentials. After meeting educational requirements, new nurses often begin their careers as assistants to established perinatal professionals who provide guidance and practical training. A nurse who excels during training is gradually given more responsibilities and allowed to begin working unsupervised.
With experience, a perinatal nurse usually enjoys ample employment opportunities. Most nurses choose to work at general hospitals and birth centers, though some professionals join private practices. By taking continuing education classes and passing additional exams, a professional can earn clinical nurse specialist (CNS) credentials and broaden his or her job prospects. A CNS is qualified to teach nursing courses, conduct independent research on medicines and conditions, and perform administrative duties at a hospital or clinic.