An obstetric nurse, or OB nurse, is a healthcare professional who takes care of female patients during their pregnancy, labor, and childbirth. These nurses have spent many years learning how to take care of that specific demographic of patients.
OB-GYN nurses work in obstetrics and gynecology. This is a blanket term that covers everything from a delivery nurse to a nurse that takes care of a woman’s reproductive health (including, but not limited to, pregnancy) from when they reach reproductive age through to menopause.
An OB nurse is a registered nurse. This means they have at least an associate’s degree, or more likely a bachelor’s degree, and have passed the NCLEX-RN examination. After becoming a registered nurse, a would-be OB-GYN will spend time learning about women’s health and serving on maternity wards while gaining nursing experience. They will then have the opportunity to specialize in obstetrics.
OB-GYN nurses are not required to have any specific additional certifications, but there are some awards such as the NCC’s Inpatient Obstetric Nursing that can make a would-be obstetrics nurse more appealing to employers, and also potentially increase their earning potential.
OB-GYN nurses can work in a variety of venues, including:
Senior OB-GYNs may work in public health roles, offering advice on a population level or even working on a policy level to improve the quality of care offered to women in their state or city.
After becoming an obstetric nurse, there are many career development options available. Some nurses look to move from smaller local hospitals to work at higher-paying private clinics and facilities, others explore the option of becoming a nurse leader or educator in addition to their existing patient-facing work, or pursue master’s degrees and doctoral qualifications to become a nurse practitioner, giving them more earning potential as well as a wider scope of practice in their day-to-day work.
Another long-term option for OB-GYN nurses is to train to become a certified nurse-midwife. This is a highly qualified and respected position, which qualifies nurses to oversee all aspects of pregnancy and labor.
OB-GYN nurses have a variety of duties, including providing advice and guidance to women who are planning to or trying to conceive, monitoring the health of pregnant women and their unborn child, and supporting midwives and other health professionals during the labor and birthing process.
The exact details of their job, and the care that they provide, may vary depending on if the nurse is working in a hospital, clinic, or specialist birthing facility. This means obstetric nurses have the opportunity to find employment that appeals to them based on which part of the specialization they find most interesting.
The average salary of an OB-GYN in the United States is $162,000 per year. This is above the average salary of a bachelor’s degree educated registered nurse, which is $75,330 per year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
This difference in earnings can be accounted for by the different levels of experience and qualifications required for various nursing positions. It’s possible to become a registered nurse with a two-year associate’s degree, and the profession-wide RN salary information includes newly qualified associate-degree holding nurses, as well as those who have been working in the position for several years and who have a lot of experience and additional certifications.
Salaries for OB-GYN nurses can vary significantly, depending on which part of the country they live and work in. While salary scales are broadly similar across the country (so an OB-GYN would expect to command a higher salary than a vocational nurse, for example), actual rates of pay can vary significantly between states.
Some of the highest-paying locations for OB-GYN nurses include:
There are many factors that can make a difference to the overall earnings of an OB-GYN. Rates of pay differ across the country depending on the overall cost of living in the state in question, as well as the relative levels of funding for health care, the affluence of the area, demographics, and also skills shortages.
For example, California is generally seen as a state with a high cost of living, and salaries for almost all professions are above average in order to offset that additional expense. Nurses are also able to command high salaries in Alaska, due to the relatively remote nature of the state, the higher cost of certain essentials (such as groceries that must be flown into isolated areas), and the shortage of locally educated nurses.
Nursing, in general, is a profession that is very much in demand and that is likely to see continuing growth over the coming years. Unlike other professions which are driven by consumer trends or economic factors, health care is something that everyone needs, so there is always a steady demand for newly qualified nurses.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, demand for nurses who are educated to bachelor’s degree level is likely to increase by 7% between 2019 and 2029. Meanwhile, demand for nurses who have postgraduate qualifications (such as nurse-midwives) is expected to increase by 45% over the same time period.
For comparison, the wider job market is expected to grow by only 4% over the same time period. This anticipated growth means anyone who chooses to qualify as a registered nurse in the next few years is likely to find that their investment pays off, and that it’s easy for them to find employment within the profession, as well as reasonably easy to progress into more senior roles if they invest in future qualifications.
The demand for people to fill the role of OB nurse, and more qualified positions such as nurse-practitioner, is coming from several factors. Firstly, the average age of the population is growing, and there is also an increasing trend toward women waiting until they are older to have babies.
Women who become pregnant later in life often risk more complications than those who have a child when they are younger, and this means there’s more demand for qualified professionals to take care of them.
An aging population and the shift towards a more sedentary lifestyle are also driving an increase in demand for general health care professionals. As the current cohort of nurses retires, we need more nurses to replace them.
In some states, there are not enough primary care physicians to serve the population effectively, and nurse practitioners are being granted prescriptive authority so that they can pick up some of the slack. With more and more nurses taking on day-to-day health care roles, this means there are fewer nurses available to take on specialist roles such as pediatric nursing, gynecology, or obstetrics.
The job market for nurses who are looking to work in obstetrics, women’s health, or as an OB-GYN is quite strong at the moment, across the whole country. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are currently 3,096,700 people working as registered nurses (as of 2019) in the United States, and 263,400 nurses with postgraduate-level education.
The number of job openings for nurses is expected to grow significantly over the next few years. Pay rates can vary significantly between states, and even between health care providers, but qualified OB-GYNs are in enough demand that it’s possible for a motivated nurse to find an employer offering a competitive salary.
Salaries for nurses vary significantly depending on the specialization and the level of experience and seniority of the nurse in question. OB-GYN salaries are reasonably competitive, especially given the level of training and qualifications required to move into the specialization.
An OB nurse can command a competitive salary for the level of education and experience they have, earning more than a newly-qualified registered nurse, but without having to invest many years of extra time into post-graduate education.
This makes OB-GYN nursing a popular choice for people who are pursuing their BSN degree, and who are considering studying for a higher-level nursing job such as nurse-midwife in the future, but who want to get some experience first, while perhaps earning some extra money to fund their long-term studies.
OB-GYN nurses fill a very important role in taking care of women’s health, and they have a place in almost every hospital and clinic because of this. They are trained to deal with the issues a woman might encounter in pregnancy, labor and childbirth, and have experience and expertise that a registered nurse who works on a more general ward might not.
OB-GYN salaries are higher than those of vocational nurses and registered nurses who have not yet specialized, but they earn less than those who are in higher-level roles such as certified registered nurse anesthetists or nurse practitioners.
For comparison, the average salaries of nurses in different positions are:
In general, the nurses who command the highest salaries are the ones who have many years of experience, and a master’s degree or doctoral level qualification, as well as multiple certifications.
This makes sense, since earning a Doctor of Nursing Practice takes about eight years of study, and the fees for postgraduate education can be high too. Jobs that require such extensive training and hundreds of hours (or more) of clinical experience will naturally tend to offer higher salaries than those that require less training.
The higher-paid jobs usually have a broader scope of practice, and are higher-stakes, too. For example, a certified registered nurse anesthetist is responsible for preparing patients for anesthesia, managing doses, and taking care of the patient during and after surgical procedures. This is a very skilled job that requires attention to detail at all times.
All nurses are responsible for patients and have to take care to monitor the well-being of those in their care, however, those with prescriptive authority or a greater scope of practice than a registered nurse are in a position of great responsibility. In some states, nurse practitioners provide day-to-day health care services that are similar to those of primary care physicians, and their salary reflects this.
There are some jobs that do not require a post-graduate qualification yet still offer higher pay than a newly-qualified registered nurse. Travel nurses, for example, are paid more than average because their job involves unpredictable hours, travel, and working in environments that may be cramped or challenging compared to a hospital ward.
The same applies for positions such as the emergency department, where nurses might have to cope with stressful situations, unpredictable working days, or long shifts. A nurse who chooses this sort of environment can expect to earn more than one who is working in a clinic where they’re faced with a steady flow of patients with minor ailments.
There are many different specializations in nursing, and each specialization has different earning potential. Some positions that are related to OB-GYN nursing include:
These positions all require someone to become a registered nurse and spend some time earning clinical experience before they study for their chosen certification and move into a specialization. Nurse practitioners and nurse midwives require the most training and experience, due to the highly specialist nature of their work.
These specializations are similar to OB-GYN nursing in that they give the nurse the opportunity to work with women or be involved in the process of labor and childbirth, although the level of education required to get those positions can vary significantly.
Many OB-GYN nurses choose obstetrics as their first specialization after working as a registered nurse for a couple of years, but have the long-term goal of attaining nurse-midwife status, or becoming a nurse practitioner when they are further along in their careers.
If you have decided to work as an OB-GYN nurse and would like to maximize your earning potential, you have many options. Salaries tend to increase with clinical experience, but nurses can also work towards certifications, pursue post-graduate qualifications, and look to expand the roles they can fill within the ward.
The basic, entry-level qualification to become a registered nurse is the associate’s degree in nursing (ADN), combined with the NCLEX-RN certification, which is required for a person to work as a registered nurse.
While many people do serve as registered nurses in entry-level positions with just those qualifications, additional certifications and academic training are required for job progression. Many hospitals have a strong preference for hiring nurses who hold a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) even for general registered nurse positions, and expect nurses who started work with just an associate’s degree to pursue their bachelor’s degree if they wish to stay in the profession.
In New York State, nurses are required to earn their bachelor’s degree within ten years of licensure, because research has found that nurses who have a BSN offer a higher standard of patient care, leading to better patient outcomes than those who hold only an associate’s degree.
If you’re interested in becoming an obstetric nurse, it’s likely you’ll have taken the time to earn the NCC’s Inpatient Obstetric Nursing certification. Many hospitals require people to have this qualification before they can hold the title of Obstetric Nurse.
There are many other certifications that nurses should consider pursuing in their first few years in the profession, however. Some popular certifications for nurses who are looking to improve their earnings while working as an OB-GYN include:
The above certifications are all issued by the ANCC, and lead to ‘board certified’ qualifications. They are aimed at early-career registered nurses who wish to add new skills to their resume, and who are looking to progress into more specialist positions.
These certifications require the nurse to have some clinical experience and pass an examination. In general, ANCC qualifications are valid for five years before the nurse will need to recertify, either through submitting proof of practice and continuing education or by re-taking the examination.
The initial BC certifications are not equivalent to having a master’s degree and qualifying for a specialism, but they are proof of a nurse’s willingness to learn and to acquire new skills, and they provide the foundation a nurse would need to move into a specialization full-time.
A nurse who has training in areas that are peripheral to their fields, such as cardiac-vascular nursing, or pain management, is better equipped to serve their patients even in their main area of expertise, and could be called upon to provide basic care in a variety of areas.
Executive and informatics certifications are useful for nurses who wish to progress into management roles, for example leading a maternity ward or overseeing the computer systems for that part of the hospital.
At the time of writing, most of the BC-level qualifications cost $395 each, or $295 for ANCC members. Joining the ANCC is worthwhile for almost all nurses, because of the variety of certifications the organization offers, as well as the opportunities for support, networking, general education and information.
The foundation offers advice, guidance and support for all nurses, from those who are just at the beginning of their career to advanced practice nurses who are engaged in research and study to further the profession.
In addition to certifications such as those listed above, OB-GYNs should consider engaging in continuing education in the form of obstetrics and gynecology seminars and courses, furthering their formal education with a master’s degree or research, and pursuing experience in other areas of nursing as the opportunities arise.
Well-rounded nurses are more attractive to major employers, and the nurse may find that there are other areas of the profession that appeal to them.
Obstetric nurses have the option of working in a variety of settings, ranging from general wards to private clinics, military bases, emergency rooms, and primary care facilities. Pay can vary significantly depending on where the nurse works.
In general, the work an OB-GYN nurse does is similar regardless of the setting they do it in, however the working hours, caseload and environment could differ significantly. For example, an OB-GYN on an emergency ward is likely to deal with critical cases, while someone working in a primary care physician’s office will usually deal with women who are seeking advice about pregnancy, or who are coming in for routine check-ups.
The difference in salaries partly reflects this difference in the working environment, but also reflects the difference in the level of funding that each type of employer has. Nonprofit hospitals are unlikely to be able to afford to pay high salaries to attract workers, for example, but there are other perks to working for them, such as the option to join student loan forgiveness schemes and have loans waived after a certain number of years providing services for that facility.
As a general guide, nurses who work for government facilities earn more than the national average. State, local and private hospitals offer relatively average pay, while outpatient facilities and public health services tend to offer lower average earnings.
If you’re an OB nurse who is hunting for a new job and you would like to maximize your earning potential, you’ll need to negotiate your salary assertively.
One thing to take into account is that headline pay is only a small part of the overall package for many nurses. Some private hospitals offer profit sharing, which is a bonus that isn’t advertised as a part of the annual salary but can increase a person’s earnings significantly.
In addition, benefits such as health insurance, vision and dental care, a vehicle (or the option to claim travel expenses), and paid time off can all be invaluable. Many nurses who are a few years into their careers also appreciate the flexibility, career progression, and stability offered at major hospitals.
If you’re hoping for a higher salary, you’ll need to present your worth in terms of experience, ability to fill multiple roles in a hospital (for example, working in other departments, using IT systems, managing a ward, or managing a team of junior nurses), or certifications.
If you feel you can’t negotiate on salary because the budget isn’t there, consider asking for other things that can give long-term value, such as student loan forgiveness, or having future certifications covered by the hospital themselves. This is often an option and it could help increase your earnings even more in the long term, as well as unlocking further career paths such as nurse practitioner or nurse-midwife training.
If you’re looking to move away from patient-facing work or to take on a more managerial role, it’s possible to do this by combining your experience in obstetrics with a knowledge of IT or administration. There are nurse educator, administrator, and manager roles at most major health care facilities, and those who have clinical experience are usually viewed more favorably when applying for those positions.
The beauty of nursing is that you have dozens of specializations to choose from. Many nurses pivot or re-train several times during their career, and even if you have a special interest in a narrow area such as neonatal care or pediatrics, you can still work up the career ladder, increase your earnings, and become a respected senior nurse.