Obstetrics and gynecology nurse career guide

HomeNursingObstetrics and gynecology nurse

Obstetrics and gynecology are 2 overlapping medical specialties that deal with different aspects of female reproductive health. Obstetrics concentrates on childbirth, pregnancy, postpartum, and related areas. Gynecology focuses on the other aspects of women’s health from the onset of puberty throughout menopause and beyond. It deals with the prevention, care, diagnosis, and treatment of female reproductive issues and diseases.

Obstetrics and gynecology nurses, also referred to as OB/GYN nurses, are registered nurses (RNs) who typically work alongside OB/GYN physicians. They provide prenatal, postpartum, and reproductive healthcare to female patients from puberty, during and after pregnancy, through menopause, and beyond.

Aspiring OB/GYN nurses typically major in subjects like chemistry, biology, and psychology. Apart from fundamentals like anatomy, physiology, and nutrition, OB/GYN nursing students will generally learn about female reproductive health, pregnancy, and childbirth. Areas of study can typically include obstetrical and gynecological care, antepartum and postpartum care, and newborn care.

What does an OB/GYN nurse do?

While specific duties may vary by workplace, an OB/GYN nurse typically:

  • Assists with routine examinations, including pap smears and sample collection
  • Collects and records patients’ health data, such as vital signs and blood pressure
  • Consults and educates patients regarding birth control and safe practices 
  • Informs and educates patients about fertility treatment options
  • Assists with prevention and screening measures, like mammograms
  • Administers vaccines, such as the HPV vaccine for cervical cancer
  • Assists with obstetrical exams, like pelvic exams and prenatal screenings
  • Educates and counsels pregnant women on prenatal care
  • Works with physicians during the labor and delivery process 
  • Provides support, care, and guidance to new mothers
  • Monitors, weighs, and vaccinates newborns
  • Coordinates treatment with other nurse practitioners

Where do OB/GYN nurses work?

OB/GYN nurses can apply their skills and knowledge in various healthcare environments. They can work in any setting where female patients require specialized care. As such, they enjoy a wide range of career opportunities.

Some choose to work in private practices alongside physicians, midwives, or doulas. Others provide care in hospital maternity wards, family planning centers, and community clinics. You’ll also find OB/GYN nurses in urgent care clinics, private birthing centers, and government departments, including the United States Nursing Army Corps.

OB/GYN nursing salary numbers

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage of a registered nurse in 2019 was $73,300. Employment in the nursing profession is expected to increase by 7% between 2019 and 2029, faster than the average growth of other occupations. More emphasis on preventative care, increased demand for healthcare services, and a rise in chronic conditions contribute to this growth. 

The BLS also indicates that California is the top-paying state for an RN, with an annual mean wage of $113,240. Hawaii comes in second at $104,060, with Washington, D.C., third at $94,820, and Massachusetts fourth at $93,160. Conversely, the lowest-paying state for registered nurses is South Dakota, with an annual mean wage of $59,540. Mississippi and Alabama aren’t far behind, at $59,750 and $60,230, respectively.

An obstetrics and gynecology nurse is paid an average base salary of $73,731 per year. However, various factors, including qualifications, experience, and location, can influence earning potential. Further the range in median salary for an OB/GYN Clinical Nurse is  from $45,000 to $104,000.

Helpful skills and key considerations

OB/GYN nursing is a field that values compassion. Patients in an OB/GYN setting may be in physical pain, experience hormonal changes, or face serious or difficult decisions. Strong communication skills also allow OB/GYN nurses to liaise with other healthcare professionals and explain care plans, treatment, and other medical concepts effectively. 

Attention to detail, observation, and problem-solving are other valuable traits to have in this profession. OB/GYN nurses need to understand the multi-faceted nature of their patient’s health to provide the best possible care. 

In general, they also need to have a flexible schedule with time- and stress-management skills. While the hours vary by workplace, OB/GYN RNs typically work in shifts during the week, overnight, on weekends, and even on holidays. If you have demanding family responsibilities or if you prefer a less stressful career, the following related options may be more suitable: 

  • Nurse midwife
  • Nurse educator
  • Occupational health nurse
  • Public health nurse
  • Nurse case manager

Are you a patient, understanding, and attentive individual with good time- and stress-management skills? Can you work diverse hours and sometimes attend to emergencies? Are you passionate about educating, guiding, and supporting women throughout puberty, menopause, pregnancy, childbirth, and everything in between? If so, then an OB/GYN nursing career may be for you.  

How to become an OB/GYN nurse

After graduating from high school, the steps towards becoming an OB/GYN nurse are as follows:

  • Earn an approved nursing diploma, an accredited associate’s degree in nursing (ADN), or bachelor’s degree in nursing (BSN) 
  • Obtain licensure as a RN after graduation
  • Practice in an OB/GYN setting for a minimum of 2 years
  • Obtain certification 

Overall, it can take between 3 and 6 years to become an RN certified in an area of OB/GYN nursing. However, this depends on various factors like your chosen educational path, existing qualifications, and whether you’ll study part- or full-time. Your degree program format is also a contributing factor. 

Many educational institutions offer online or hybrid programs, which can cost less than a traditional on-campus program. They’re also more flexible, which is ideal for students who work or have family responsibilities. However, a curriculum with clinical practice may still require students to go to campus.

Earn an associate’s or bachelor’s degree

Most OB/GYN nurses start their career by earning a BSN, which generally takes 4 years of full-time study to complete. However, some opt for an ADN, which can take 18 to 24 months of full-time study. 

Alternatively, students could pursue a 1-, 2- or 3-year nursing diploma, but it’s a less common route. Candidates with any one of these degree qualifications are usually eligible for RN or LPN licensure. However, programs that focus on obstetrics and gynecology may help them better prepare for OB/GYN nursing. 

Additionally, a bachelor’s degree is often preferred among OB/GYN nurse employers. It’s more extensive than an associate’s degree, with typical requirements such as 800 hours of clinical practice and 120 credits earned. It also builds an adequate foundation for career and educational advancement in OB/GYN nursing and may help fulfill certification requirements.

Course concentrations can include subjects like biology, chemistry, nutrition, and ethics. However, a program focused on OB/GYN nursing may also include:

  • Fetal heart monitoring
  • Health assessment
  • Obstetric critical care
  • Treatment plans
  • Maternal-fetal triage
  • Obstetric patient safety
  • Postpartum warning signs
  • Gynecological health
  • Prenatal and postpartum care
  • Women’s reproductive health

Admission requirements depend on your chosen school and program. However, a minimum GPA of 3.0, strong SAT or ACT scores, and recommendations are typical prerequisites. A personal statement, in-person interview, and background check may also be required.

Alternative programs

Other options exist for non-traditional OB/GYN nursing students, too. An LPN-BSN program is ideal for licensed practical nurses who don’t have an RN license, ADN, or BSN. These programs usually allow students to apply their previous training and experience to their bachelor’s degree while fulfilling RN licensure requirements.

An RN-BSN program is suitable for licensed RNs who already have a diploma or associate’s degree but want to pursue their BSN. Also known as an accelerated or bridge program, an RN-BSN often allows students to transfer their existing credits. As such, it can reduce the time taken to earn a bachelor’s degree. 

Obtain RN licensure

Once you’ve earned an accredited RN qualification, you can complete the 6-hour NCLEX-RN exam as a prerequisite for nursing licensure. It tests candidates on general nursing subjects like preventative care, safety infection and control, and care management.

After passing it, you can apply to your State Board of Nursing for your RN license. Some states have other requirements, such as a criminal background check. There’s also the Nurse Licensure Compact (NLC) which is  a multistate license that allows RNs to practice across 33 participating states. 

Work in an OB/GYN setting

After receiving your RN license, you can pursue employment in an OB/GYN setting, usually without certification. Here are some potential career options:

Infant Nursery Nurse

Infant Nursery Nurses provide care in hospital wards, outpatient departments, or community health centers. They often work with labor and delivery nurses, obstetricians, and physicians to examine, treat, and monitor newborns and infants.

Average annual salary: $56,430

OB/GYN Office Nurse

OB/GYN Office Nurses usually work in an OB/GYN private practice to provide reproductive and healthcare services to women. Duties typically include performing initial assessments, preparing patients for exams, and providing gynecological care and education. 

2021 Hourly wage:  $24.27

Labor and Delivery Nurse

Labor and Delivery Nurses require specialized certifications in care, such as fetal monitoring and neonatal resuscitation. These RNs provide nursing care to expectant mothers during labor and delivery. They also educate and support patients, develop treatment plans, and monitor newborns.

Average annual salary: $65,414

Perinatal Nurse

Perinatal Nurses provide care for women during pregnancy, childbirth, and postpartum. They often educate and support patients and family members about the unborn child, teach delivery classes and offer guidance. They work in hospitals, obstetrical centers, and clinics.

Average annual salary: $78,303

OB/GYN Travel Nurse

Travel Nurses fulfill short-term roles in various healthcare settings and locations. The profession was created in response to RN shortages and is still a popular career choice today. An OB/GYN Travel Nurse can work in hospitals, medical centers, and clinics to offer expertise temporarily. 

Annual average salary: $99,202

Get certified

The National Certification Corporation (NCC) awards certifications in obstetric, gynecologic, women’s health, and neonatal specialties to an array of healthcare professionals. There are also subspecialty certifications available, like electronic fetal monitoring and neonatal neuro-intensive care.   

Certification requirements vary. However, a valid RN license and 2 years of relevant work experience, with a minimum of 2,000 hours, are general prerequisites. Employment in the specialty within the last 2 years is also required. Additionally, NCC certifications are valid for 3 years and must be renewed before expiration. Here are a few core certifications available for OB/GYN nurses:

  • Maternal newborn nursing
  • Inpatient obstetric nursing
  • Neonatal intensive care nursing
  • Obstetric and neonatal quality and safety

While not a requirement, certifications validate your expertise and may enhance your career advancement and earning potential. After completing an NCC certification, you’ll receive the corresponding credential to use in your title.

Continuing education

Many OB/GYN RNs choose to advance their careers by pursuing additional certifications or graduate degrees. Organizations like the National Certification Corporation and the Association of Women’s Health, Obstetric and Neonatal Nurses offer various continuing education (CE) modules. You can also find educational institutions that offer CE certificate programs. Coursework may include:

  • Gynecologic reproductive health
  • Menopause education
  • Breastfeeding
  • High-risk obstetrics nursing
  • Reproductive endocrinology
  • Infertility nursing

Here are some advanced education and career pathways that OB/GYN nurses can pursue:

Master of Science in Nursing (MSN)

For some, earning an MSN is the next logical step after earning a bachelor’s degree. It opens various career opportunities, with specializations in reproductive health and women’s healthcare, such as:

  • Urogynecology
  • Puberty and menopause
  • Reproductive endocrinology and infertility
  • High-risk pregnancy

This degree usually takes 2 years of full-time study to complete, but can take longer for part-time students. You can usually find online MSN programs or some that are a hybrid combination of on-campus and online learning. There are also accelerated MSN degree programs available, including:

  • RN-MSN – ideal for RNs with an ADN or diploma
  • BSN-MSN – suitable for RNs with a bachelor’s degree
  • ADN-MSN – designed for RNs with an associate’s degree

Admission prerequisites depend on your chosen program type. They usually include a valid RN license, a number of clinical hours, and a minimum GPA of 3.0. Letters of recommendation, GRE test scores, and a statement of purpose may also be required.

Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP)

The DNP is a degree designed for RNs who wish to pursue advanced clinical, leadership, and administration roles in nursing. With adept knowledge and expertise, DNP-holders in a leadership or administrative position can influence and develop healthcare outcomes, policies, and care programs. Coursework may include:

  • State and national health policies
  • Health informatics systems
  • Systems management
  • Nurse management and administration
  • Organizational and executive leadership ethics
  • Epidemiology 
  • Biostatistics
  • Advanced population health

An OB/GYN RN can also opt for a clinically-focused DNP program and continue working in direct patient care, usually as an Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN). DNP program types include:

  • ADN-DNP – suitable for ADN-holders 
  • BSN-DNP –  an accelerated program, ideal for BSN-holders
  • MSN-DNP –  suitable for OB/GYN RNs with a master’s degree
  • Post-master’s DNP – nurse educators and administrators can choose this option without having to repeat coursework

OB/GYN RNs can pursue a DNP to become an APRN, specializing in:

  • Women’s health
  • Family health
  • Nurse midwifery
  • Neonatal care

It can take between 18 months and 4 years to earn your DNP. This and the admission requirements will depend on the program type you wish to pursue. Your chosen school will specify which types of degree- and certification-holders are eligible. 

Some MSN-DNP programs may require candidates to be certified NPs, while others allow MSN-holders. ADN-DNP and BSN-DNP programs typically require candidates to have their active RN licenses. GRE test scores, a minimum GPA of 3.0, letters of recommendation, writing samples, transcripts, a resume, and a statement of purpose may also be required.

Alternatively, candidates can opt for a Doctorate of Philosophy (Ph.D.). It’s typically a research-focused degree, ideal for OB/GYN RNs who wish to pursue academic, scientific, or research-based roles in nursing science. It can take 8 years or longer and generally requires a dissertation to complete. 

Eligibility criteria typically include the same as the above, in addition to an accredited bachelor’s or master’s degree.

Potential career options

Here are a few potential career pathways for OB/GYN RN graduates:

Clinical research nurses conduct evidence-based research in laboratories, research facilities, and medical centers. They typically develop studies to provide data on vaccinations, new medications, and medical procedures.

Average annual salary: $72,176

WHNPs provide comprehensive primary healthcare to patients across the lifespan. They often choose to focus on gynecological, reproductive health, prenatal, and postpartum care. In some states, they can work independently of doctor supervision and prescribe medication.

Average annual salary: $92,963 

These professionals, also known as OGNPs, often focus on advanced primary health care services. They’re generally concerned with preventative care, female sexual and reproductive health, family planning, fertility, and prenatal management. 

Annual average salary: $108,051

CNOs generally maintain compliance, manage staff, and direct nursing activities in a hospital setting. They’re often in charge of budgets, resources, and patient care strategies. CNOs may also direct education and orientation programs for nursing staff.

Annual average salary: $131,526

Technically, yes. However, a nurse can only become an OB/GYN doctor after earning an accredited medical degree, completing a residency, and obtaining a medical license to practice.

Accreditation

Accreditation ensures that nursing education programs are held at high standards of quality throughout the country. Accrediting authorities assess and approve programs that meet certain criteria. 

National accreditation refers to a program that adheres to the standards of a body approved by the U.S. Department of Education. State board accreditation means that a program is approved in a particular state only.

Most schools won’t allow you to transfer credits from a program that isn’t accredited by an approved body. Employers might not accept your qualification in this case, either.

That’s why it’s essential to do your research and make sure that any program you choose is accredited by a reputable authority. Primary accrediting bodies include:

  • The Commission on the Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)
  • The American College of Nurse-Midwives Division of Accreditation (ACNM)
  • The Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN)

Degree costs

The cost of a degree depends on various factors. Your chosen school, degree type, and whether you choose to study part- or full-time all impact how much you’ll pay. Accelerated, hybrid, and online degree programs may be more cost-effective than traditional on-campus study. 

The average tuition and fees for a full-time student at a public 4-year institution per year are:

  • $8,760 for a bachelor’s degree
  • $8,950 for a master’s degree
  • $11,440 for a doctoral degree

At a private nonprofit 4-year institution, the average tuition and fees costs per year are as follows:

  • $37,500 for a bachelor’s degree
  • $29,670 for a master’s degree
  • $44,910 for a doctoral degree

Financial Aid

Nursing students at all major levels may be eligible to apply for financial aid, scholarships, or grants from their educational institution. It’s therefore wise to see whether your school offers any kind of financial assistance.

Additionally, private and governmental organizations may have scholarships, work-study programs, loan forgiveness programs, and other forms of financial aid available for nursing students. Here are a few potential opportunities:

In summary

OB/GYN nurses primarily care for female patients throughout their life cycles. They focus on sexual and reproductive health, pregnancy, labor, childbirth, and newborn care. OB/GYN RNs can work in many different settings and have a wide variety of career opportunities available to them. 

They can choose to become an OB/GYN or women’s health nurse practitioner, but there are various other advanced career options with higher earning potential. Non-clinical and executive leadership roles may also be available. OB/GYN nurses can also specialize in specific areas like neonatal care, midwifery, or fertility.

If you’re compassionate and attentive, with strong communication and stress management skills, then a career in OB/GYN nursing may be for you. Whatever you decide, choose an accredited program and be sure to find out about costs and financial aid opportunities.

National Association of Nurse Practitioners in Women’s Health

The NPWH is a membership organization that provides evidence-based resources to support best practices in women’s health. 

National Association of Neonatal Nurses

The NANN is a membership organization for RNs specializing in neonatal care. It provides certifications, resources, and educational support to professionals.

Association of Women’s Health, Obstetric and Neonatal Nursing

AWHONN is an advocacy, research, and education organization. It supports and empowers nurses caring for OB/GYN patients, newborns, and their families.

American College of Nurse-Midwives

The ACNM is a professional organization representing Certified Nurse-Midwives and Certified Midwives. It also provides certifications and continuing education in midwifery.