Get an Education
Aspiring OB nurses must be registered nurses (RNs). To become an RN, you can choose from two educational paths: an associate in nursing (ADN or ASN) or a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN). Either of these can fulfill RN licensure requirements.
Hospital nursing schools also offer nursing diplomas and certificates. These programs take two to three years and focus exclusively on professional preparation. Diplomas and certificates are now less common as many employers prefer to hire BSN-educated nurses.
ADN/ASN programs last two to four years, while bachelor’s in nursing programs require about four years of study. Along with nursing courses, both degree types include general education requirements in writing, math and science.
After completing a two-year degree, nurses may return to school to complete their BSN. If you’re deciding between an ASN vs. BSN, note that the American Association of Colleges of Nursing has pushed to make BSN-prepared nurses the industry standard, citing more robust career preparation and better patient outcomes.
Pass the NCLEX-RN and Obtain RN Licensure
Before you can begin practicing as an OB nurse, you need an RN license in the state where you plan to work.
Licensure requirements vary by state, but no matter where you live, you’ll need to pass the NCLEX-RN. This five-hour adaptive exam tests general nursing knowledge, application and analysis.
States may set other RN licensure requirements, like background checks and/or continuing education. Consult the National Council of State Boards of Nursing to learn more about how to become an OB nurse in your state.
Nursing students complete clinical hours through internships and practicums. This may be your first opportunity to explore the OB nursing practice. If you know you want to enter this specialty, your clinical hours offer a great place to start building experience.
After graduation, you can apply for entry-level OB nursing positions. The Association of Women’s Health, Obstetric and Neonatal Nurses (AWHONN) features a career board listing relevant jobs. After two years in the specialty, nurses can qualify for certification.
Optional certifications can vouch for your experience and knowledge in the profession. The most common certification for OB/GYN nurses is the National Certification Commission’s (NCC) Credential in Inpatient Obstetric Nursing (RNC-OB)®.
To qualify for the certification exam, RNC-OB candidates need at least two years and 2,000 hours of relevant experience. OB nurses can also pursue NCC certifications in maternal newborn nursing, obstetric and neonatal quality and safety, electronic fetal monitoring and neonatal intensive care nursing.
Consider Advancing Your Education
Pursuing higher education as a nurse opens career doors and increases earning potential. For nurses without a BSN, the logical next step may be an RN-to-BSN bridge program. Designed for RNs looking to improve their skills and job prospects, these programs often come in part-time and/or online formats to suit working nurses’ schedules.
For BSN-educated nurses, a graduate nursing degree can lead to advanced practice and leadership roles. A master’s in nursing or a doctor of nursing practice degree can help nurses qualify for APRN roles such as nurse midwives or women’s health nurse practitioners.
Nurses must complete continuing education to maintain licensure in most states. Many organizations, including AWHONN, offer continuing education resources.