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  • Writer's pictureNicole Sivers

Labor & Delivery Nurses and Doulas: Pieces to the Puzzle

First, let us honor each professional separately.

Labor & Delivery Nurse- A nurse that assists women during the process of childbirth


  • Associate’s or Bachelor’s degree in Nursing

  • Maintain license

  • Maintain Basic Life Support certification, Neonatal Resuscitation certification, Advanced Cardiac Life Support certification and a National Certification Corporation certification

Labor Doula- A person trained to provide nonjudgmental physical, emotional, and informational support throughout pregnancy, birth, and into the postpartum period.

Requirements (assuming doula is professionally trained)

  • Attend an in person workshop

  • Maintain CPR and First Aid certification

  • Support two families throughout their birth]

  • Pass exams

  • Maintain certification by acting within scope of practice

Their definitions are so similar that one might wonder, what’s the difference? Just about everything. It all starts with completed training/education. Nurses are medically trained while doulas are non-medical professionals. Therefore nurses are qualified to perform clinical tasks such as checking blood pressure, fetal heart-rate, and dilation and doulas would be acting out of their scope of practice.

Because of the difference in training and education, while doulas are not responsible for their clients’ birth outcomes, Labor & Delivery nurses are. Hence, they cannot guarantee they will give the laboring person the undivided attention they might be planning for. Since the parent and baby’s physical well-being takes precedent, the nurse might have to stop tending to their patient’s emotional needs to focus on their medical ones. During that time, a doula can compliment their client's nurse and make sure emotional support is consistently provided during these times.

Doulas and nurses are both important pieces in a laboring person’s puzzle, but for different reasons... While the work of a Labor Doula and Labor & Delivery Nurse are very different, they do have some overlapping characteristics. The biggest similarity they share is their goal to help create a positive experience for the laboring person. By letting the other fill in the necessary gaps that each is missing, they are able to provide each family with optimum support.

Unfortunately Labor & Delivery floors aren’t always overwhelmingly staffed so, due to having other patients, a nurse can’t always give each patient the one on one support they might need. There is such a significant difference when a laboring person has a constant presence throughout their delivery that it might be beneficial to hire a doula for times like this. It could also be considered helpful to the Labor & Delivery nurse when patients are not calling for ice chips or an extra pillow and instead asking their doula to lend a hand.

The effects of conflict between a doula and a nurse (on a laboring person) can be awkward, stressful, and really make the family question the choices they made for themselves. Because of this, it is very important that birth professionals have respect for each, individual, role on a birth team.

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