Before You Walk Away From Labor and Delivery

Lately, I’ve been thinking more and more about walking away from OB. When people hear that you’re a labor and delivery nurse, they automatically think it’s all about balloons and birth announcements. And usually, it is—you get to work with women and families who are experiencing a life-changing event—the birth of their baby. But when it’s bad, it’s bad. When it’s sad, it’s so sad. And each shift, sometimes each passing hour, takes its toll. When it’s the nurse that needs to be nursed, there isn’t anywhere for us to turn. We can’t come home and talk about our day with our families. It’s not really allowed, and they just wouldn’t get it anyway. We can complain to our coworkers, and we do–but the truth is, when the next shift clocks in, when we clock in for our next shift, we’re supposed to just be over it.  It feels harder and harder to go to bed with a clear mind, my clear conscience is my only condolence. Lately, after each shift, I find myself staring at my discarded scrubs on the bathroom floor from the safety of my bathtub. My scrubs lie there crumpled and filthy from sweat and God knows what else. And when I think about having to put on a new set the next day, my only thought is that the next pair fits a little snug.

I wish I could give you an example of something horrible that happened recently, but I can’t pluck a single memory from my mind.  It’s just been hard. Seriously, who takes care of the nurse when they’re the ones that need to be taken care of? Who will take care of me when it’s my body that fails, or my heart that is heavy? I walk into my house after each shift, and I’m greeted with more and more requests.

What’s for dinner? (I have no clue)

Did I pay that bill? (is our water still on?)

Can I sign this school folder (why can you find it every night, but not every morning?)

Will I be able to go to that class party that we just got the notice for (my schedule comes out 3 months in advance, and the majority of people work at 11am!)

I listen to everyone and everything, keep my patient-satisfaction voice on, and relish the 8 minutes I have alone in the bathtub, where I stare at the dirty scrubs on my bathroom floor and think about my last shift and the next one to come.

The next time you’re at work, take a good look at your coworkers. Some will be there in year, others will be long gone. But it’s these coworkers that will run to your rescue when a baby crashes, or worse, when a mother does. It’s these coworkers that will comfort you when you look defeated, turn off your call-light when you just sit down to chart, and keep the margaritas coming until the defeat turns into defiance—you can keep doing this and you will keep doing this (at least, that’s what Jose Cuervo convinces you of). We only have each other. We don’t know who will be by our side tomorrow, but only our coworkers know the struggles we face and the demands that are placed on us. And even though some days everything in me wants to walk away from labor and delivery, I know I would miss this. I know I would miss these patients and these people. The next shift may not be so different, it may not be better, it may not be easier—but our coworkers will always be there. Who will nurse the nurses when our bodies fail and our hearts our heavy? Yup, you guessed it. Nurses.

Until my next delivery ❤

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26 Comments on "Before You Walk Away From Labor and Delivery"

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Labor & Delivery was my life for 22 years. It’s who I was. It was part of my identity. My knees are done. My feet always ache. Patients are sicker. And bigger. We follow ACOG guidelines-if its cost effective (ssshhhhhh, don’t tell anyone.) Staffing was never good enough. The environment was becoming more & more punitive. So I made one of the most difficult decisions in my life: I left my co-workers & friends, & the job that I loved. It’s the best decision I’ve ever made. And I don’t regret it. Yes, I miss my absolutely amazing co-workers &… Read more »
Adventures of a Labor Nurse

<3<3 I understand you1!!!

Carolyn Twardy
After 37 years I feel the same way. The toll on my body is what made me leave at age 68. That business about keeping on running like the enigiser bunny is an urban legend!! I do miss my coworkers and most of the patients. Medicine and patient attitudes have really changed over the past years. Expectations have become intense. Everyone expects perfect outcomes. A lot of that is because we have become very good at what we do. I miss the teamwork and comradery .
Julissa Espinal

Hey Kathy. After 17 years, I too left L&D. As this article points out, your coworkers are the ones who understand. I work in Peds ER now and can honestly say I don’t miss what L&D has become. I will always be an L&D nurse and miss my second family more than words can express but I don’t regret my decision.

I’ve been in OB for almost 20 years. If it’s related to L&D, I’ve done it or I’m doing it now. My body hurts and I’m almost certain I’m headed for a hip replacement (I’m not even 45, yet!). I’ve returned to L&D after two joint related surgeries, because I love it. I get absolutely wonderful patients just often enough to keep from throwing in the towel and trying to get into a dermatology clinic. (Well, MAYBE not dermatology….) I come to work feeling sick/ run over, but still there because I don’t have a fever. I come to work… Read more »
Adventures of a Labor Nurse

I actually have a coworker who already had to have a hip replacement and she’s under 38!! I am right there with you…

Maybe every job is like the one you describe because I have the same feelings when I stop and think about my day. As a school teacher in a low socio-economic area my school children carry so many burdens that it’s unbelievable/unimaginable when they share them with me. Many of them live with grandparents who are unable to or don’t know how to help these children. I also felt the same way when I worked for Adult Protective Services. And there’s no one to turn too because the only people who understand are your co-workers. Ultimately, I know this is… Read more »
Adventures of a Labor Nurse

I think teachers and nurses are so much alike. My best friends are teachers, and our jobs are so alike. Thank you for your kind words!!! <3

I left L&D during an emotional storm in our family. Teenager in crisis, two parents circling the drain in opposite parts of the city and a son in the Marines in FAST Company. My stress level was so high that when my sweet little patients wanted to know if I had children I could barely keep my face straight. Crying was my only emotion much of the time. I’m older now, the adolescent grew up and survived (there were real concerns), parents both passed years later, son out of the Marines safely, and I still miss L&D. Last year our… Read more »
Kay Trew Naragon

Yes, Patients are awesome. Families are too. Co-workers have hugged me in my time of need and laughed with me until it we cried. But at the end of the day, I am most grateful to have a loving God in my life who will always be there for me after the patients, families, coworkers and days of Labor and Delivery are long gone. He gives me strength to get through those bad, sad or stressful days on L & D. He is with be to recognize the miracle of every birth.

Can relate to all the comments above. I have 2 yrs before retirement & I already know it’s my coworkers that I will miss the most. They’re like a second family & proably know more about me & support me more than my family does. The hospital based practice has changed over the many years, some good, most bad. Most nurses will agree that we nurse the computer charting & don’t have the time we wish the patients. Everything is about patient satisfaction. It has gotten more punitive, I agree. Patients also have changed. It’s about their “birthing experience” instead… Read more »
The Amazing Adventures of Pregnancy
Being a Labor and Delivery Nurse was a honor a privilege and one of the best times of my Nursing career. I loved every aspect- the highlights, the challenges , the professional and personal growth. The life long friendships made. My time on Labor and Delivery help mold me into the Nurse I am today. However, the time came with much prayer and thought- I left that role. There are times I still miss it. However, I love my current role as the Maternal Fetal Medicine Nurse coordinator and helping high risk moms on the outpatient side make it to… Read more »

I have been in Lands for 32 years still on the floor. All way seek out self care .a good crafting class or massage to decrease stress.and over the years a good cry sitting in my car at the end of the shift. ♡♡♡

OB nurse for over 20+ years, its in my blood. Relocated and found another OB job this one is strictly PP which is nice but stressful cause they don’t staff PP like L and D. We are first to be pulled or floated out leaving our are understaffed. Time to help a mother nurse her baby, who has time? Time to comfort a mother who has a baby in NICU, who has time. Time to take that new couplet when you are behind on your other 6 or 8 patients, who has time. I guess I do but you will… Read more »

I’m retiring after 31 years. I am happy and sad. Love L& D but feel it’s time. Two knee replacements, sore feet, so many missed meals, tears from being part of a loss, but the joy of the race for the baby. Adrenaline rush. I love it. Work has changed to more computer and policy up and the ying yang! I’m hands on but now no time! Thank you to the wonderful families and workmates.

I’ve only been an L&D nurse for 5 years. I’m so burned out. I’m so sick of moms putting meth, opioids, ecstacy and even cigarettes and alcohol ahead of their new baby. I’m soooo sick of being belittled by doctors when I’m doing my best! I’m sick of nurses eating nurses alive. I’m sick of living in fear of the day I get called to court for a high risk labor I did everything I could to manage to the best of my ability. I’m sick of the anxiety I’ve aquired just from being a nurse and having to face… Read more »

I feel you! Worked L&D for over 10 years at several places…hated it. Love my new job as periop! You have no idea how low you are (and how many people you are sucking down with you) until you start to recover from the situation. Get out! I am a better wife, mother, sister, daughter and nurse since I left OB. I am nicer to the grocery checker. For real. You get so burnt you have nothing but tears for anyone. “Take care of each other. Nurse the nurse”. Fuck that! Take care of yourself!!!!!


After 5 years in L&D I had to leave. I was so burnt out and everyday was exhausting. Staff support was poor, management expected us to work with no staff and no breaks, and they were always looking for a mistake. Sometimes I miss it, but I don’t regret moving to a new specialty.

Carole Jenkins

I worked L&D as a nurse and as a nurse-midwife. Yes, there were difficult days. Yes, I have bad feet and multiple surgeries on my feet, knee replacements, and a tired back but I reluctantly retired at 73. I loved every minute of being able to live my dream. I am sorry that nurses now have so much stress and pressure that isn’t related to patient care. That was what helped me make the decision to retire.The bedside nurse is becoming a thing of the past.

I was a L&D nurse for 17 years when I transferred and became a Home Health nurse. I worked night shift the entire 17 years and mostly weekends. I was sick of working dangerously short staffed and management not caring, taking 3+ on call (AKA called in every time shifts) every schedule plus being guilted into working overtime. I was sick of being short with my kids and my husband and yelling and being stressed out all of the time. I was sick of missing birthday parties and never getting to take my kids to church and feeding them chicken… Read more »

Sounds like textbook definition of Compassion fatigue, the reason I moved off the floor and into teaching. While family doesn’t really “get it” they can still be a source of support and love. I hope you can find ways to fill your cup and find some peace!


12 years and I left my career, identity and passion. It was a sad day and I miss it terribly. Lots of reasons, 12 hour shifts, a gap between management and the nurses, change in patient population, and nurses with poor work ethic and lack of integrity. I like my 8 hour shift job, it pays the bills but will never be L&D!

Larry Baker

And if you have an interfaith chaplain on staff remember chaplains provide spiritual and emotional support for staff as well as patients and families.
Chaplains are trained to listen and not judge or try to fix it. Chaplains bring more than religion to the table. I hope your facility has a trained chaplain on staff and that you are able to share some of your concerns.
And don’t forget, chaplains experience many of the same crises and stresses that you feel. Sometimes chaplains will appreciate an encouraging word or listening ear.

Suzanne Zuloaga
I left the floor after 37 years as a L&D nurse. It was a decision brought about by failing body parts and is still a great loss to my soul, but I stepped into women’s education. This allows me to be a part of young families lives, support my co-workers, whom I deeply admire, and represent my hospital system. And guess what? I get to sit down! And every once in a while my students send me videos of their special birthing moments, send beautiful pictures or even bring in those gorgeous babies to visit “Grandma”. I feel I am… Read more »
I’ve worked almost 20 years in OB and am on the cusp of leaving. I only worked L&D for six months, but I’ve been working mainly in post Partum and Level 2b nursery. Areas which are just as heartbreaking, rewarding, busy, and wonderful as L&D is. This article states that all we have to lean on is each other as nurses because we all understand what we all go through. What happens when we don’t have this? When you don’t have so-called colleagues who work with you who don’t listen, or see that you have had a hard day. Or… Read more »
Robin Kaphan
I always wanted to be a maternity nurse. It was a dream come true when I finally was transferred from med-surg (which I hated) to the OB floor. I LOVED L & D, We also rotated post-partum and well baby nursery. I became permanent staff in L & D, took leave to have my first child and returned part-time. After another year or so, I left (reluctantly) to stay home with my son and soon was pregnant with my 2nd child. I could not find adequate child care at the time and my husband was in residency training. I taught… Read more »
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