Nursing is a fast-growing profession with, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, an increase of an estimated 711,900 jobs between 2010 and 2020. Whether you're just starting your nursing education or are looking for an advanced practice option, an OB/GYN school program can provide you with the skills that you'll need to work with women in a health-care setting.
Basic LPN Education
The first step to becoming an OB/GYN nurse is to gain the basic education that you'll need to get your initial licensure. The most entry level nurse position -- meaning a professional nurse, and not a nurse's assistant -- is a licensed practical nurse. As an LPN, which is also sometimes known as an LVN, you can work under a registered nurse in a patient care position. Depending on your state's licensure laws you may -- or may not -- have the credentials to start intravenous drips or provide medications to patients. Most LPN educational programs include specialized course work in OB/GYN subjects. For example, the Hutchinson Community College in Kansas requires students to complete a maternal-child nursing class to graduate.
Community colleges, technical schools and four-year colleges or universities all offer programs that can lead to RN licensure. If you are looking for a career in OB/GYN nursing that includes greater responsibilities than an LPN would have -- such as administering medications or working in a leadership role -- you will need an RN. Additionally, if you have plans to eventually go on to an advanced practice specialty, you will want both an RN and a bachelor's degree. Nursing schools that lead to RN licensure typically have detailed courses on OB/GYN topics as well as semester-long clinical rotations to gain hands-on skills. For example, the University of Pittsburgh School of Nursing's four-year undergraduate program includes a junior year, one semester long clinical course in the nursing care of mothers, newborns and families.
Unlike traditional or general RN's, nurse midwives are an advanced practice specialty that have master's degrees -- or higher -- and practice in a much more independent manner. Nurse midwives -- according to the American College of Nurse-Midwives -- have the training and credentials to perform routine gynecological exams, prescribe medications, conduct prenatal care, provide health education to women and deliver babies. Applying to nurse midwife school typically requires a Bachelor of Science in nursing, along with a current RN license and one year of experience working as a professional nurse. At the master's level, graduate midwife nursing school is roughly -- depending on the school's curriculum -- a two-year degree, including extensive clinical internship experience. For example, the University of New Mexico's program requires students to complete six semesters of class work as well as 1,000 hours of clinicals.
Aside form nurse midwife, nurse practitioner programs can provide you with the knowledge and credentials to take on higher level duties. The Mayo Clinic's School of Health Sciences notes that NPs are RNs who have advanced training and certification that allows them to conduct physical exams in lieu of a doctor, prescribe medications -- depending on the state's regulations -- conduct health counseling, make a diagnosis and interpret lab results. Becoming an NP requires a minimum of a master's degree. Additionally, NP students who want to practice in an OB/GYN setting should consider applying to a school with a woman's health specialization. For example, Boston College's William F. Connell School of Nursing has a women's health nurse practitioner master's degree that provides RNs with the opportunity to learn about gynecological health-care, obstetric issues and sit for the National Certification Corporation's women's health NP exam. Likewise, the California State University, Fullerton offers a women's health nurse practitioner master's program that offers training in caring for women in the medical or community health settings.