To succeed as a labor and delivery nurse, you need more than just technical skills. You’ll care for women in labor during low- and high-intervention deliveries, and you’ll need to approach every patient with care and empathy, treating each woman as a unique individual experiencing one of the most significant moments of her life. Demonstrating that you possess these qualities can make you stand out during your job interview.
Some of the questions you encounter during your interview may be standard ones about work experience, your perceived strengths and weaknesses, or other personality-assessing topics. Others will be tailored to being a fit on the L+D floor.
To help you prepare, we asked Elizabeth Rochin, PhD, RN, NE-BC, president of the National Perinatal Information Center, to weigh in on some questions and answers for interviews that labor and delivery nurses typically encounter.
8 Common Labor & Delivery Nurse Interview Questions (& How to Respond)
1. "Why did you (or do you want to) become a labor and delivery nurse?"
For many labor and delivery nurses, helping pregnant women deliver their babies is a calling. The position requires a high level of understanding of labor physiology and how to care for patients, but the emotional connections you develop with your patients makes it a job like no other.
If you’re passionate about caring for women who are laboring, lifting their spirits with words of encouragement, or helping to ease their pain with your suggestions, tell your interviewer. Share your story of why this floor is a good fit for you. Your passion about your work will be evident, which will make you an appealing candidate.
2. "How do you view your role as a member of the labor and delivery team?"
It will be important to get across the feeling that teamwork is essential in the labor and delivery setting. Everyone must be aware of acute changes in the mother and baby, and think quickly about how to alter the course of treatment, if needed. You’ll want to recognize that the contributions of everyone on the healthcare team lead to the implementation of outstanding patient care. If you’re overconfident about your own contributions or you don’t sound like a team player, that can be a red flag to your interviewer.
3. "How would you care for a mother whose labor and birth choices are starkly different from your own?"
For this answer, you’ll need to describe your ability to care for a woman whose choices may not necessarily match your own. Your interviewer will want to hear that you’re capable of communicating well with all patients and can help women with different views participate in shared decision-making with the healthcare team to ensure that everyone achieves the safest outcomes.
For example, if you have a mother who insists on an all-natural birth plan, how would you communicate the need for a medical intervention? Or, how would you advocate for her -- if you feel there’s a way to meet her demands?
4. "How would you handle high-risk situations, like shoulder dystocia or postpartum hemorrhage?"
Your answer will offer insights into your clinical experience and expertise. The interviewer will want to hear that you know how to act in emergency situations, when timing is crucial. You’ll want to talk about how you communicate to the medical team, your patient, and your patient’s partner and discuss how you’ll keep your patient as calm as possible.
For your answer, explain your M.O., and if you have a real life example, use it to show how you’ve used this action plan in the past.
5. "Do you have experience partnering with doulas? How have you created a memorable birth experience for a mother as a member of the care team involving a doula?"
Doulas are attending more births than in years past, so it’s likely you’ve had the opportunity to work with one. Most doulas are eager to partner with labor and delivery nurses to ensure the mother receives the best care possible.
The point to get across to your interviewer is that your goal is to provide outstanding, woman-centered care to all patients and that you’re happy to team up with doulas to provide enhanced experiences to patients whenever possible. It’s OK if you haven’t worked with a doula; just let your interviewer know you’re open to the possibility.
6. "How would you communicate concerns to a provider regarding labor progress?"
Communication is a critical element for all aspects of patient care, including when a woman is in labor. Your interviewer will want to know that you’re empowered to communicate any issues and concerns to providers promptly, to ensure the health and safety of mother and baby. Tell her about your personal communication style and explain why it works well for you. If possible, share an example of when you had to command control over a delivery and what you said to make others respond.
7. "How have you provided safe and compassionate care to a woman who cannot communicate?"
Every woman deserves personalized, compassionate care during labor and delivery, even if barriers prevent her from communicating with you. That shouldn’t stop you from providing her with the best care that you have to offer. Let your interviewer know what you’ve done in the past or would do for a woman who is unable to communicate. Offering meaningful smiles or reassuring touches may be calming, and you may be able to anticipate your patient’s needs based on the situation, which may help.
8. "How have you (or how would you) transformed a negative birth experience into a positive one?"
This type of question offers opportunity to showcase the respectful care you offer to women and their families. Your interviewer will be interested to hear you’re an empathetic listener and you’re committed to providing outstanding patient care.
If you have not had this experience, present a situation such as an unwanted C-section or a tragic stillbirth, and explain how you would assist your patient through their recovery.
Winding Down the Interview: Questions to Ask the Interviewer
When your interviewer wants to know if you have any questions, consider asking:
"How would you describe physician/provider/nurse relationships in your unit?"
"How do nurses in this unit view their contributions to the patient experience, and what are your unit’s patient experience scores?"
"What is the culture of your facility? How engaged are the nurses working in your unit?"
"What challenges do the nurses in your labor and delivery unit face daily, and what is done to help them overcome those challenges?"
"What were the results of your last Culture of Patient Safety survey, and how have the nurses in this unit proactively built a culture of safety?"
Extra Interview Tips for Labor & Delivery Nurses
Get ready for your interview by preparing your answers to the questions listed above. There’s no guarantee you’ll be asked these exact questions, but it’s likely similar questions and themes will come up. If you’ve already formulated your responses, you’ll be well-prepared. If you feel like taking an extra step, say your answers out loud, either to a trusted friend, partner, or even to yourself but in the actual tone you’d use during an interview. Be sure that whatever you say, you convey the ideas that you’re enthusiastic about being a labor and delivery nurse and you have the right experience to succeed in the position.
Exude confidence on the day of your interview. Wear something that makes you feel poised and powerful. Business or business casual is ideal. (A suit isn’t necessary.) Keep your makeup and accessories to a minimum so they don’t take away from your professional look. And be an extroverted version of yourself, smiling, making eye contact with everyone, shaking hands enthusiastically with the people whom you’re introduced to.
After your interview, sending thank-you letters can make a difference, because many people don’t bother. They think that it’s an outdated gesture, although it really isn’t. Snail-mail letters often impress interviewers, especially those that are thoughtfully handwritten, but an e-mailed thank-you message can get the same point across. Be sure to highlight a few key reasons why you’re qualified to work in their labor and delivery department that you talked about during the interview, and thank your interviewer for her time. Good luck!
Image courtesy of iStock.com/nortonrsx