I was a doula, then a medical floor nurse, then a nurse with a midwife attending out of hospital births, then back to the medical floor, and now that I've finished my RN degree (I was an LPN), I'm back to mamas and babies, this time in the hospital setting.
Sometimes it is difficult, because as a doula you were there for the mother. As a nurse employed by the hospital, you have many more entities pulling you from different directions. Protocols, physicians, other patients, in addition to the patient.
I find that post partum is most similar to doula work. You evaluate the mother's education needs, and fill in the blanks. You support her in those initial days of breastfeeding and parenting, much like you would do as a doula. Of course there is the nursing assessments and care, but they aren't really much different than what you would see in a home birth or birth center birth setting, and they are not terribly invasive. Mainly the focus is education and support. I've done some orienting on L&D, and I can see that's not my thing, not right now, anyhow. It is sooooo different from doula work, and I find that I want to doula more than be the nurse in some of those situations.
I am surprised to find that I like nursery nursing. I thought I wouldn't like it, I would find it too interventive; and while I have found it a bit interventive to my taste, it's not as bad as I envisioned, and I have enjoyed it tremendously. Which makes me think that eventually I will also enjoy L&D. I fully recognize that my discomfort with it rests purely with me. Mentally I'll be able to wrap may brain around it in a few years, I'm sure. At this point, I'd like eventually to go the CNM route, and thus need the L&D experience.
I loved being on the medical/tele floor; I also love what I'm doing right now. I like having the medical base, I feel it makes me more confident in my assessments, and more comfortable with mothers who have other issues--chronic hypertension, diabetes, pacemakers, etc.
PP *is* a happier place. People are there for a happy event, not sick or dying. It can be just as stressful, but in a completely different way. Not acuity of patients way as much as just trying to get things done so that a mama and baby can go home in a normal time period. I have more patients on mother/baby than I did on med/tele, I find. I always had 3-4 patients on the med/tele, but usually have 3-4 couplets on mother baby. Which equals 6-8 patients to chart on, take vitals on, and if mom isn't able or willing to take care of baby, then I have even more responsibility there, as our nursery nurses primary responsibility is baby catching and attending to the sick babies, not watching well babies that should be in with their mamas--that is the postpartum nurse's responsibility primarily, with the nursery nurse backing her up.
Anyhow, it is possible to go from doula to RN. It is different, and sometimes very difficulty, don't get me wrong. But it can still be very rewarding and satisfying. I can honestly say that if the pay were the same, I still wouldn't go back to being a doula. I enjoy my career as a nurse, and enjoy nursing on a mother/baby/nursery unit.
Good luck, hope that helps!