This is my take on it. I am a NICU nurse, but have done several float/shadow days in L&D and my close friend who works in the NICU with me also works in L&D and has told me her perception of the two. I have absolutely no interest in caring for the mother or anything that comes along with that, also from what I've seen in L&D is that when it's busy - it's crazy...but there can be long periods of time with no deliveries or anything really going on. If anything exciting happens with the baby NICU comes and deals with it...so in this way L&D is boring to me personally...but I am an adrenaline junkie/type A/ICU person so that's why NICU is more appealing to me.
That being said, NICU is also boring to me sometimes (although I still love it). I work in a large, academic level IV and MOST of our unit is feeder-growers or stable vented babies. We have a lot of weird genetic things and rare disorders - being a childrens hospital. I wouldn't say its a TRUE ICU environment all the time. However babies can change quick and therefore in the NICU you are doing everything for them, monitoring things very closely. You are dealing with intubations, drips, vents etc. like in a typical ICU but also some stable patients learning to eat and breathe properly. Most times it's very busy and the pace can remind me of a med/surg floor at times.
My friend said that the reason she likes L&D is that parents are usually experiencing the happiest moments of their lives, and are very appreciative of the staff...she receives many cards and gifts and it's overall generally a happy place. In the NICU, the parents are usually going through the worst times of their lives, and sometimes take it out on us...are very stressed and overwhelmed so cards/gifts/thank yous are not the top priority in their mind. We have to do a lot of reassurance and teaching. We see very sick babies and very hard situations. We see babies die. But its great to have a micro prem be in our unit for 6+ months, get better and go home. Parents bring their babies back to see us. Many nurses have primary patients and get very close with the families, get invited to their patients birthday parties etc....to me this is so much more meaningful and I feel like I've really made a difference.
Both areas are great - just very different