Mothers in Labor; Nurses in Tears

“The opportunity to connect with a mother and her baby is what we’re really all about,” says Mary Ellen Warden, an RN at Mt. Sinai Roosevelt, now in her 32nd year caring for women in labor and delivery. “It’s such a powerful human experience.

“Supporting women giving birth is largely a matter of being present to reassure the mother, to connect with her in times of vulnerability. To answer her questions, to advocate for her when she wants an epidural; to work up the chain of command if the patient isn’t given the attention she deserves from the provider; to interpret what a doctor has told the patient during his rounds that she may not have understood.”

The problem is, administrators in New York City’s hospitals are assigning far too many patients to RNs to make it possible for them meet the standard of care they’re duty-bound to provide.

“Once a woman’s in active labor, she should have one nurse dedicated to her care. That’s the professional standard. And that’s really being flouted and abused,” says Warden, who works days. The risks to patients and RNs during the dead of night are even greater.

“I can’t tell you how often I met a nurse coming off night shift who was in tears because she felt she couldn’t keep up with what was being demanded of her,” says Warden. “Patient support is the first thing that becomes challenging when we’re assigned to too many patients, and we feel awful because of our deep sense of responsibility to our patients.”

Every month at meetings with management, Warren sounds the alarm about how severe the crisis has become in labor and delivery. Yet nothing is done by hospital management to provide for greater patient safety, or to give RNs the time necessary to provide patients the attention they deserve. “On the night shift,” Warden explains, “RNs are sometimes covering two patients in active labor at the same time.”

The challenges are even greater for RNs in post partum settings. They’re often struggling to care for six pairs of mothers and babies at once. That’s a ratio of one RN to 12 patients – double the ratio recommended in scientific studies.

It’s time for hospital administrators to start putting patients over profits. Sign the petition to tell New York hospitals to implement safe staffing levels so that patients finally get the quality care they deserve!

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