My Experience as a Labor and Delivery Nursing Student
Posted Aug 27 2009 11:38pm
Thank you to a great friend of the blog for writing this piece. She would like to remain nameless, but I will say she is a Nursing school grad, current RN, in my lovely home state of Connecticut. I hope you enjoy
When I started nursing school I had the preconceived notion that I would ultimately be a medical/surgical nurse. I can’t tell you why; it’s just what I expected. When the time came to complete my Obstetrics clinical rotation, I was not looking forward to it. This was the last area of nursing I thought I would ever pursue. To my surprise, I was hooked the moment I stepped on the Labor and Delivery unit. I was drawn to the environment immediately. I loved interacting with the women and their families and was honored to share in such a momentous experience. At first I felt like I was imposing on a situation that was only for family members, or so I thought. It was quite the opposite. The support and care that the Labor and Delivery nurse provides for the laboring woman is vital for the comfort of the patient.
During my last semester in nursing school, I was able to choose a specialty clinical rotation, which was, of course, Labor and Delivery. At this point, I already had basic knowledge of OB nursing from my previous rotation, but this rotation was going to be very in depth. I experienced many things from normal vaginal deliveries to cesarean sections to birth defects to demises. I’ve seen women ASK for cesarean sections and I’ve seen women choose the natural birthing route. One important thing I took away from that experience was, it is so important to be educated about childbirth and to know what your options are.
One thing every expecting mother should know is that it is okay to question your physician and to deny any treatments you do not wish to receive. I think many women have the preconceived notion that the doctor is all-knowing and what they say goes. On the contrary, YOU make the decisions for yourself and child. Specifically I am speaking about the drug oxytocin or pitocin. The majority of hospitals hold policies stating that pitocin should be instituted on admission for labor. There is no significant reason for pitocin. Your body knows what to do. It’s an amazing process actually- your uterus knows to contract and efface. Think about it, women have been giving birth since the beginning of time without drugs like pitocin. Pitocin is a synthetic form of oxytocin- the hormone your body produces during labor to contract the uterus. In actuality, pitocin causes unnaturally strong contractions, sometimes leading to fetal distress. As a student nurse, I witnessed this overuse of pitocin on a daily basis and have seen the unfortunate effects. My very first patient was being given pitocin to “help along the labor”. The patient was a first time mom, so this was a very new experience for her. As the pitocin was gradually increased, the baby’s heart rate decreased. Finally, the baby’s heart rate dropped to a critically low rate. To make a long story short, interventions were implemented and the pitocin was discontinued. Similarly, I had another patient who was also a first time mother. On admission, per hospital policies, she was given IV pitocin. Each time they would increase the dose, the baby’s heart rate would decelerate and the mother’s contractions became unbearable. At this point, the father took me aside and expressed his concerns. He explained to me, every time they increased the pitocin, his wife and the baby would react negatively. He was beside himself and didn’t know what to do. As we were speaking in the hallway, the doors to his wife’s room swung open and she was being rushed in her hospital bed for an emergency cesarean section. The baby’s heart rate dropped too low and was not responding to any interventions. The baby was in distress. Luckily, the baby was healthy and the mother did well through the procedure. The father was extremely happy to see the baby but voiced his disapproval for the drug they kept giving her which caused this incident- pitocin. These strong contractions are too much for the baby and very painful for the mothers. Remember ladies, you can say no!
On the other hand, I was able to witness a completely natural childbirth. When I say natural, I mean the woman had NOTHING, no IV, no fetal monitoring, nothing. She chose hypno-birthing, which is pain control by hypnosis. At first I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I have to say, she did wonderful! Sure, she may have been in labor longer than her physician wanted her to be, but she stood her ground and had a beautiful experience. She chose this natural way because during her first childbirth experience, everything went awry when she was given pitocin. It took her years to gain the courage to have another baby. This time around, she was completely satisfied and was blessed with a beautiful healthy baby girl.
I have learned a wealth of knowledge from people who I believe are some of the best labor and delivery nurses out there. I have also learned from the not so good ones as well. The bottom line is, this is one of the most important times in a woman’s life and having a supportive nurse who advocates for them is crucial. I look forward to many more years in the field and much more experience that I can share to educate women on one of the most significant experiences of their lives.