09/30/2010

New nurse staffing guidelines address the changing needs of perinatal patients

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A leading women’s health association has issued new guidelines for staffing perinatal units in hospitals. The Association of Women’s Health, Obstetric and Neonatal Nurses (AWHONN) says updated guidelines for care of mothers and their newborns are needed to reflect the demands of nursing care in today’s perinatal settings.

AWHONN introduced “Guidelines for Professional Registered Nurse Staffing for Perinatal Units” in 1983, but perinatal patients and their care have changed a lot in the past 27 years. For example, there are more labor inductions, preterm births and surgical births, as well as more women with more complicated pregnancies. In addition, shorter stays in hospitals are resulting in higher acuity of hospitalized mothers and babies. The association also took into consideration the introduction of electronic health record systems that require more nursing time and increased documentation by nurses.

The new, more comprehensive AWHONN guidelines describe the growing complexity of perinatal settings and address the implications for registered nurses’ workloads. This is especially critical because mounting evidence suggests that increasing nurse-to-patient ratios is associated with improvements in patient outcomes, fewer deaths and complications—such as infection and bleeding—and a decrease in prolonged hospital stays.

“Planning for appropriate nurse staffing is crucial to providing safe and effective care,” said AWHONN’s chief executive officer Karen Peddicord. “While these new guidelines are not mandates, they serve as a basis for planning and help ensure that nurses will be able to spend more time with women in labor and new mothers in order to meet their healthcare needs and offer more personalized care.”

The recommendations in the new guidelines include:

  • Nurses in labor and delivery units should have only one patient to care for if the woman is having her labor induced or chooses a low-tech birth without pain medication;
  • Nurses should have fewer new mothers and babies to care for than in the past; and
  • Two nurses should attend every birth, vaginal or cesarean, one to attend the woman and one to attend the baby.

Interested in learning more about AWHONN’s Guidelines for Professional Registered Nurse Staffing for Perinatal Units? Visit www.awhonn.org for more information. [AWHONN press release/Adrienne Coles]

September 30, 2010