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Nation & World

Nurse navigators help guide expectant couples

BLOOMINGTON (AP) – If pregnancy, labor, delivery and postpartum care are a journey, then OSF St. Joseph Medical Center is providing experienced guides.

The hospital’s OB (obstetrics) Nurse Navigator Program is St. Joseph’s effort to have obstetrical nurses work with mothers- and fathers-to-be throughout pregnancy and after delivery.

“The intent is not to replace the physician but to provide a go-to person from the front line who can answer questions along the way and be a friendly face that moms can recognize when they come up to deliver,” said Shauna Bivens, a St. Joseph OB charge nurse and among six nurse navigators at the hospital.

Dr. Barry Slotky, an obstetrician-gynecologist, doesn’t know whether any of his patients have used the program.

“But I think the idea – better communication with the patient – is excellent, especially for first-time moms and dads who have a number of different questions that may be answered by the nurse advocate.

“Patients may have a lot of questions and it may be difficult to get answers from the doc,” he said. “If they have a contact person who can provide medically appropriate information, that’s great.”

The nurse navigator may tell the patient that what she’s experiencing is expected and may advise the patient to call her doctor. Either way, “patients get their questions resolved in a timely fashion,” Slotky said.

The program began about a year ago. Of 896 women who had babies at St. Joseph in the past year, 125 used nurse navigators, Bivens said.

“Obviously, our goal is to increase that number,” she said. “The patients I’ve talked with really love it.”

“Navigation in nursing in general is an up-and-coming topic,” she said. Other departments that have nurse navigators in hospitals in some parts of the country include oncology and surgery, Bivens said.

“Patients are getting smarter,” Bivens said. “They want to be more involved in their health care and that’s a good thing. They want to ask questions and navigation facilitates that.

“The nurses all really love it,” she continued. “We really get to know the patients and become a small part of their family. I’m as excited for them as some of their friends are. It’s a better experience for the nurses and patients both.”

The free program is open to any expectant mother. To register or get more information, go to or at 309-665-4704.

Women don’t have to have their child at St. Joseph, but most do. “The goal is for them to deliver here for continuity of care,” Bivens said.

“The biggest benefit is to patients who have complications or are ill at ease,” Bivens said.

The goal is for the first meeting with the nurse navigator to happen about 20 weeks into the pregnancy.

Among discussion topics are pregnancy discomforts and how to address them, prenatal tests, fetal growth and development and breastfeeding. Nurse navigators discuss why there’s a local initiative for women to wait to deliver their child until 39 weeks of pregnancy unless it’s medically necessary; help women register for birth preparation classes; and discuss the importance of selecting a pediatrician if they haven’t already done so. Educational materials are provided.

The second meeting, at about 28 weeks of pregnancy, generally is over the phone but can be face to face. Discussion topics include how the woman is feeling, pre-term labor and testing.

Couples are provided a Birthing Experience Wish List to help them to indicate in writing their preferences regarding labor, pain relief, visitors during labor, positions during delivery, what the woman would like for herself and her baby immediately after delivery, feeding her baby and circumcision. They are encouraged to fill out the list and take it to their obstetrician-gynecologist.

At 36 weeks, couples complete pre-registration at the hospital, tour the hospital birthing center, discuss breast pumps and are shown a video about epidural anesthesia, which provides pain relief during labor.

When the woman is in labor, there’s no guarantee that her nurse navigator will be there to help because she may not be on duty. But if the navigator is on duty when the patient is laboring, an effort will be made to get them together. Even if the nurse is working with another patient, the nurse stops by if she can, Bivens said.

After delivery, the navigator is available to offer assistance regarding breastfeeding, information on infant health and to determine whether the new mother needs help at home.

Most obstetrician-gynecologists support the program, Bivens said.

“This fills a need,” Slotky said. “Whenever we can get patients into the system earlier, it means healthier outcomes.”


Source: The (Bloomington) Pantagraph,


Information from: The Pantagraph,

This is an Illinois Exchange story shared by The (Bloomington) Pantagraph.

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