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Tension in the LDR

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I had an awful, no good, horrible experience with a nurse during a birth over the weekend.  I’ve never encountered anything like it.  Nurses are usually so wonderful.  I don’t know the back story.  Maybe this nurse had a bad experience with a doula. 

We had been laboring at the hospital through the night for 12 hours when shift change happened.  My client didn’t get a great vibe from new nurse (and really didn’t like her perfume) but we had no idea how bad the vibe would get.  New nurse came in after a few hours and said “you’re not in real labor, you know.  You know such and such (interventions) will be necessary.  It isn’t looking good.”  What?  Who tells a woman who has labored for 12 hours that she isn’t in labor?

Now part of my job as a doula is to maintain a protective bubble around the mom so she can do the work of birth.  I don’t normally speak on my client’s behalf or interrupt medical professionals.  But these words were, in my opinion, really harmful to the current scene.  Normally, nurses do not “diagnose” like this.  Especially when they’ve just arrived and haven’t even gotten to know their patient.

So I jumped in with “we really want to hear positive words right now.  [Client] has been doing so great!  And she had a wonderful labor pattern going when she was able to be out of the bed.  Maybe if we could sit by the bed again?”  (client’s doctor had asked her to remain in bed for a while). 

New nurse:  “How long have you been doing this?” 

Oh my.  Me (with a smile):   “I don’t think that is relevant.”

New nurse:  “No, how long have you been doing this?” 

Me:  “3 years.”

New nurse:  “Well, I’ve been doing this 15 years.  And what is your medical background?”

Me:  “I don’t have a medical background.  I’m not in a medical profession.  Look, I’m not challenging you.  I totally respect you.  We don’t need to bring this tension into the room.”  Keep in mind, we are having this conversation right in front of the laboring mom, her husband, and her mother! 

New nurse said a few words I don’t remember and left the room without speaking to the laboring mom.  Suddenly everyone is tense.  The mom is upset.  I’m apologizing to everyone for what just happened–utterly mortified. 

Soon after, new nurse came in and abruptly said to the mom, “You need to decide who will stay with you during delivery.  This room has one person too many.”  First, this is the same nurse who said the mom wasn’t in “real labor.”  Why is she worried about delivery, then?  Second, the mom chose this particular hospital because they permit 3 people in the room during delivery.  Immediately the mom is more upset because the nurse is contradicting the policy mom was told during the hospital tour and by her doctors.  New nurse is “really sorry she was told that.” 

At that point, the dad stepped in and became even more of a hero (he’d already shown his superhero skills overnight).  He went to the charge nurse and told her that their nurse had an odor that was making his wife sick.  They needed a new nurse.  And guess what?  Our new nurse was FABULOUS!

For the record, doulas are not medical caregivers.  But we do know a thing or two about childbirth (which many of us do not view as a medical event anyway).  We usually have a few tricks for labor progression or comfort.  And we are awfully concerned with the emotional climate surrounding our clients.  That is our job.  

My friend, Laura Clay, would have said, “New nurse, it is obvious you did not graduate from the College of Good Customer Service.”

14 responses »

  1. It doesn’t sound like she even completed the orientation session!!!!! So sorry to hear of your bad nurse experience. It makes one wonder why she is in such a profession….. I see you have a Clemson area event this Thursday. Any chance for a Norah fix for Nanoo afterwards…maybe Chilis or Harcombe?????

  2. Yep! We’re there! Unless I have a birth and then I’ll give you a call. Norah informed me a few days back that she was going to see Nanoo. I guess she was gonna walk?

  3. Brady Godfrey

    Wow! you have a lot of patience :)I would feel safer with you during my birth than most trained “medical know it alls” Glad it all worked out 🙂

  4. lol, ‘an odor’. I’m mentally filing that one away.

  5. Stephanie Osner-Hofmann

    Oh my – I have experienced the exact same thing with my poor sister – in – law who had a messy (2 shift changes…multiple different nurses and doctors, an open labor room door with tons of people walking by – I felt I should have saved her from there, but I was so helpless) hospital birth back in April 2007. Of course I attended not as a doula but as a friend. The way that one nurse treated us all was horrific and arrogant…well, come to think of it…when I gave birth to our older daughter Melanie (back in Germany) the midwife/nurse once yelled at me during labor – something like: stop screaming so loud…
    It’s really funny, but it took me 8 years and giving birth to our second daughter to finally get over that horrific event.
    Hopefully you or any of your clients don’t have to encounter more of these!!!

  6. You know, just the fact that you DIDN’T want to get into any kind of discussion with nurse stinky in the room, and then were horrified by what had just taken place, shows again how good you are at what you do, and why you are doing exactly what you should be doing 🙂 Hooray for hero dad taking charge… she’s a lucky mom who chose the right people to be with her on her side! Doubt I’ll have another one, but if I do, I want you there with us!!!!

  7. way to go girl!!

  8. Julie you are the Queen of living with Grace

  9. Hardly the queen of grace. *Snort* But I do take the “servant” part of doula seriously. There is no room for egos in an L&D room. Except the couple’s–when they proudly say “Look what we did!”

  10. Julie, I think you handled yourself really well. I’m also very proud of the dad. How awesome was he? I’m glad things went well after Nurse Stinky was replaced.

  11. Yes, I too, am proud of you!
    As a RN, I am appalled at inappropriate attitudes brought into a patient’s room! They are our guests and should be treated with the utmost customer service and professional provision. Why would any nurse, doctor or medical personnel of any sort question another caregiver, especially one who is present at the request of the patient? Rather embrace their gifts, as we are all on the same side – the clients!
    Their is never an excuse…even if this individual had the worst day in history. You do not take your personal problems into the room, laboring or not! That individual needs to be reported by name, date and incident.

    The Spirit within you, Julie, gave you wisdom during what I know was a challenging situation…thank you for sharing your faith without even saying a word!
    I love you,

  12. That is horrible! I had a similar experience with my first doula experience. It was so upsetting. I am so glad the dad had the nerve to stand up like that. He IS a hero. What a good thing you ended up having a fabulous nurse in return. What a provision….

  13. whew, just reading this post makes me sick to my stomach! brings back memories of how a certain OB behaved following our birth… glad it turned out ok! 🙂

  14. You may be the most gracious person I have ever encountered. Glad everything worked out for the family. I despise situations like the one you described for the complete powerlessness that remains in the room. Gah. How terrible for that nurse to go through life with that level of arrogance and hate, I’ll pray for her.


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