Labor Day: No holiday for labor and delivery nurses

Published 5:01 pm Sunday, September 4, 2016

While many get to spend their Labor Day relaxing, labor and delivery nurses will continue their labor of love assisting women and children in the delivery process.

“It’s laboring on Labor Day in many ways,” Pam Mooney, maternal child director at Merit Health River Region Medical Center, said of the nurses and patients who labor in the delivery room.

Nurses work three 12 hour shifts a week with shift changes occurring at 7 a.m. and 7 p.m.

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“We never quit,” she said of her team. “We work seven days a week.”

Mooney said the third floor of River Region is a miniature hospital in itself with labor and delivery, nursery, pediatrics, obstetrics, and a neonatal intensive care unit.

“Maternal child covers any maternal aspect and any child aspect,” Mooney said of the unit she is over. “Even though we are labor and delivery nurses, we also function as OR (operating room) nurses, PACU (post anesthesia care unit) nurses, and we deal with med/surg (medical/surgical) type patients…We ED (emergency department) triage our own patients, we labor them, we take them to surgery, we recover them from surgery, we take care of them until they go home.”

She said the rest of the hospital has separate units for each of these functions.

For every patient in labor and delivery there is a second patient — the baby. Nurses can’t see the baby but the baby calls all the shots.

“They’ll either deliver or they’ll have surgery. They only come out two ways. That’s the only constant in my world. Anything else is up in the air,” Mooney said.

Labor and delivery at River Region averages about 60 babies a month, and in August, Mooney said they delivered 68 babies. She said the number of births has been high recently.

While she doesn’t know of any studies to prove it, many labor and delivery nurses are sure barometric pressure has a great impact on women going into labor.

“Everybody says it, and it does happen. When storms come or when the weather changes, cold fronts, like we have this little cold front coming through, I don’t know if that is what sparked this week because we’ve been really busy this week,” she said. “It just changes with the weather literally.”

She said labor and delivery is full of adrenaline because anything could happen at any moment and emotion, from laughter to tears. Nurses have to keep those emotions in check by matching the tone of each room they enter when going from patient to patient because some patients are having the best day of their lives while others are having the worst.

“You have to be able to change your mindset, your appearance and your facial expressions to match the room that you’re in,” Mooney said. “Somehow we do that. I don’t know how. Usually we melt down on the way home.”

Mooney has been at River Region for eight months and has worked in labor and delivery since she graduated from nursing school nine and a half years ago.

“That’s all I’ve ever done,” she said.

One of her favorite aspects of the job is forming relationships with the patients. She said the nurses act as a support group and as educators to patients throughout the birth, offering reassurance and guidance.

Nurses have been known to stay after their shift has ended, not because they are needed but because they choose to stay with their patient through the delivery.

“We’ve all done it. You are part of that family for however long they’re here,” Mooney said.

“When you start the process with somebody you hope you get to finish it before your shift is over because you do build that bond with them.”

She still communicates with some of the families of babies she has helped deliver over the years. Mooney receives pictures of the children in the mail, which always brightens a bad day.

“By far it is the most rewarding job,” Mooney said.