University of Minnesota School of Public Health: Obstetric Nurses in Rural Hospitals Often Work Across Hospital Units

EXCERPT: “Rural hospitals in the U.S. face big challenges staffing their obstetric units with well-trained nurses due to tight budgets, employment competition with urban hospitals, and low birth volumes. A new study from the School of Public Health shows that many rural hospitals are solving the problem through creative staffing approaches that take advantage of a nurse’s versatile talent and expertise. ‘We found different models across rural hospitals — including some where nurses were shared across units when they aren’t actively supporting a birth or a woman and baby after delivery,’ says study lead author Carrie Henning-Smith. The study, which sought to describe the state of rural maternity nursing care, was co-authored by Associate Professor Katy Kozhimannil and published in the Journal of Obstetric, Gynecologic & Neonatal Nursing. Among its various findings, the study revealed that nearly 80 percent of rural hospitals with low birth volume — less than 300 babies born there every year — staff their delivery units with nurses who are trained in obstetrics but work in other parts of the hospital until needed. The approach is also relatively popular in busier rural hospitals with 300 or more births a year, where more than 30 percent used cross-trained nurses to bolster obstetrics units. While training nurses to work in obstetrics solves staffing problems, the study found it’s not without its own issues. Among them, hospitals reported that the approach can lead to scheduling problems — including difficulty replacing nurses who need time off or have to be pulled to work in the delivery unit; challenges training nurses across units so that they’re comfortable in multiple areas; and training nurses to be comfortable with obstetric care — especially in remote locations where they don’t deliver a lot of babies.” FULLSTORY: