Thursday, September 20, 2007

The further adventures of Israel in the Nursery

If there was a way to change the font in the title there to make "Nursery" be in that halloween-y font, I'd be all over it. Come to think of it, there probably is, but I'm too lazy to spend that much time looking for something like that.

I really wanted to get this up yesterday, on International Talk Like a Pirate Day. Happy belated ITLAPD to ye anyway. ;)

So, due to what I felt was pretty awful treatment by the staff in the Nursery at the hospital, I wrote a letter. I'm usually a fairly...hmm, how shall I put this...I simply don't get real bent out of shape over things. However, I felt it was bad enough that something needed to be said. I got a call from the Director of the the Women and Children's care at the hospital yesterday in response to this letter. I'll tell you about that next time.

Dear Mr. Bosch,

I gave birth to my second child at the Harrison Medical Center in Silverdale, WA in the afternoon on August 14th, 2007. In my discharge papers, I received a card, signed by yourself, that states that “exceptional care” and “Service Excellence” are your priority at Harrison. I’m writing to give to you my thoughts on how well your hospital met my expectations.

I will begin by saying that the L&D nurse we had toward the end of my labor was truly excellent. Her name is Patti, and I was extremely pleased to have her be a part of my baby’s birth.

My baby needed extra care after birth because he did not begin to breathe on his own for around 5 minutes. Hospital policy required him to be transferred to the nursery. I did not get to hold my child until he was over an hour old.

It’s a well-documented fact that newborn babies and post-partum mothers fare better when they are not separated. At Harrison, knowledge of this fact is evident in the policies followed for healthy babies who need no special care or monitoring. I commend you and your staff for the general rooming-in policy you follow.

However, I’m deeply disappointed that the same policy is not followed for all babies at Harrison. By the time I reached the nursery, my son was merely being monitored, and did not need any artificial breathing support. It appeared to me that babies could be monitored from the in-room stations in which my child was initially cared for immediately after birth, leading me to believe that, at least in the case of my son, his presence in the nursery had more to do with the convenience of the neo-natal nurses than with his wellbeing. The very babies that could benefit most from close contact with their mother are denied that right. This doesn’t seem like baby-friendly care, let alone the best care.

I know that other hospitals in the area do all they can to keep mothers and babies together, even when the babies need extra care. Knowing that any baby with a truly serious condition is transferred to other area hospitals with NICUs, I would think with some extra effort to provide the “exceptional care” you promise, the need for a nursery at Harrison could be virtually eliminated.

Perhaps I would be less distressed by being physically separated from my son for the first 20 hours of his life had I found the nursery staff themselves and the nursery policies to be more mother/baby-friendly. Instead, I got the distinct impression that the nurses on duty the afternoon and evening of my son’s birth were more concerned with what they were doing than with who they were doing it for.

When I left the hospital, I took home a safe and healthy boy, so I assume the nurses were qualified and adept at the technical aspect of their jobs. However, they were completely lacking in compassion.

To begin with, I was only given about 40 minutes with my son before being told it was time for me to leave in order for them to give him an IV. We were given the impression that this would be a process that took an hour or so, however several hours later when my husband went to see his son with some visitors, he was denied entrance because they were still working on the IV. I am not a medical professional, but the IV placed during my labor took only a few minutes, why would it take several hours for my son? Additionally, the policy that parents not be allowed to be present when the IV is put in is unacceptable. Yes, it’s probably distressing to watch, but the baby does not belong to Harrison hospital, he belongs to his parents. That fact was completely ignored by the nurses on duty during my son’s first hours of life.

After finally being allowed back into the nursery after many hours and finding multiple poke-marks on my son, I was told to leave, again after less than an hour with my son. The nurses said he “needed a break” which is the silliest concept I’ve ever heard from the lips of someone who’s supposed to know about the needs of a newborn. My son needed to be skin to skin with me, since he wasn’t supposed to breastfeed, he needed to be held close to receive the benefits of Kangaroo care. But he wasn’t allowed to have me near him for any length of time.

I was told to come back in a few hours, specifically at 11:00 PM. When I arrived at that time, I was denied entrance because it was shift change and time for reports. Why should reports prohibit a mother from being with and caring for her baby? And why would I be told to return at the very time the nursery is “closed to visitors.” And when does a child’s mother count as a “visitor?”

The behavior of the nurses, and possibly the policies behind that behavior seemed cold and callous. If a mother is forced to be away from her newborn, she, not to mention the baby, deserves the utmost consideration and gentleness. It was devastating to me to not be able to initiate breastfeeding within the first hour of my baby’s life, a situation that the hospital staff had no control over. The inconsiderate behavior of the nurses and the policies that kept me physically separated from my child for nearly a full day added greatly to my distress during a vulnerable emotional time, causing me to withdraw from even family visitors and making simple tasks seem insurmountable.

Luckily, my baby is resilient, and I think we are well bonded despite our forced separation. Your facility implies you hold the mother/baby relationship in high regard. But this mother was only allowed to even be near her baby for a few hours out of the first day of his life, a situation his “condition” did not warrant. The responsibility for that rests in the hands of those who work and determine policy in the nursery. I did not find Harrison to be friendly in that regard.

I’m disappointed that though I can praise my Obstetrician, your L&D department, and even my post-partum nurses for providing excellent care and consideration, I cannot praise the nursery staff for the same thing. I take pride in Kitsap County and love to support local businesses and facilities. I am sad to say that I do not believe I can continue to do so with Harrison. If another child is in our family’s future, I will likely be traveling to Seattle or Jefferson County in order to give birth in a location where I know my and my baby’s needs will be given more consideration, and where I can expect true mother/baby friendliness even in the face of difficulties.