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Press Releases : 2015 Press Releases

Leading Nursing Journal Explores Critical Role of Hospital Nurse Staffing During Childbirth

Tuesday, February 10, 2015  
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Leading Nursing Journal Explores Critical Role of Hospital Nurse Staffing During Childbirth — Researchers Demonstrate the Need for Effective Nurse Staffing to Provide Quality Care and Ensure Patient Safety


Washington, DC, February 10, 2015— Registered nurses (RNs) provide care for every woman who gives birth in a hospital, which means they support approximately 98% of U.S. births. Nurses spend more time with women during hospitalization for childbirth than physicians or midwives; during this time (the perinatal period), they conduct clinical assessments, administer medications, communicate patient data, and mobilize clinical team members. Because of the critical role nurses play in childbirth, it is essential to better understand the number and skillset of staff needed to provide high-quality, cost effective care.


Currently, perinatal nurse staffing levels in hospital birth units in the United States vary greatly. The March/April 2015 issue of Journal of Obstetric, Gynecologic & Neonatal Nursing (JOGNN) from the Association of Women’s Health, Obstetric and Neonatal Nurses (AWHONN) includes several articles focusing on perinatal nurse staffing to provide guidance for best practices.


“To address a gap of evidence in perinatal nurse staffing, AWHONN began a pioneering effort to develop Women’s Health and Perinatal Nursing Care Quality Measures,” wrote guest editor Debra Bingham, DrPH, RN, FAAN. “The lack of clarity and shared understanding of the value of high-quality nursing care and of how to measure its effect on patient outcomes is part of the explanation for why there is such wide variation in perinatal nurse staffing.”


In “Planning and Evaluating Evidence-Based Perinatal Nurse Staffing,” Debra Bingham and Catherine Ruhl, CNM, MS, describe the many factors that should be considered for planning perinatal staffing based on a review of literature and highlight two frameworks that can help with staffing decisions. They emphasize the importance of using enough nurses to provide quality care and positive health outcomes without overstaffing and increasing health care costs.


In “The Role of Health Care Technology in Support of Perinatal Nurse Staffing,” Catherine H. Ivory, PhD, RN-BC, describes how electronic systems can support staffing decisions. Recommendations include the use of electronic systems that incorporate standardized data points for the perinatal specialty, operation with other systems to decrease duplication, and creation of standard terminologies for coding records.


In “Key Findings from the AWHONN Perinatal Staffing Data Collaborative,” Benjamin Scheich, MS, and Debra Bingham explain how AWHONN created a collaborative to survey U.S. birthing hospitals about their perinatal staffing patterns. The data on actual nurse staffing ratios were compared to the Guidelines for Professional Registered Nurses Staffing for Perinatal Units (Guidelines) published by AWHONN in 2010. Hospitals with the lowest volume of births (less than 2,000 per year) were more likely to report meeting all the staffing guidelines than larger-volume hospitals.


In “Predicting Nurse Staffing Needs for a Labor and Birth Unit in a Large-Volume Perinatal Service,” Kathleen Rice Simpson, PhD, RNC, FAAN, describes testing of a nurse staffing model to determine needs for a large-volume labor and birth unit. Actual hours of nurse staffing for labor and delivery; obstetric triage; extended-stay high-risk patients; pregnant surgical patients; and those needing emergency room and intensive care were calculated. Nurses’ hours were then compared to the AWHONN Guidelines and another well-established staffing model to identify discrepancies. The recommended staffing numbers were similar, and the gap analysis suggested that two more nurses were needed on week days and weekends.


“This groundbreaking work on perinatal nurse staffing will lead the way in further refining best practices,” said AWHONN CEO, Lynn Erdman, MN, RN, FAAN. “Systematically calculating and evaluating nurse patient ratios will help hospital and nurse leaders manage the delicate balance of staffing resources for positive health outcomes.”


For media interviews, contact:

Kelly Mack for AWHONN






The Journal of Obstetric, Gynecologic, & Neonatal Nursing (JOGNN), is an internationally ranked scientific and technical journal published bimonthly by the Association of Women's Health, Obstetric and Neonatal Nurses. JOGNN is online at  



Since 1969, the Association of Women's Health, Obstetric and Neonatal Nurses (AWHONN) has been the foremost authority promoting the health of women and newborns and strengthening the nursing profession through the delivery of superior advocacy, research, education and other professional and clinical resources. AWHONN represents the interests of 350,000 registered nurses working in women's health, obstetric, and neonatal nursing across the United States. Learn more about AWHONN at

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Association of Women's Health, Obstetric and Neonatal Nurses is accredited as a provider of continuing nursing education by the American Nurses Credentialing Center's Commission on Accreditation.

AWHONN is approved by the California Board of Registered Nursing, Provider #CEP580. Accredited status does not imply endorsement by AWHONN or the American Nurses Credentialing Center of any commercial products displayed or discussed in conjunction with educational activities.

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