Addressing the Uncomfortable
There is no good reason why postpartum mothers should be dying due to lack of information in the 21st century in the United States. Early identification of risk factors and seeking timely treatment by skilled practitioners saves lives. But first, people need to know what risks they’re attempting to identify.
Anyone who has ever worked in a clinical setting knows the in-patient experience is a well articulated dance between patient and provider. I’ve seen first hand the beautiful knowledge discovery process that unfolds as patients ask the questions that are most relevant to their unique history, current circumstances, and anticipated road to recovery. In response, practitioners kindly provide tailored information based on the specific needs of the patient providing human centric care. But there is certain information that should never be excluded from the conversation, no matter how uncomfortable it may be to address.
“Some nurses were uncomfortable discussing the possibility that complications could be life-threatening. ‘We had some nurses come out and say, ‘Well you know what, I don’t want to scare the woman. This is supposed to be a happy time. I don’t want to seem like all I want to talk about is death.'” [Lost Mothers Report]
Let’s be honest… There is nothing more scary than facing the loss of life after bringing new life into the world. Babies deserve their mothers. No matter how uncomfortable the topic, we must always engage in the conversation.
Lost Mothers Due to Lack of Education?
Were you caught by surprise when you read the following statement from the Lost Mothers Report recently co-published by ProPublica and NPR?
“A nationwide survey shows that postpartum nurses often fail to warn mothers about potentially life-threatening complications, mainly because they need more education themselves.”
I was not caught by surprise when I read this finding. The challenges surrounding the streamlined dissemination of vetted, evidence-based information in clinical care settings is a regular topic in my conversations with health systems, hospitals, birth centers and practice groups.
Nearly every single conversation I have with health care administrators points to the growing risks around lack of education and engagement, both for patients on the receiving end and practitioners on the teaching end.
From what our health care partners are telling us, these risks are only increasing as exponentially more and more families opt not to attend health promotion classes, which have traditionally been one of the main venues for knowledge transfer with expecting parents.
In a recent poll we conducted with maternal/child health practitioners, one nurse responded by saying,
“I am witnessing a decrease in the content regarding obstetrics and pediatrics within the undergraduate nursing education program. This is very disturbing to me.”
Education for All
The road to reducing the rate of maternal mortality in the United States does not have to be an arduous one… simply a dedicated one. If we’re going to see a change, we must strengthen the processes by which life-saving information is shared on a mass scale while at the same time provide patients with readily accessible tools that increase self-efficacy. When the information gap is addressed from both angles, our nation will be that much closer to the improved outcomes we know are possible.