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Arkansas State University

The Nurse’s Role in High-Risk Obstetrics

Many nurses chose the profession of nursing because of a desire to help others and make a difference. Others chose it based on a personal experience they had with a nurse who cared for a loved one. Whatever your reason for choosing nursing as your career, you likely want to practice in a specialty that is both rewarding and challenging. High-risk obstetrics nursing provides you with that opportunity.

While most women experience normal pregnancy, labor and delivery, there are those with pre-existing health conditions and those with complications that arise during pregnancy who need specially trained care providers to achieve the best outcome. Here are a few tips to consider if you are interested in caring for high-risk obstetrics patients.

Experience Counts

Before supporting women through high-risk pregnancies, it may be beneficial to gain experience as a labor and delivery (L&D) nurse. There, they will become proficient at skills such as fetal assessment and monitoring, assessing patients for triage, identifying and responding to pregnancy complications and more. All of this will prepare them for a nurses’ roles in high-risk pregnancies and deliveries.

In addition to learning about the physiological aspects of labor and delivery, L&D nurses also explore the psychological and psychosocial aspects of childbirth. The emotions and social circumstances of every woman will be different. Learning about how women cope with normal pregnancy, labor and delivery can equip a nurse with the ability to support women through a stressful high-risk pregnancy.

What to Expect

When pursuing any nursing specialty, it is important to know what situations are likely to occur and be prepared to address them. Postpartum hemorrhage, preeclampsia, gestational diabetes and premature labor are just a few of the complications and risks a woman may face during pregnancy, labor and delivery.

Common physical conditions, such as diabetes, obesity and hypertension have contributed to the rise in high-risk pregnancies in the U.S., increasing the risk of maternal morbidity and mortality. As a nurse in the specialty of high-risk obstetrics, building knowledge and gaining experience in these situations can pave the way for successful practice and improved patient outcomes.

Seek Expertise

Professional nursing organizations have a great deal to offer both novice and well-established nurses within specialty fields of nursing. The American Nurses Association (ANA), The American Board of Nursing Specialties (ABNS), Academy of Medical – Surgical Nurses (AMSN) and The Association of Women’s Health, Obstetric and Neonatal Nurses (AWHONN) are just a few of the organizations out there to help prepare and support nurses for a career in a specialty field. Joining a specialty nursing organization not only offers the opportunity for furthering your knowledge, it also provides a way to network with others in the field — which can open doors for learning and employment opportunities.

Compassionate Care

Being a nurse can be difficult, both physically and emotionally. The field of high-risk obstetrics is no different and may even be more challenging as the nurse is supporting a mother, a newborn and oftentimes a family experiencing the uncertainty of a high-risk pregnancy.

Although it would be wonderful to have only positive outcomes from difficult pregnancies, fetal and maternal loss are a reality in high-risk obstetrics. It is very important that high-risk obstetrics nurses possess coping skills and learn how to provide sensitive, individualized care to the families they support. The nurse is a vital source of comfort and understanding during a time of loss. As noted in Nurse Journal,  recent survey by the American Nurses Association found there was an urgent need to improve nurses’ “health, particularly in the areas of physical activity, nutrition, rest, safety, and quality of life.”

While many nurses are interested in labor, delivery and postpartum nursing, the field of high-risk obstetrics offers additional challenges and allows the opportunity to further specialize.

Gaining experience as a labor and delivery nurse, knowing what to expect in high-risk obstetrics, becoming an expert in the field, and learning to deliver compassionate care are all tools that may help you discover a challenging and rewarding chapter of your nursing career.

Learn more about the A-State online RN to BSN program.

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