Hot off the presses: The first paper published on obstetric violence in the U.S.’ #1 perinatal nursing journal, Nursing for Women’s Health. Out August 13, 2023, Exposing the Role of Labor and Delivery Nurses as Active Bystanders in Preventing or Perpetuating Obstetric Violence is free to download HERE until October 3, 2023, after which date it will live behind a paywall.

This paper was written by me, Cristen Pascucci, and three labor nurses whom I would also call activists: Maggie Runyon (@yourbirthpartners on Instagram), Mandy Irby (@thebirthnurse on Instagram), and Paula Rojas Landiver (@nursebrowngirl on Instagram).

Some excerpts:

  • “The policies and processes we have in place and the dominant hospital birth culture continue to undermine bodily autonomy and consent.”
  • “[Nurses’] complicity in provider-led abuse and mistreatment is in direct contrast to our stated ethical obligations. Our involvement can result in a deeper sense of betrayal in our patients when they anticipate our support in our role as their trusted advocate.”
  • “Trauma-informed nurse actions to prevent obstetric violence include asking every time before touching or performing an action on a patient’s body. Clinicians need to reject paternalism and to believe that patients have their own best interests in mind.”
  • “[Perinatal nurses] have long ignored our contributions to obstetric violence and high rates of birth trauma. We must step forward into our collective power and demand action from our fellow clinicians.”

Download for free HERE until October 3, 2023

The role of nurses in preventing obstetric violence is just one of many moving parts of a deeply entrenched problem; ultimately, it is going to take major institutional initiative and support for any meaningful shift to happen. How are nurses supposed to practice respectful care across the board when they are penalized or lose their jobs for practicing that way, or for reporting others who mistreat patients?  One critical step hospital administrations must take toward creating a culture of safety for patients is to actively support and protect nurses who advocate for their patients and whistleblow on abusive providers.

If you are a nurse who finds yourself feeling offended, angry, helpless, or personally attacked by this article, check out the amazing work by two of its authors at @thebirthnurse — a safe place for nurses to process those feelings and address their root, which is trauma.