“Oh you’re so lucky, you get to work in the happy part of the hospital.” It’s what everyone says when they hear you are a labor & delivery nurse. But every labor & delivery nurse knows that birth isn’t always a happy experience, especially when a patient has to go through labor and give birth to a baby who has already died. It’s a grueling and heartbreaking experience for the patient and nurse – a situation neither would voluntarily choose. Caring for these patients is such a heavy load that we rotate the assignment among the nurses, keeping track of whose turn it is in a log at the front desk.
The assignment fell on Sunday and again on Monday to Rebecca Keeton, RN, who performed the job with such admirable grace. Rebecca is known among the other nurses as one who cares for her patients as if they were relatives, well-loved relatives. There isn’t anything she won’t do to make the patient and family members comfortable.
The patient Rebecca took care of for 2 nights arrived at the hospital complaining of spotting. A fetal demise was quickly diagnosed through ultrasound and it became clear that the amniotic sac had probably been ruptured for more than 24 hours. The patient was running a slight fever and most likely infected. As the shift progressed and the patient ran a clinically significant fever despite antibiotics the foul odor in the room was so strong that other nurses could only stand to be in the room for 15 minutes at a time. Rebecca never once complained during the shift about how awful the conditions were in the room, she just continued to care for the patient in her usual compassionate way.
The patient’s family added additional stress to the situation by keeping a written log of every procedure and every interaction by the staff. They wrote down everything any staff member said to them or the patient. Rebecca was able to gain the trust of this family without compromising the care of the patient. She made sure they were included and informed as necessary, but also made sure the patient was not overwhelmed by excessive family interaction. When the room filled with over 15 family members all assuming they would spend the night there, Rebecca was able to convince them that a smaller, more intimate experience would be more beneficial to the patient and that they should go home for the night and support the patient in other ways from home.
The patient labored throughout the night shift, delivered at the end of the day shift and was recovered the following night shift. Because of the circumstances, we knew having the same nurse two nights running would support the patient best and though it was no longer Rebecca’s turn, she cared for the patient a second night. Honestly, I don’t know another nurse who could’ve done an admirable job without complaint.
I feel honored to work with Rebecca Keeton. Such a compassionate hard working nurse is a treasure. Providence Little Company of Mary is lucky she chooses to work here.