Background: The introduction of single room maternity care in the 1990s necessitated a new approach to nursing education and practice. A focus on perinatal nursing requires competence across the spectrum of labor, delivery, postpartum and newborn care. We sought to evaluate the nursing response to this change by comparing satisfaction with the workplace environment among single room maternity care nurses before and after they worked in the setting and among nurses working in traditional birth settings. Methods: Six months before the opening of a pilot seven-bed single room maternity care unit, nurses who planned to work in the new unit completed a survey about their satisfaction with aspects of their work environment. Three months after the new unit opened the survey was repeated with this study group and also by a sample of nurses working in the delivery and postpartum areas. Results: Responses indicated that single room maternity care nurses before and after working in the unit were significantly more satisfied with the physical setting, their ability to respond to patients' needs, their opportunity for teaching families, the nursing practice environment, peer support, and their perceived level of competency. They rated their satisfaction significantly higher than that of their colleagues in the traditional delivery and postpartum settings. Conclusions: The positive transition to single room maternity care by obstetrical nurses was demonstrated by their improved overall satisfaction with the work environment. Evaluation of the nurses' responses to changes in health care delivery has important implications for justifying new clinical approaches and planning for future changes.