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Keywords:

  • childbirth;
  • communication;
  • grounded theory;
  • maternity nursing;
  • patient safety;
  • United States

ABSTRACT

Objective

To explore maternity nurses’ perceptions of women's informed decision making during labor and birth to better understand how interdisciplinary communication challenges might affect patient safety.

Design

Constructivist grounded theory.

Setting

Four hospitals in the western United States.

Participants

Forty-six (46) nurses and physicians practicing in maternity units.

Method

Data collection strategies included individual interviews and participant observation. Data were analyzed using the constant comparative method, dimensional analysis, and situational analysis (Charmaz, 2006; Clarke, 2005; Schatzman, 1991).

Results

The nurses’ central action of holding off harm encompassed three communication strategies: persuading agreement, managing information, and coaching of mothers and physicians. These strategies were executed in a complex, hierarchical context characterized by varied practice patterns and relationships. Nurses’ priorities and patient safety goals were sometimes misaligned with those of physicians, resulting in potentially unsafe communication.

Conclusions

The communication strategies nurses employed resulted in intended and unintended consequences with safety implications for mothers and providers and had the potential to trap women in the middle of interprofessional conflicts and differences of opinion.