Get access

Nurses’ Perspectives on the Intersection of Safety and Informed Decision Making in Maternity Care


  • The authors report no conflict of interest or relevant financial relationships.


Audrey Lyndon, PhD, RNC, CNS-BC, FAAN, Department of Family Health Care Nursing, UCSF School of Nursing, 2 Koret Way, Room N411Y, Box 0606, San Francisco, CA 94143-0606.



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.


Constructivist grounded theory.


Four hospitals in the western United States.


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


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).


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.


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.