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Keywords:

  • Electronic fetal monitoring-Intrapartum care;
  • Obstetric history;
  • Social history

Objectives: To describe how nurses put electronic fetal monitoring to use in the 1960s and 1970s and the dilemmas this caused.

Design: Social history.

Results: Nurses used electronic fetal monitoring to improve the watchful and comfort care of childbearing women, and they saw it as validating nursing. They retrofitted, or worked to reconcile machine monitoring with natural, prepared, and participative childbirth, and with attentive and embodied nursing.

Conclusion: Electronic fetal monitoring was another in a long line of technological innovations that fell to nurses to put into use and to make work. The remarkably rapid way electronic fetal monitoring became routine in the United States depended, in large part, on the articulation work of nurses. However, like all such work, what nurses did to make electronic fetal monitoring work for patients, physicians, hospitals, and manufacturers was largely invisible. Retrofitting efforts often entail unrecognized innovation and risks for nursing.