Have you ever been up to Highlands hospital’s 3rd floor? That’s the Maternity Center and my next job-shadow is Jennifer Rice, the Maternity Center Director. As soon as you get off the elevator you notice you’re in a special part of the hospital. The walls are a soft grey with beautiful photos of babies who have all been born there decorating them. It just feels different. But it didn’t take long for me to figure it out. It’s because 3rd is the NEW LIFE floor! Really neat. Anyway, Jennifer was there to meet me. We went to shake hands and I ended up hugging her instead. That’s who she is, immediately.
In her office, she told me she has been at Highlands for 23 years. After graduating from Northeast Alabama Community College, she started out on the night shift as a labor nurse and was a labor nurse for 18 years. Five years ago, she was promoted to Nurse Manager, but she gives all credit to her team. She said her coworkers operate like a well-oiled machine because they’ve all been working together there for over 20 years. Many times, they don’t even have to talk because they’ve been together that long and know what each other are going to do. It must be a great place to work and a good job if there’s this much longevity with all of them! Like a second family.
Right away she tells me something important I’m going to add to all my future articles – WHY Highlands is a better experience for the patient. YES, better than a large hospital! When it comes to a maternity floor, a big hospital has a labor nurse, a nursery nurse, and a postpartum nurse. The mother and baby are dealing with many different people. At Highlands, there is one-on-one nursing care. Each nurse is cross trained to handle labor, nursery, and postpartum giving the mother and baby individual attention the whole time. This sounds so encouraging for new mothers. Normally a natural birth mother stays 2 days, and a C-Section mother will stay 3 days. It’s a scary and wonderful time. Having a familiar face to help is a definite plus.
All women’s care and surgeries are handled on this floor. Also, babies who are born 28 days early or more are on this floor and any babies who are re-admitted. They average around 30 babies a month and there were four when I was there! Jennifer said they would love and can handle many more. There are 10 postpartum rooms, 3 labor and delivery rooms (which look like your home only better than mine), 1 observation room, and one C-section room on the floor.
My youngest boy was born in 1989 and a lot has happened since then! Back then your baby was whisked off and you barely saw them while you were in the hospital. Now Jennifer said there are several things different. Technology of course and what’s called “rooming in” where the baby stays mostly with the mother. How nice to have that extra time to learn what to do while there’s help there. There’s a “skin to skin” bonding which she said gives a number of benefits that were previously unknown. Also, we have 3 Lactation Counselors who help while you are a patient or even after you get home. They are there for counseling at no extra cost. The mothers can come in and use the lactation room even after they go home.
We have three OB-GYNs. Dr. Pierce, Dr. Vargas, and Dr. Stroud who are wonderful and you can see them on the walls with their babies who were born there too.
In every way, the hospital comes together to make the Maternity Care Center a BEST START for the new little family. One can’t go far without seeing the difference the Volunteer Auxiliary makes with donations. If there are financial challenges for the family or mothers who didn’t have a baby shower, there is the Newborns in Need program with the cutest little girl’s closet and boy’s closet filled with beautiful little outfits to go home in, blankets, diapers, and such. The Auxiliary also had big Dad rockers they’d purchased and when I was there 16 new TVs for the rooms.
You might think, not everyone has this wonderful new baby to bring home. I was really overcome with emotion to see the respect and care, not just for new life, but for the “babies born sleeping”. They have a closet for them too. With beautiful little handmade blankets from a grandma who has lost her grandbaby, tiny gowns made from wedding dresses, and boxes of comforting items for the grieving mothers. These babies born sleeping are treated like treasures, just as God intended.
All in all – it was an amazing experience. Thank you to all who contribute to making our babies and their new families have the best start possible.
What a love story.
by: Dawn Pettingill
Highlands Board Chairman