Published May 9, 2017
Watching a live birth is the first experience of every UB nursing student training in the labor and delivery unit of Sisters of Charity Hospital in Buffalo.
Every student except for Stephanie Belmont, who missed the magical moment during the first week of her rotation. With one day remaining in the labor and delivery unit, UB nursing professor Deborah Raines knew of a scheduled cesarean section and promised Belmont that she would take priority over other students in viewing the birth.
But when the mother went into labor earlier than expected, Raines, not wanting to interrupt doctors and nurses at work, thought the window for viewing had closed.
However, later that morning, Belmont greeted Raines with a wide grin. One of the nurses, knowing that this would be her final opportunity, found a way to involve her in caring for the woman about to give birth. Belmont had seen the delivery.
“Ninety-nine percent of students walk out with this big smile on their face and their eyes glowing, saying, ‘I saw it,’” says Raines, associate professor of nursing.
The one-semester course is the only opportunity for UB nursing students to gain first-hand experience with newborns.
A collaboration between Sisters and the UB School of Nursing, the training is organized through the school’s Dedicated Education Units (DEU), a program that turns to nurses across Buffalo to act as instructors and provide students with clinical experience. Sisters is home to the first DEU for labor and delivery nurses in Buffalo.
And for National Nurses Week, the hospital opened its doors to reveal the efforts of its nurses in training the next generation of the profession.
The annual celebration is held between National Nurses Day, May 6, and May 12, the birthday of Florence Nightingale, widely considered to be the founder of modern nursing.
The School of Nursing will hold its annual May Celebration at 5:30 p.m. May 24 at the Marcy Casino in Delaware Park. The event will honor nursing alumni and faculty achievements. For more information, visit the school’s website.
Diane Ceravolo is a believer in the power of the DEU.
Ceravolo, director of professional nursing practice at Sisters Hospital, was one of the first facilitators for the program, overseeing students during her previous role at Kaleida Health.
“Student nurses shared with me in that first debrief, ‘I learned more in this one rotation than my entire student experience,’” Ceravolo says. “Now that is a pretty powerful statement.”
When she arrived at Sisters, Ceravolo knew she wanted to establish a DEU in each nursing unit at the hospital. With the support of Mary Dillon, vice president for clinical services, and other staff, the hospital added student training to the labor and delivery, mother and baby, and intensive care units.
Outside of Sisters, the School of Nursing has 15 additional DEUs in five major hospital systems and health care facilities in Buffalo: Catholic Health System, Erie County Medical Center (ECMC), Hospice Buffalo, Kaleida Health and Roswell Park Cancer Institute.
Every student in the School of Nursing takes part in the DEU program throughout their junior and senior years. Each DEU is offered as a for-credit course that includes a rotation in hospital units ranging from telemetry to mental health.
The labor and delivery unit at Sisters is a newer addition to the program. DEUs typically focus on chronic diseases and conditions. To have the maternal-newborn DEU rotation included in the program, Raines broadened the meaning of parenting.
“I made a case that having a baby is a chronic condition because that baby stays with you for 18 to 21 years,” Raines says. “And some kids stay even longer than 21 years, I’ve been told.”
Students in the maternal-newborn DEU spend four full days in the hospital receiving one-on-one training from a nurse and learning to read reports, take vital signs, run tests, administer medications and comfort measures, and teach patients about their newborn and growing family. They also assist with circumcisions and breastfeeding. For many students, the DEU is their first experience of a live birth.
“As a faculty member, when students are in labor and delivery, my first goal is to always get them in to see a birth because that’s the exciting thing,” Raines says.
“It’s only a tiny piece of what those nurses do down there, but you have to get that out of the way so that you can say now we’re going to learn how to be labor-and-delivery nurses.
I want the DEUs to be a rich learning environment where they learn the skills that a nurse needs to be effective,” she says. “But I also want them to learn what the total role of the nurse is.”
Cathleen Incorvia, a nurse in the mother-and-baby unit, describes the rotation as “reality TV in Sisters Hospital.”
“The reality is things are going to come at you [quickly], the computer is not going to always work and the patients are not going to always be nice,” Incorvia says.
For many nurses, the greatest challenge is managing and prioritizing a group of patients who all want a nurses’ help immediately. For students, gaining a glimpse of the daily experiences in nursing is invaluable.
“Compared to two days in class, I feel like I’ve learned way more just experiencing it in two days here,” says Hannah Kisker, a junior nursing student. “You can explain it, but when you actually see all of the equipment up close, that’s when I’m going to remember it.”
The DEU even inspired Stephanie Rodriguez, a junior nursing student, to consider a career in the mother-and-baby unit.
“They are the future nurses,” Raines notes. “The nurses that have been here for 30 and 40 years are going to retire in the next 10 years. And we need nurses to come into these practice areas.”
Students are not the only people who benefit from the DEU. Many nurses find teaching and mentoring students motivates them to keep their skills fresh.
Susan Caruana, who has worked as a nurse in the labor-and-delivery unit at Sisters for 23 years, believes that working with UB students allows her to stay up to date on the latest skills taught in nursing schools.
“I learn new things from them. It’s renewed my view of nursing,” Caruana says. “What I learned 25 years ago isn’t necessarily the way they teach things now, so I’m always watching their technique because some things have changed.”
Nurses also have been published through the hospital’s partnership with the School of Nursing.
“Our challenge is, how do we take the DEU to the next step. I think that research is a big piece of that,” says Ceravolo.
Staff nurses, along with Raines and UB students, have created a safe sleep video for newborns and published a series of journal articles on wellness for babies for the Neonatal Network.
For others at the hospital, working with aspiring nurses reaffirms their passion for their career in health care.
“There is no other profession where every day almost every single thing you do matters to every one you come in contact with,” says Ceravolo. “I think the satisfaction from that is immeasurable.”