Postpartum Travel Nursing: The Privilege of Caring for New Moms and Their Babies
By Jennifer Larson, contributor
The first few hours after a woman gives birth can be a bit of a blur. Everything, everything, has changed for her.
And that’s why we have postpartum nurses.
Postpartum nurses monitor women and their newborn babies, looking for signs of any potential complications, while also supporting each new mother as she learns how to care for her child. It’s a special time, and nurses play a very meaningful role.
“You are in a happy situation, and you can make it even more of an enlightening experience because you’re teaching a mother how to take care of her child,” said Frances Jones, RN, who recently completed a travel assignment as a postpartum nurse with Onward Health. “This will stay with her for the rest of her life.”
Frances herself didn’t start her nursing career as a postpartum nurse--but she can’t imagine doing anything else now. Prior to taking her first assignment on a postpartum unit, she worked in the ICU, the CCU, the PACU, med-surg floors, a cardiac step-down unit, and many other units. Then, an agency asked her to consider a postpartum job. That was 24 years ago, and she’s never looked back.
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“It’s a fun job usually,” she said.
Last year, the time was right for Frances to bid farewell to the urban hospital where she had worked for many years as, yes, a postpartum nurse. As a high-risk postpartum nurse, she had taken care of countless sick new mothers and their well babies. She had helped generations of new mothers learn how to care for their babies before exiting the hospital doors.
Frances planned to continue doing all of that…but in a different place. Her mother had recently passed away, and she was interested in visiting some other parts of the country and learning more about the culture there.
“I had always wanted to do some traveling,” she noted.
Onward Health recently matched Frances to a night-shift position as a postpartum nurse at Meriter Hospital in Madison, Wisconsin. The 13-week assignment took her (and her dogs) more than 350 miles away from her home in St. Louis, Missouri.
Since the assignment started in late November, they all had to adjust to the cold--and a whole lot of snow! But one thing didn’t change: Frances was still able to put her well-honed skills as a postpartum nurse to good use.
Here’s a sampling of the educational tasks that she performs when caring for new moms. She teaches them basic baby care. She shows them how to swaddle a tiny infant in a towel, then slowly unwrap them to bathe them. She talks to them about good hygiene, like how to wipe the baby during a diaper change and the importance of post-change handwashing.
Frances also helps them out as they learn to breastfeed, or in the cases of some mothers who delivered early, she helps them learn how to pump milk for their babies.
And of course, she used her calm demeanor as a seasoned postpartum nurse to soothe the anxiety that often crops up in brand new parents who realize that they’re actually going to be taking that tiny little person home with them from the hospital.
“I’m always saying things like, ‘Is there anything else I can do?’ and ‘You guys have this. You’re doing to do fine,’” she said. “You know, a lot of reassurance.”
In fact, that’s one of the aspects of the jobs that appeals to Frances so much.
“I can take a person who’s never had a baby before and educate them,” she said. “And when they’re going home, they’re walking with their heads up. They’re ready.”
And that can be so rewarding.
“When you make a little difference in someone’s life, you just made a difference in someone’s life!” she said. “You did it. Not someone else. You did.”
Her advice to other nurses who are considering a travel nursing assignment: be open minded.
“You may be used to doing something one way, but that doesn’t mean it’s always the correct way,” she said. “It doesn’t mean that it’s the way that’s going to work with that type of patient population.”