I almost always start my shifts at the hospital the same way. I check to see if I have any patients in labor. If I do, I quickly review their chart and then go in and chat with them for a while. Sometimes I know the patient well from numerous prenatal visits. Most of the time, I’ve met them at least once during the pregnancy.

We have a large practice though, so occasionally I’ll have a patient in labor that I’ve never met. Since I’m about to be a part of a highly intimate and important part of their lives, I try to spend some extra time getting to know these patients and their support group. My goal is to make everyone as comfortable as possible, so the patient can have the birth that she and her partner want.

A few weeks ago, I went in to greet a patient and her husband that I knew well. They expressed discomfort that another staff member had just come in, asked many personal questions about the patient’s health history and pregnancy, and then left, without so much as introducing himself.  

After speaking with the nurse and the resident, I discovered that the person in question was a medical student who had been assigned to take the patient’s history.

I pulled the student aside and asked that he please introduce himself to any patients and their family, and explain his role in their care. He looked at me blankly and asked me why this was necessary. “They are in the hospital, they should just expect that,” he said confused.

Women birthing in a hospital deal with a stream of staff coming in and out of their labor rooms. This even more true at teaching hospitals. Busy nurses, residents, providers and students tend to do what needs to be done, often forgetting that birth is an extremely private, intimate and memorable event.

I encourage all midwife, medical and nursing students to spend some time introducing themselves, explaining their role and getting to know the patient before expecting to be part of this major life event. In my experience, most women have no problem including students and being a part of their learning experience once they are comfortable with the student.

Most laboring women are not sick in any way but are looking for a comfortable and positive birth experience. This means having some say in whom is present for their labor and birth, and the right to refuse to have students or excess staff take part in their care. Please remember that respect for privacy and a little bedside manner can go a long way with expecting mothers.

Robyn Carlisle, MSN, CNM, WHNP, works as a full-scope midwife at University Doctors and Kennedy University Hospital in Sewell, N.J.