The Upper River Valley Hospital in Waterville recently added two examples of the latest technology in obstetric care, benefiting expectant moms, struggling newborns and the staff members who care for both.
Thanks to the ongoing fundraising efforts of the URVH Foundation and the generosity of anonymous donors, the hospital now has a fetal heart-rate monitor and a modern Panda infant warmer at their fingertips when required.
Obstetrics nurse manager Andrea Kilfoil said the new equipment delivers a huge impact on the staff’s ability to “improve the level of care we can provide for our moms and babies.”
In a letter thanking the generous donors who made the equipment purchase possible, Kilfoil outlined its benefits for the Labour & Birth team and their patients.
She explained the Panda warmer does much more than keep a struggling newborn warm.
“The Panda warmer has a built-in scale which allows us to weigh a baby quickly and keep them warm at the same time during a resuscitation,” Kilfoil explained.
She explained that it allows medical staff to know the amount of medication the baby needs. Before the Panda warmer, Kilfoil said, their options were to estimate the baby’s weight or move the newborn, risking the loss of vital body heat.
Kilfoil said the advanced warmer includes a built-in option to provide PPV (positive pressure ventilation) and CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) for breathing assistance.
In the past, she said, the delivery staff brought a portable unit into the delivery or operating room, taking up valuable space when resuscitation was in progress.
Kilfoil said the Panda warmer has a monitor screen displaying the infant’s vitals, including weight, at all times. The information it provides includes the child’s Apgar score, a method for determining an infant’s condition at birth by scoring the heart rate, respiratory effort, muscle tone, reflex irritability and colour.
The baby’s oxygen saturation, temperature and heart rate are on display.
Kilfoil said staff could shut down alarms with a mere wave of the hand. She added the Panda warmer includes a portable light which becomes a valuable tool when the infant requires an IV.
“Fortunately, we do not need all these options often, but when we do, everything is at our fingertips,” she said.
Kilfoil said the wireless heart monitor was on the URVH staff’s wishlist for years.
“My staff literally squealed with delight when it arrived,” she said.
Kilfoil said the new heart monitor already provided a positive impact on labour patients.
“Before we had the wireless monitor,” she explained, “moms that needed continuous monitoring were confined to their bed, chair or birthing ball tethered to a nearby monitor.”
Kilfoil said for an expectant mother who must remain attached to the stationary monitor, getting in the tub was not an option.
“Labour is much harder to cope with when you are unable to walk or get in the tub for pain control,” she said.
URVH obstetric patients already have first-hand knowledge of the benefits of wireless fetal heart monitoring equipment.
One patient, who was in the hospital giving birth to her third child, explained the benefits.
“My first two labours were low risk, and I was able to transition between labouring positions without worry of my baby’s heart rate being constantly monitored,” she said. “However, that was not the case for baby number three.”
When informed by her care team the baby’s heart rate required constant monitoring, she said the thought of being confined to bed “terrified” her.
“I was so relieved to have the opportunity to wear the wireless fetal heart monitor system and be able to progress through labour freely in a variety of positions, including the whirlpool tub while ensuring the safety of our little one,” the mother of three said.
Another patient said the monitor worked amazingly during her bath, and she appreciated the ability to walk the halls knowing her baby’s heart rate remained constantly monitored by staff.
L & B nurses Marissa McCully and Ginette Godreau quickly discovered the benefits of the wireless monitor for both the patient and staff’s ability to care for and comfort the expectant mother.
Within a week of its arrival at URVH, McCully said, she used the monitor twice.
“The first benefit of the wireless system is the safety of continuous fetal monitoring no matter the mother’s preferred position,” she said. “For example, while using the induction medication oxytocin, I was able to provide continuous EFM (electronic fetal monitoring) with the patient relaxing in the tub.”
She said the system allows EFM regardless of the patient’s position. Because it’s cordless, McCully added, it decreases tangled wires and allows more time to provide one-on-one care with the patient and monitor the baby.
Godreau expressed the excitement she felt when the system arrived.
She said a stand-out example of the system’s benefits is a recent mother who required a c-section.
“We were able to continue the monitoring on the way to the OR and during the entire time that the OR staff were preparing the patient for surgery,” Godreau said. “The OR staff really thought that the wireless monitoring was so much safer for the baby and increased our level of care without compromising room in the OR or the sterility. We can’t say enough what this piece of equipment means to us and our patients.”
The Panda warming bed and the wireless fetal heart monitor are the latest in a long list of the most up-to-date medical equipment the URVH Foundation and donors provided the hospital, staff and patients since the foundation reignited the community generosity just over two years ago.
Board chair Dr. Wayne McLaughlin and Vice Chair Dr. Bill Mutrie said the foundation board has other plans in the works to enhance URVH’s level of care.