Forced Labor: Maternity Care in the United States by Nancy Stoller Shaw

By Nancy Stoller Shaw

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The image of the sterile, hardhearted older nurse is probably stimulated by the fact that older nurses are often those with the greatest seniority and thus most likely to be tied into a conservative rule-oriented approach. RNs who performed as maternity nurses in the Maternity Division came from several backgrounds. Over half of them were trained as midwives. This means they are capable of assisting in a normal delivery in or out of a hospital. Of the midwives, some were American trained and others were from outside the country.

The hospital spends the minimal amount of money necessary. When the waiting room is crowded with an overload of patients, it's just "unfortunate" that there aren't enough chairs; there are always enough for the staff. During most of my study the basic arrangement was of rows of chairs placed so that no one could look directly at another visitor who was less than two feet away. The arrangement of furniture is an important determinant of behavior and interaction. At the Maternity Division, communication among patients is discouraged by the arrangement of the waiting room furniture.

Thus, most theoretical material about pregnancy learned in class is filed away for future certification examinations. Maternity, as well as other specialty training for non-graduate nurses, emphasizes the classic medical image of the doctor as being in charge and the nurse as his or her assistant. The basic role of the nurse is to be responsible first and foremost to the doctor. Keep the patient happy but do what the doctor says, because he knows best and because it is your job to do what he says.

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