Roberts Recognized for Contributions to Maternal Child Health Care
Nov 13, 2013 1:00 PM
Before Leissa Roberts, CNM, DNP and a team of other nurses and nurse midwives developed the Coping with Labor Algorithm, laboring women used a standard 0-10 numeric rating scale to quantify labor pain. . “Frequently, laboring patients did not understand whether they were supposed to rate their pain level during a contraction or between contractions,” says Roberts, who serves as assistant dean of Faculty Practice at the University of Utah College of Nursing. “The process was confusing and created undue stress for patients during what can already be a stressful time.”
Today, the Coping Algorithm is widely utilized in hospitals throughout the United States and in five countries. It provides a unique way to assess the pain of labor by relying on a mechanism for documentation of pain in terms of coping or not coping along with nursing care suggestions and has been credited with transforming the labor and delivery experience for women. It is just one of the many contributions to the field of maternal child health that have earned Dr. Roberts the 2013 Individual Contribution to Maternal Child Health Award from the National Perinatal Association. Professor Roberts was presented with the award Saturday, November 9 at the NPA’s 34rd Annual Conference, “National Perinatal Association's 34th Annual Conference, Families at the Center: New Dimensions in Perinatal Care.”
In honor of her 2013 Individual Contribution to Maternal Child Health Award, the College of Nursing sat down with Dr. Roberts for a look at her influence and impact on maternal child health.
CON: How has the Coping with Labor Algorithm changed the labor and delivery experience for women?
Dr. Roberts: When we first started using the Coping Algorithm, women were so appreciative that we were taking a physiological approach to their labor experience. “Thank you for not bringing up the word pain,” patients would tell us. I think that is because many women did—and still do—recognize the difference between the words ‘pain’ and ‘coping’ when it comes to labor. Pain is to be expected in the process of birthing a child; many women embrace the pain because they know it is going to bring their baby. Suffering is what happens when a patient is no longer coping and decides their pain is no longer manageable. The Coping Algorithm addresses how to assist a woman to cope in labor.
CON: And what has the Coping Algorithm meant for nurses?
Dr. Roberts: Nurses were delighted with the introduction of the Coping Algorithm because it allowed them to better leverage their nursing skills as well as listen to and act upon their own intuition rather than be limited to simply recording a number on a chart.
CON: What does the 2013 Individual Contribution to Maternal Child Health Award represent to you?
Dr. Roberts: This award represents a 30-plus year adventure in maternal child health and the many important changes I have seen—and had the opportunity to contribute to—along the way. The first delivery I witnessed as a nursing student in the late 1970s was harrowing. It involved a laboring woman who had been bound to a delivery table by leather straps around her hands and feet. She was screaming as they carted her into the delivery room to push out her baby. It was inhumane, and it ignited in me a passion for improving maternal child health.
I am driven by a belief that it is our job as providers to help educate and empower women during pregnancy, labor and birth. So to receive this award, and to know the Coping Algorithm is putting more choice into the hands of women, validates my belief that women should have a voice in how they labor—and where they labor. We need to honor women’s beliefs, values and customs. Our mantra should be to “do no harm”.
CON: What are your priorities now and for the future?
Dr. Roberts: Receiving this award is an opportunity for me to pause and thank my colleagues, because I did not get here by myself. Many hands and many minds have been a part of getting me to where I am right now. This includes the individuals who were my mentors and those whom I am now mentoring.
In the future, I would like to further my research with the Coping Algorithm and I hope we continue to see more and more institutions begin to utilize the tool. And as an educator, it is my goal to continue to prepare the next generation of leaders in nursing and nurse midwifery. As a health care provider, I get to be part of one of the most intimate experiences in a family’s life. To be able to be part of that intimacy, and to share in bringing forth a new life, has to be one of the most amazing experiences in the world. This is a perspective I hope we continue to instill in our nurse midwives and women’s health nurse practitioners: to care for patients in the same manner with which we would want to be cared for.
Katie SchrierKatie Schrier is the Communications Manager for the College of Nursing