Purpose: To examine the amount of support being provided by nurses to women during childbirth and factors that influence the provision of support.
Study design: Exploratory, descriptive.
Methods: Work sampling method was used to determine the percentage of time nurses spend in supportive care activities. Twelve nurses were observed over six nonconsecutive day shifts on a birthing unit of a Canadian teaching hospital in Quebec. A total of 404 observations were made. Nurses were also interviewed to determine their perceptions of what constitutes supportive nursing care and the factors that facilitate or inhibit the provision of this care.
Results: Nurses spent only 12.4% of their total time providing supportive care to laboring women. Interviews with nurses suggested that perceptions of the components of supportive care were comparable to this study's operational definition of support, namely: physical, emotional, and instructional/informational support and advocacy. Barriers to providing support identified by nurses included lack of time and insufficient staff. However, further content analysis of the interview data revealed that healthcare providers had a pervasive sense of control over laboring women and their partners.
Clinical implications: Although nursing support has been identified as an important aspect of nursing care in childbirth, this study demonstrated an incongruity between what nurses perceived as being supportive care and the amount of support that was actually provided. Barriers to the provision of supportive care in the practice setting as well as suggestions for its enhancement are discussed.