Changing the use of electronic fetal monitoring and labor support: a case study of barriers and facilitators

Birth. 2004 Dec;31(4):293-301. doi: 10.1111/j.0730-7659.2004.00322.x.


Background: Decreasing the use of continuous electronic fetal monitoring and increasing professional labor support for low-risk pregnancies are recommended by the Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists of Canada. This study explored factors influencing the successful (and unsuccessful) introduction of an evidence-based fetal health surveillance guideline.

Methods: This qualitative case study was conducted at two tertiary and one community hospital. Data were collected in 14 clinician focus groups (51 nurses), followed by 8 interviews with nurse administrators and educators. Analysis of verbatim transcripts and unit records included coding and categorizing data to form profiles that were compared across hospitals.

Results: Implementation of the guideline recommendations in the hospital settings was affected by many different factors originating in the practice environment, with the potential adopters, and related to the characteristics of the guideline. The influences of these diverse factors interacted sometimes to magnify or counteract each other's effect. The physical setting, adopter concerns, and the medicolegal issues surrounding the guideline played critical roles in uptake. In addition, changes preceding the introduction of the recommendations, the institution's agenda, and nursing and medical leadership influenced the uptake of guideline recommendations. The number and experience of nurses in each setting and availability of equipment also affected guideline acceptance and use.

Conclusions: When implementing best practice, it is important to identify organizational barriers to the change that will need managing by the appropriate level of administration in the organization. Careful tailoring of implementation interventions to the barriers originating with the potential adopters is also necessary. Be prepared for unanticipated effects.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Communication Barriers
  • Electrocardiography / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • Fetal Monitoring / statistics & numerical data*
  • Focus Groups
  • Guideline Adherence*
  • Hospital Administrators
  • Hospital Bed Capacity
  • Hospitals, Community
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Labor, Obstetric*
  • Obstetrics and Gynecology Department, Hospital / standards*
  • Ontario / epidemiology
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic*
  • Pregnancy