Independent program for moms-to-be saves time

Educational foundation formed in writing

As length of stay for maternity patients dwindled, patient education became more difficult at The Ohio State University Medical Center in Columbus. "We made a list of all the basic information we think a new mom should have, and discovered that we can't possibly give that information in the 24-hour period they are staying in the hospital," says Brenda Rizzo, RNC, MS, program manager for women's health services at the medical center. "Therefore, we felt we needed to find a mechanism to identify people who were delivering at our hospital and establish communication and education with them before they came."

The physician's office was considered one possible solution, but many offices did not employ registered nurses. While the physician does a good job educating women about the physiology of pregnancy, women don't receive much information addressing the concerns of the new mom or caring for the baby, says Rizzo.

The solution was to create a self-learning program of sorts, where women could receive educational materials in advance to study on their own. The program has two arms, called "Our First" and "Our New Addition," because the information is tailored to a family's needs depending on whether they are first-time parents or expecting an additional child. "The educational needs of these two populations are very different, so we decided to split them," says Rizzo.

First-time parents who sign up for the program receive the newsletter Our First every month throughout their pregnancy. Parents adding to their family receive Our New Addition newsletter every two months. After the baby is born, both Our First and Our New Addition are mailed to their respective audiences at one month, three months, six months, and one-year intervals.

Articles in Our First educate parents on what to expect, such as a new baby's impact on a marriage. Our New Addition covers such issues as sibling rivalry during pregnancy or how to answer young children's questions about how the baby got in Mommy's tummy. (For information on electronic newsletters for expecting women, see p. 132.)

The newsletter is written in-house and printed annually. Issues are mailed to each participant at her appropriate stage of pregnancy. A survey determined that 90% of the women read every word, and about 50% of the men are reading the newsletter.

In addition to the newsletter, a packet of information is mailed to women who sign up for the program. It includes a catalog with a list of community outreach classes, such as Great Beginnings, an exercise class for pregnant women. (For more information on Great Beginnings, see p. 131.)

Also included is a booklet on having a baby at University Medical Center and an envelope of coupons for discounts on maternity and baby products at local stores. A notebook filled with educational pieces, such as what the fetus is doing during various stages of pregnancy and nutritional information, also is included.

When couples come to the hospital for the maternity tour, which familiarizes them with delivery procedures, the second section of material for the notebook is provided. This section includes educational sheets on breastfeeding, baby care, and preparing for the delivery process. The third and final installment of information for the notebook is given to women after delivery. It includes information on caring for breasts and the difference between baby blues and postpartum depression.

Targeting med center deliveries

Although the educational materials are all printed and ready to distribute, getting them into the hands of women who intend to deliver their babies at the University Medical Center is the difficult part of the program. Signing up at the physician's office has been one effective method. At private physicians' offices, 98% of the patients sign up for the program. However, the number of women who sign up for the program at clinics is 30%. "It is a constant struggle to make sure the women know about the information and they understand it is to their advantage," says Rizzo.

The information was placed in the waiting room at first. Then it was moved to the exam rooms. Now the nurses discuss the program with the women. To make sure they receive at least part of the information, the introductory packet is given to all pregnant women in the clinics.

A second method used to alert women to the program is store displays in shops frequented by pregnant women. Most are merchants who provide the discount coupons in the educational packet given to participants when they sign up for the program. "In exchange for the merchant's ability to advertise to a select audience, we have asked to put a display in their store about our maternity program," says Rizzo.

To provide continuing education, the University Medical Center partnered with a local baby merchandise store to offer a series of classes called Parents' Night Out. A different topic is tackled each month, such as the art of grandparenting. Members of Our First and Our New Addition are mailed reminders for the classes.

An unexpected bonus of the educational program is an increase in participation in childbirth classes, for it provides an avenue for class promotion. "It has really supported our childbirth education classes. Their volume has grown as a result of our program," says Rizzo.