Pregnancy in the Workplace: Key Employer Best Practices

Pregnancy in the Workplace: Key Employer Best Practices

IN HONOR OF NATIONAL NURSES Week/Month, COMMERCE features a look at how to accommodate a pregnant employee and support her after the baby is born. We asked Chief Nursing Officers at New Jersey’s top hospitals to offer their thoughts and insights.

Atlantic Health System

By Karen Flaherty-Oxler, MSN, RN, Senior Vice President, Chief Nursing and Patient Experience Executive

Communication and preparation are key in making pregnancy in the workplace a positive, memorable and productive experience. An expectant mother should keep an open line of communication with colleagues. She may need to take frequent restroom breaks or make nutrition and hydration a priority. There are ways to communicate health needs to your leader and team members, while still maintaining privacy and demonstrating competency. Avoid being silent and assuming that co-workers know how you’re doing or what you need. She should also be prepared with healthy snacks and drinks, a comfortable change of footwear and clothing and a list of specific tasks for times when the usual workday routine could be interrupted. Atlantic Health System has developed a supportive environment for our expectant team members.

CentraState Medical Center

By Linda W. Geisler, RN, MNEd, NEA-BC, FACHE, CNO, VP of Patient Services

As a healthcare organization, we especially understand and are obligated to the challenges that working pregnant women may have during their pregnancy. We’re also aware that maternal stress can affect fetal brain development and can lead to low birth weight and other complications. CentraState has policies that address circumstances that pregnant employees should not be exposed to. For example, pregnant nurses do not administer chemotherapy and are not assigned to patients undergoing radiation treatments, like seed implants. A pregnant employee needs to be aware of her immunity status and will not be assigned to patients with infectious organisms that she does not have immunity against. They also need to be aware of hazardous substances, which is why safety data sheets for all hazardous materials are available for protective measures. CentraState watches for signs of fatigue in pregnant staff and takes actions as appropriate to protect the mother and baby.

Holy Name Medical Center

By Sheryl Slonim, DNP, RN-BC, NEA-BC, APN-C, Executive Vice President, Patient Care Services and Chief Nursing Officer

Holy Name Medical Center actively supports pregnant employees with targeted programs and services, including our LiveWell wellness program, semiannual health fairs, vaccinations, health screenings, an employee fitness center, a smoking cessation program, Employee Assistance Program and healthy meal choices in the cafeteria. Our Employee Health Services Department can assist when specific medical needs arise.

Following the birth of the baby, we support breastfeeding moms by providing private lactation rooms, which they can continue to use for pumping following their return to work. Holy Name understands the value of a healthy work-life balance, which is why we offer an onsite child care center in addition to access to the “Sniffles Club,” where our staff cares for employees’ children who are mildly ill but too sick to attend their regular child care center or school.

Southern Ocean Medical Center, Hackensack Meridian Health

By Regina M. Foley, Ph.D., MBA, RN, Chief Operating Officer

Expecting a baby is a truly wonderful time in a woman’s life. Yet, pregnancy in the workplace can often put women in a precarious position. From a climate culture perspective, pregnancy should not be treated as a disease or a disability, but rather a time to show respect and understanding that supports both the individual and the team members. If accommodations are needed, they are most welcome when they are offered in response to a woman’s request, are negotiated with her, and encourage her to feel valued and safe as a fully functioning member of the work team. When balancing the demands of the job and the requirements of pregnancy, it is critical that women proactively communicate their needs to their employer. Engaging in open and transparent communications about their challenges and/or limitations will enable employers to make work accommodations that will have positive effects on the employee and the entire team.

The Valley Hospital By Ann Marie Leichman, MSN, RN, NEA-BC, Senior Vice President, Patient Care Services and Chief Nursing Officer

Valley Health System is a leader in integrated, holistic care for women throughout pregnancy and delivery. Our obstetrics physician practices use evidence-based medicine or midwifery to design a comprehensive care plan for the patient and her family. In terms of pregnant employees, our employee health and human resources teams assist them with their family leave paperwork and processing, ensuring

that they understand their benefits and what they are entitled to under the applicable state and federal laws. Valley Health System provides a working environment conducive to pregnancy, including an array of healthy food in all hospital dining areas and areas for centering and rejuvenation during a work shift. Pregnant employees who are typically required to park off site are able to submit requests to park on site in order to reduce their travel time to and from work. We offer multiple classes for expectant parents, including breast feeding, bonding and support groups. Our larger locations have private, dedicated spaces for breast feeding mothers to pump and store their breast milk.

DENTAL HEALTH

Pregnancy Changes Everything— Including Oral Health

By Dr. Keith Libou, Chief Clinical Officer, Delta Dental of New Jersey and Connecticut

OB-GYN appointments are a routine part of pregnancy, but not everyone realizes that regular dental visits can be part of the prenatal regimen, too. A mother’s good oral health benefits both her and her baby—but pregnancy can make it harder to achieve. Increases in progesterone and other hormones can make it easier for gingivitis-causing bacteria found in dental plaque to grow. If dental plaque isn’t removed, it can cause gingivitis, the first stage of periodontal (gum) disease. A condition called “pregnancy gingivitis” affects some women during the second to eighth month of pregnancy. It is characterized by inflammation, swelling and tenderness of the gums.

Since periodontal disease that progresses can increase the risk for delivering a low birth weight or pre-term baby, it is critical for women to receive regular—and sometimes even extra—dental care during pregnancy. Some dental benefits companies, including Delta Dental of New Jersey, Inc. and Delta Dental of Connecticut, Inc., offer additional coverage options during pregnancy.

Regular cleanings are an important part of these visits to help keep teeth and gums healthy. If the dentist spots a potential problem, many diagnostic and treatment options are also possible during pregnancy. Dental X-rays are usually considered safe. Radiation is very low, and dentists use a leaded apron to protect the woman’s abdomen and a leaded collar to protect her thyroid.

Even many essential dental procedures, such as using topical and local anesthetics, scaling and root planing (deep cleaning), and treatment for moderate to severe cavities or broken or abscessed teeth can be safely performed for women 13 to 21 weeks pregnant.

Good oral health during pregnancy means healthier mothers and infants.

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