Nursing students deliver baby in hospital parking lot

Appeared in: Reflection on Nursing Leadership

By: Elizabeth Valente

For eight nursing students at Samuel Merritt University (SMU), Sunday, 5 December, is a day they will never forget.

"It was 6:30 in the morning. We were in the cafeteria at Kaiser Permanente Hayward Hospital, waiting for our supervisor to give us our assignments for the day when we heard this loud scream come from the parking lot," says Angie Rayzor, a student in the Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing (ABSN) program at San Mateo Learning Center in San Mateo, California. "At first, we thought it was a drill."

The group ran outside toward the screams, and what they saw when they arrived seemed out of a film or TV show. "The father, along with three small kids, was in a panic, running around the van. And there was a woman standing outside the van door, leaning against a transport wheelchair, struggling with pain," says Kim Davies, ABSN student. "As we got closer, she pulled her pants down, and we could see the baby's head was crowning."

As the mother screamed, "The baby's coming, the baby's coming!" Davies' instincts took over. The nursing student fell down to her knees, hitting the cold, hard pavement just in time to catch the baby girl!

"I saw the woman and, though she looked very scared, she was relieved that we caught the baby," says Jeannette De Dios, ABSN student. Then, like clockwork, the team of nursing students quickly began evaluating the child. Rayzor was the first to yell, "Skin to skin!"

"We learned in simulation that in a premature delivery, or in a precipitous birth, you put the baby directly on the mom's belly to keep it warm," explains Rayzor. "She wasn't crying much, which worried me. I knew I had to do something immediately, so that the baby would not lose any more warmth." 

The SMU students continued to evaluate the baby, assessing her breathing and pulse. To promote breathing, De Dios and Davies started vigorously massaging the baby's face and nose to remove any secretions or blockages. "It was hard to tell if the baby was breathing or not, because it was so cold," says Rayzor. "She still looked so blue, but once the baby started to cough and cry, we all felt better."

At that precise time, Ray Monge, ABSN student, arrived with two nurses from the hospital's labor and delivery department. "When everyone else ran outside, I ran inside to find help. Once I explained there was a woman having a baby in the parking lot, we all ran downstairs, but not before I grabbed some gloves for my classmates. I thought, 'Just in case they need an additional pair of hands, we are now prepared!'"

For the San Mateo nursing students, their only preparation for the momentous event was simulation training they had two weeks prior. "I was just amazed at how each of us contributed," says De Dios. "Kim caught the baby, Angie yelled, 'Skin to skin!' and then others yelled, 'Baby's not breathing-stimulate!' And we had just learned how to do all this! It was definitely a team effort."

As the mother screamed, "The baby's coming, the baby's coming!" Davies' instincts took over.

"I felt that I burned a lot of calories in those few minutes," laughs Monge. "I am grateful for the simulation we had. It helped us respond in the right way at the right time. As students, we have some limitations in handling patients, but the scenarios our instructors gave us in class taught us to stay focused and calm."

The team members cite the program and their teacher, Laurie Rosa, MS, RN, assistant professor at the school, for everything they learned.  "I don't know if I would have responded the same had I not had that simulation class," says Rayzor. "Simulation training is crucial."

"Our program teaches us two things, theory and practice," explains Tamra Hollenbeck, ABSN student. "But the theory is nothing until you're actually putting it into practice. So that's what I think is the beauty of the ABSN program. It's not theoretical; it's hands on. And, to me, that's the more important piece." 

"It is so strangely miraculous that these dedicated and mature nursing students, who just started their intense 12-month program this semester and took a simulation course in labor and delivery just a couple of weeks ago, would be helping this family by delivering their baby," says Rosa. "It is a testament to our university preparing nurses to not simply succeed academically, but to critically and practically apply the knowledge, theory and skills of nursing practice." 

As for the mother and child, after the shock wore down, everyone was happy and relieved, according to the hospital staff. Later that same day, the husband's mother went in search of the person who "caught" her granddaughter.

"When she asked if I was a nurse and I said, 'No, I'm a student nurse,' and explained how my fellow nursing students and I all helped bring this baby into the world, she was shocked," says Davies. "But then, she couldn't stop congratulating us. She was very thankful for our collaboration and our skills as nursing students."


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