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Underscoring the Significance of Women's Health

The Continuum of Care

There’s no denying that women have gained a sense of independence that didn’t exist in the past – not even thirty years ago. Women are pursuing careers that were typically perceived as “men’s jobs”, and they are prioritizing their ambitions differently. Do we take this for granted, though, especially when it comes to setting the stage for a learning prior to engaging in a difficult birth scenario?

Women are now having babies later than they have historically. The average age of a mother at the time of her first birth is 26 years old.1 To compare, in 1970 first-time mothers were 21 years old.2 And, the number of women having their first child after they turn 35 years old is also increasing, leading to an uptick in fertility treatments.

A lot of individuals – specifically women – are choosing to develop their careers, and they’re having great opportunities. So, a lot of them are getting older before they have children and they are needing more IVF services.

Charles Coddington III, OB-GYN, Former President, Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology*

Women over 35 years old who are pregnant for the first time are more likely to encounter complications, including an increased chance of a miscarriage or having a baby with genetic abnormalities.4 Older age automatically results in a high-risk pregnancy, and few would argue that healthcare professionals need to be prepared for the worst – for the mother and the babyJust giving learners the age of the patient prior to a simulation should encourage them to consider a host of potential patient risk associated with that age.

Add to that, knowing the patient's age can encourage learners to show age- and demographic-specific patient empathy. Women want to feel safe and comfortable to express any concerns to their healthcare provider. Even more so, they want to feel that their patient-provider relationship is founded on open dialogue and mutual respect--respect that is based on some understanding of the patient's background and circumstances.. To develop the sensitivity and communication skills required to treat pregnant patients on their terms, simulation can be extremely beneficial. Experts recommend simulation training to teach communication and empathy skills, and to promote a holistic approach to patient-centered care.5

Simulation training can increase a learner’s knowledge and confidence in procedures – and it can increase a learner’s interest in women’s health fields.6


In addition to helping develop interpersonal skills, simulation can foster competent and compliant healthcare practices. This is especially important in cases where symptoms point to a life-threatening condition. With advances to maternal simulation and the addition of ultrasound training solutions, learners are able to practice treating a pregnant patient and cultivate their assessment and diagnostic skills. Simulation can increase a learner’s understanding of quality care, and improve his or her ability to remain level-headed when treating a real patient in the future.

Nurses provide the first line of defense in caring for women during [obstetric] emergencies and strongly benefit from the training and practicing for these situations.

Lynn Erdman, MN, RN, FAAN, Former CEO, Association of Women’s Health, Obstetric, & Neonatal Nurses (AWHONN)**

A healthy pregnancy begins before conception and continues with quality prenatal care and early recognition of complications. Ensuring that learners understand current women's health statistics can help learners have a more rich and fruitful simulation experience. Attentiveness to statistics in women's health can round out a learner's preparedness for complications and emergencies. Putting this to the test during a simulation can help a learner get the most out of their simulation experience, developing both their critical thinking skills and their patient empathy skills. Simulation training can help to ensure that they are ready to address any issues that arise, and that they can make their patient feel safe. 

Read the next article in this series to see how these and other demographic factors might be considered as you set the stage for your learners in their labor and delivery simulations.


Download Continuum of Care Infographic

A woman's lifestyle decisions impact her own health, the chance of a healthy pregnancy, and the health of her baby. Download this infographic to learn how simulation can help. 

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  1. U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. (2016). Births: Final data for 2016. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nvsr/nvsr67/nvsr67_01.pdf
  2. Leonard, K. (2016). Moms are older than they used to be. U.S. News & World Report. Retrieved from https://www.usnews.com/news/blogs/data-mine/2016/01/14/cdc-the-median-age-of-first-time-motherhood-is-increasing
  3. Doucleff, M. (2014). IVF baby boom: Births from fertility procedures hit new high. NPR. Retrieved from https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2014/02/18/279035110/ivf-baby-boom-births-from-fertility-procedure-hit-new-high
  4. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention. (2018). Infertility FAQs. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/reproductivehealth/infertility/index.htm
  5. Editorial. (2016). Communication and empathy in the patient-centered care model – Why simulation-based training is not optional. Clinical Simulation in Nursing, 12(8), 356-359. Retrieved from https://www.nursingsimulation.org/article/S1876-1399(16)30019-6/pdf
  6. Nitschmann, C., Bartz, D., & Johnson, N.R. (2014). Gynecologic simulation training increases medical student confidence and interest in women’s health. Teaching and Learning in Medicine, 26(2), 160-163. DOI: 10.1080/10401334.2014.883984

* Doucleff, M. (2014). See reference #3.

**Duggan, C. (2015). Nurses’ confidence and competence during obstetric emergencies improves with training. AWHONN. Retrieved from http://www.awhonn.org/news/261745/Nurses-Confidence-and-Competence-during-Obstetric-Emergencies-Improves-with-Training.htm