The Six Core Virtues of Nursing Care that Women and Babies Deserve

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In speaking with a friend recently, I learned for the first time that her eldest daughter was born prematurely. Initially, she felt panicked and unprepared.

"It was one of the scariest moments of my life," she recounted. "If my labor and delivery nurse hadn't been as thoughtful and experienced as she was, I am not sure where I'd be. Because she was able to put me at ease by describing what was happening at each step, I felt more confident that my baby and I were getting the best possible care."

Women rely on their nurses, often more than anyone else, to stay by their side and ensure their comfort and safety. This is especially true among new mothers, who often feel nervous or anxious about giving birth for the first time, or women facing unexpected challenges, like my friend. As leaders in the birthing room, nurses are in a unique position to provide the best quality care to women and their babies.

Simply put, women and babies deserve nursing care that is optimal, expert, and empathetic. When put into practice, these characteristics ensure that nurses are providing the best possible care to women and their babies--care that is grounded in evidence-based knowledge and which places their health and safety as the paramount concern.

The Association of Women's Health, Obstetric and Neonatal Nurses (AWHONN) has developed an ethics-in-practice statement outlining six core virtues that are essential for providing this type of care. By keeping these virtues in mind, nurses can be confident their care will have lasting positive effects on the women and families they serve.

  • Compassion. Awareness of the woman's whole being paired with a strong desire to relieve suffering.
  • Courage. In all situations, remaining committed to your beliefs and being confident enough to act in accordance with them.
  • Engagement. Striving to connect with a woman and her family at the personal level and encouraging shared decision-making in health care matters.
  • Humility. Having a balanced sense of one's worth and the capacity to learn from colleagues.
  • Integrity. Standing up for what is right even at the risk of being criticized.
  • Wisdom. Applying expert clinical knowledge and judgment to the needs of each particular woman or situation.

These virtues encompass the nursing care that AWHONN believes all women and babies deserve and should receive from their care providers. We ask nurses to ensure that they are fostering these virtues in their practices each day.

Nurses are critical to a woman's satisfaction with her labor and birth experience, and they should be acknowledged for the leadership they demonstrate throughout this process. AWHONN believes that by incorporating these key virtues into their practice, nurses can be sure that they are doing all that they can to keep women and babies healthy, safe and comfortable while in the hospital.

For more information, read "Providing Nursing Care Women and Babies Deserve" published in Nursing for Women's Health.