Wellness in the maternity ward, a conversation with Olajumoke Eva Omiyale, Registered Nurse and Founder of Birthing America, Inc.

The wellness of patients and fellow healthcare workers is a constant focus for Olajumoke Eva Omiyale, a practicing Registered Nurse in a leading obstetrics unit in California, where she lives since 2012. Ms Omiyale graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing from Lagos University Teaching Hospital, Nigeria, in 2007. She is also the Founder of Birthing America, an online education resource about pregnancy and labor. She shares her experience about working on the front-line during the pandemic, promoting diversity and inclusion in healthcare and starting her own business.

1. What has been the impact of the pandemic on patient care in your  experience as a Labor Nurse?

Labor and Delivery are a Hi-Tech and Hi-Touch space with great emphasis on human touch. During the delivery of a baby, there are critical “transformations” that are in direct response to positive human interactions between the laboring mom and the delivery nurse, including human touch, facial expressions, validations, and expressions of encouragement. Those special connections are especially limited when a laboring mom is in isolation for the COVID-19 infection and nurses are required to spend no more than 15 minutes at a time with her to reduce the risk of infection to others. While respecting safety protocols and legal mandates, it is my experience that all healthcare workers are going beyond the call of duty to provide care to all patients, to protect them regardless of their Covid status, and to protect themselves as well. But it is a daily challenge for nurses and often requires spending extra time on call helping others manage those stressful times. For example, I may still touch a laboring mom while wearing my high-performance PPE and talk frequently with her to reassure her that everything will be fine. We continue to adapt our care to these new situations.

2. Why did you decide to start “Birthing America”, an online community dedicated to pregnancy and labor?

The pandemic has greatly increased the fear and anxiety pregnant women face, and this can greatly impact their labor, labor experience, and labor outcome. Many are anxious to deliver their babies sooner or searching for different facilities depending on the level of Covid cases in their area or the safety protocols that they are comfortable with. Anxiety is a leading contributing factor in pre-term labor and in postpartum depression. So, I started an online community in 2020 to support all women during the pandemic, to improve their experience during that special time in their lives and to be their advocacy agent. Birthing America gives me the opportunity to connect with a greater number of women than the ones I care for daily with other practicing nurses from around the world.

3. How can women improve their wellness during pregnancy and delivery?

Birthing America has a mission to assist women in achieving an empowered mindset and taking control of their health during their pregnancy, labor and post-delivery experiences. Many women leave 100% of the decisions about their pregnancy to their healthcare team. Research has proven that better healthcare outcomes are achieved when patients participate in their own care. But many women do not know how to do so. Birthing America is solving this problem one pregnancy at a time by providing educational content and designing programs that empower women and build their confidence so they can be their best advocate. Research has shown that the maternal perception of a problem in pregnancy usually has a clinical significance. When women in maternity care report it in a timely manner to their health care providers, they are more likely to get the care they need. However, many women lack the empowerment and communication skills to communicate and request the help they need. I focus a lot on explaining standard hospital processes, how to engage with your care team and giving recommendations for improved pregnancy, delivery, and recovery outcomes.

4. How did your studies and training in Nigeria influence your approach to patient care and wellness in general?

I thank my Dad for encouraging me to focus on nursing in  college, where I also studied marketing and law. I received an excellent education in Nigeria which well prepared me for a career beyond borders. Living and working in the USA where I furthered my training, I am honored and humbled to contribute to the inclusivity and diversity in the healthcare sector. Representation in healthcare fosters trust and encourages patients to be engaged in their care, which in turn leads to improved patient outcomes. When a BIPOC laboring mom tells me that I am her first black labor nurse she has ever met, I feel a deep sense of pride and responsibility. To BIPOC moms who had never met nurses that look like them in their previous pregnancies, I say: “I am here now,  proof that there is change, now let’s have your baby”. Being a person of color, who grew up in a different culture and traditions, I find that my education and background help me to emphasize the importance of diverse cultural norms in the care that I provide and to bridge the  gap between my patients and my colleagues. I feel it is my duty to find new ways to improve the experience and representation for people of color in the healthcare sector and to empower all women to prioritize their wellness during pregnancy with Birthing America. As a female founder, I am also grateful to the women who support me on my entrepreneurial journey. For more information, visit @birthingamerica on Instagram.