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Senior nursing students learn about pregnancy complications and how they can help



Date: December 3, 2012
Media Contact: Ashley Wiggin,, 206-221-2456

By Sumalee Oakley

Outside of a Health Sciences classroom last week, students and faculty crowded around tables featuring the work of senior BSN students on complications during pregnancy. The posters displayed their work over the past quarter in a class focused on labor and delivery. The students learned about various issues that can occur in pregnancy and chose one topic to focus their research on. The topics included both social and health-related issues, such as the impact of smoking or drugs on pregnancy, the impact of high- or low- birth weights on infant health, various conditions that can occur during birth and delivery and violence in pregnancy.

Students noted that the course helped them better understand these problems and conditions, which will enable them to provide better care in the future. Although many do not intend to become pediatric nurses, they believe the overall experience prepared them to become better practitioners in general. The students were also pleased about having a hands-on project to display to the public. The activity of making the posters is a great learning experience, affirmed Alexa Chhay, because it “helps me to remember all the information, the key points of the research.”

Student poster session 11.27Student poster session 11.27Several groups studied chronic problems in society that can compromise the pre- and post-natal health of babies, such as smoking, substance abuse, or depression. Laura Flynn explained Neonatal Abstinence syndrome in her poster as what occurs when a newborn’s mother has used illegal or prescription drugs during pregnancy. Flynn noted that this syndrome can be hard to identify at first as symptoms may not appear until 72 hours after birth and vary in duration according to the type of drug. Neonatal abstinence has an adverse economic impact as well, Flynn continued, since it can lead to longer hospital stays and higher health care costs associated with the newborn’s health.

At the Violence in Pregnancy poster, Josh Buenavista and Junho Lee pointed out that sometimes, the major issue is that the mothers may experience trauma but don’t realize the extent of the trauma they have suffered and the impact that can have on their fetuses, or they realize it too late. The consequences can range anywhere from the premature birth of the baby to death of the mother. The students also noted that homicide is one of the leading causes of mortality of pregnant women in the United States.

Other groups chose to tackle conditions that can occur during labor and delivery.

One group studied Group Beta Streptoccoccus (GBS), a strain of the strep virus that can make babies sick after birth.  Group member Jesse Kilgren commented that the most interesting thing to him about GBS was how relatively easily it could be avoided.

“As long as health practitioners screen mothers for GBS at 35-37 weeks and, if positive, treat with antibiotics, the risks of transmission to the fetus significantly decrease,” said Kilgren.

For another group, the inspiration was personal. Tiffany Hook’s newborn was afflicted by Meconium Aspiration Syndrome (MAS), a condition caused by the newborn inhaling fecal matter during delivery. Shots taken from a video of the nursing care management of Hooks’s baby hung on the poster as illustrations.

For Jaime Billman, one of the students who intends to go into pediatric nursing, the topic Small for Gestational Age sparked her interest. About ten percent of all babies born are SGA, but ninety percent of them will catch up in growth by the age 2. As she and Charissa Chung noted, prenatal care and education about healthy nutrition and lifestyle habits can prevent SGA.

The Nursing 415 poster session is just one of the many that will occur during fall quarter. As these students complete their last fall quarter as BSN students, the information they take away will be invaluable to their careers.

“We enjoyed the class and working with our classmates,” said Marianne Unite, whose project focused on the impact of smoking on infant and mother health, titled You Quit: Two Quit. “Although I don’t want to work with babies specifically, I feel like we are leaving with a lot of good information to put into our practice.”


The University of Washington School of Nursing is consistently a top-rated nursing school, according to U.S. News & World Report. Ranked No. 2 in research funding from the National Institutes of Health in 2011, the UW School of Nursing is a national and international leader in improving the health and well-being of individuals, families and communities. The school addresses society’s most pressing challenges in health care through innovative teaching, award winning research and community service. For more information, visit