Consequences of Delayed, Unfinished, or Missed Nursing Care during Labor and Birth

Kathleen Rice Simpson, Audrey Lyndon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The purpose of this study was to examine the concept of delayed, unfinished, or missed nursing care when patient census and acuity exceed nurse staffing resources with nurses who care for women during labor and birth. Focus groups were held during which labor nurses were asked about aspects of nursing care that may be regularly delayed, unfinished, or completely missed during labor and birth, including possible reasons and potential consequences. Seventy-one labor nurses participated in 11 focus groups in 6 hospitals. Nurses focused on support and encouragement as aspects of care that they felt are essential but often not able to be performed when the unit is busy. Nurses seemed to assume technical features of care as a "given" in the background and not always noticed unless missed. They voiced concerns about risks to maternal and fetal well-being when they were short-staffed. Potential outcomes were discussed including cesarean birth, depressed infants at birth, hemorrhage, and negative effects on patient satisfaction, successful breast-feeding, and the overall patient experience. Conclusion: When essential aspects of nursing care are delayed, unfinished, or completely missed, there are potentially negative implications for numerous patient outcomes and patient safety is at risk.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)32-40
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Perinatal and Neonatal Nursing
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2017


  • labor and birth
  • missed care
  • nurse staffing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics
  • Critical Care
  • Maternity and Midwifery


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