1. Wisner, Kirsten PhD, RNC-OB, CNS, C-EFM, NE-BC

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When selecting a topic for this column, I often summarize a recent clinical guideline or position statement from our specialty professional organization, the Association of Women's Health, Obstetrics, and Neonatal Nurses (AWHONN), or from one of our partners in medicine (American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists [ACOG], Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine [SMFM], American Academy of Pediatrics [AAP]) or midwifery (American College of Nurse Midwives [ACNM]) partners. Many columns summarize or synthesize recent professional standards to promote understanding and use of practice guidelines, supporting perinatal nurses to provide standards- and evidence-based care.


The expectation that nurses continuously integrate current professional standards and evidence into their care is clearly articulated in the foundational framework guiding our profession (American Nurses Association [ANA], 2021). Our primary responsibility is to serve our patients, a public who assumes that we are maintaining current skills and knowledge relative to our role. Professional governance thought leaders delineate clinical accountabilities from those of leadership and define an imperative that the ultimate authority and accountability for nursing practice in any given setting belongs to clinical nurses, primarily those who work in direct-care roles (Porter O'Grady & Clavelle, 2021). Clinical accountabilities include those related to practice, competence, quality, and knowledge. Leadership accountabilities are resource-driven and are concerned with human, fiscal, material, support, and systems issues (Porter O'Grady & Clavelle). For perinatal clinical nurses, fully owning these clinical accountabilities can be supported by membership in AWHONN, and requires active engagement with perinatal literature, as well as fluency in accessing and understanding published literature.


Suggestions to promote adherence to these professional accountabilities and expectations are summarized.


Become a member of AWHONN. Professional organizations support nurses to maintain current knowledge and stay informed of specialty-specific issues. Subscribe to AWHONN Hub, the listserv available to members. This can be very useful for posting questions and interacting with other perinatal nurses. AWHONN membership provides subscriptions to two journals. Establish a regular routine e.g., monthly, or quarterly, within your organization to review AWHONN Position Statements and Practice Briefs. These are located on the AWHONN Web site in the Media, Advocacy, & Journals section and are guiding documents for perinatal care that should be integrated into practice. In my organization, these are reviewed by clinical nurses in our shared governance structure at the unit practice council level. Extend this routine to include ACOG, SMFM, AAP, and ACNM guidelines. Pursue professional specialty certification. Certification demonstrates knowledge, experience, and clinical judgment in a specialty. Most certifications for perinatal nurses are administered by the National Certification Corporation. Some of their certification options are interdisciplinary such as Electronic Fetal Monitoring and Obstetric and Neonatal Quality and Safety. Sign up for electronic table of contents (eTOC) alerts or content alerts for the peer-reviewed specialty journals that guide perinatal practice (Table). Tip: on the journal home page, lookup the word "alert" to find these on each site. Although some require a log in or subscription to the journal, many are publicly available.


Many readers of MCN may already have established practices for engaging with specialty resources and maintaining current knowledge. I offer this information to prompt discussion about the foundations of our professional role (ANA, 2021), learn about professional governance (Porter O'Grady & Clavelle, 2021), and establish or evaluate unit-level routines that support professional role accountability.

Selected Journals... - Click to enlarge in new windowSelected Journals



American Nurses Association. (2021). Nursing: Scope and standards of practice (4th ed.). [Context Link]


Porter O'Grady T., Clavelle J. T. (2021). Transforming shared governance: Toward professional governance for nursing. The Journal of Nursing Administration, 51(4), 206-211.[Context Link]