Caregiving key at Selkirk family birthing unit

Jamie Brown, CRN (left) and Katie Kingsland, RNBN stand beside an infant warming bed inside one of the rooms for new mothers at the Family Birthing Unit inside the Selkirk Regional Health Centre in Selkirk, Man. on May 6, 2019. (Adam Peleshaty/The Stonewall Argus and Teulon Times)

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The act of caregiving is at the forefront of people’s minds at the Selkirk Regional Health Centre leading up to Mother’s Day on May 12.

After all, the Selkirk Regional Health Centre, the crown jewel of the Interlake-Eastern Regional Health Authority which opened in the summer of 2017, is the home of the only family birthing unit in the IERHA region. In its first full year of operation at the new facility, doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals were there for 377 babies being born in 2018. The unit consists of 10 rooms: six for LDRP (labour, delivery, recovery and postpartum), two more for postpartum, and a room each for nursery and triage.

“Whenever possible, it’s better to have services closer to home,” Marion Ellis, vice president of acute care and chief nursing officer for the IERHA said. “When a baby is born, it’s a celebration for the family and for them to be there closer to where they live, it’s more of an enriching experience.” She also added that the unit has an “uplifting ambience” for new mothers and is also making epidurals the standard for births there.

May 12 also happens to be the final day of National Nursing Week in Canada, coinciding with the birthday of Florence Nightingale, considered to be the founder of modern nursing.

“(Nursing) exists so that we can do our part to be a support towards the well-being of humanity. Nurses play a role in that within the context of a multidisciplinary team,” Ellis added.

Caregiving, though, goes beyond mothers, nurses and hospitals. Rather, it extends towards families, communities and other aspects in the lives of those who care and those who are cared for. Ellis believes that one of the ideas for Mother’s Day — celebrating motherhood — should be expanded.

“I think we need to look at what’s the concept of motherhood and what does motherhood connotate for us. It connotates nurturing and caring,” she said. “Sometimes it’s not gender-specific who engages in the practice of nurturing and I’d like to acknowledge all human beings who engage in it in a positive, proactive way. Because that’s what make individuals healthy and that’s what makes a community strong.”

Caregivers, especially parents, can become overwhelmed and Ellis added that they should not be scared to reach out to family, friends and other community resources for support. Those seeking advice from healthcare professionals not only can improve the health of a caregiver and a dependent, but can also counter misinformation from unreliable sources regarding patients’ health and others.

However, the proper supports for caregivers and for whom they care for depend on their individual needs.

“It always needs to be the right touch of a kind of support,” Ellis said. “The worst thing you can do is force a service on another human being that may be isn’t right for them at that time. It requires sensitivity when working with moms and families.”

Whether someone is a parent, a healthcare professional, or anyone else in charge of the well-being of another person, the right care can produce long-lasting dividends and hospitals and healthcare professionals are only a part of it. Caregiving across all aspects, according to Ellis, is essential for the entire healthcare system.

“When mothers, fathers or people who engage in the practice of motherhood and nurturing … know how to comfort a child, they know how to listen to a child and they know how to effectively support a child and correct a child without ever demeaning their spirit inside, that’s the approach we’re supposed to take for the whole of healthcare,” she said.

The IERHA offers prenatal and early years programming, including the Families First Program, breastfeeding support groups and postpartum home visits. For more information, visit: