People who gave birth in the hospital and their nurses report the negative consequences of hospitals’ pandemic policies in a new study.

“We found that visitor restrictions and separation policies were harming families and nurses. The effects for patients included loneliness, isolation, and mistrust, while nurses described mistrust and low morale,” says Molly Altman, lead author of the study and assistant professor in the University of Washington School of Nursing.

Importantly, Altman adds, both nurses and patients described how COVID “amplified existing racially biased and disrespectful care experiences for Black women and birthing people, in part due to loss of protection and advocacy that support people provide.”

The study, published in Global Qualitative Nursing Research, involved in-depth interviews with 15 patients from Washington state and 14 nurses from Washington, New York, Georgia, and Michigan. Nearly half of participants in both groups self-identified as BIPOC (Black and Indigenous people of color) and for slightly more than half this was their first birth.

Under COVID-19 restrictions, patients experienced a shift from in-person visits, a source of social and emotional support, to virtual conversations or telehealth and more perfunctory exchanges in offices with physical distancing. Pregnancy education and group classes all moved online, while family and friends were excluded from patient care when in the hospital or clinic. Meanwhile, nurses experienced shifting policies and procedures that led to a collective mistrust of management and administration.

In the interviews, researchers wrote, patient responses focused on how hospital adaptations “were inadequate to meet their needs” and, in addition to mistrust, nurse responses focused on how inconsistencies in policies and policy implementation affected their ability to “safely care for patients.”

Read the full article about perinatal patients and nurses by Jake Ellison at Futurity.