Published: 06/05/2014

The Era of Birthing Rooms at Evangelical – 35 Years Later

It’s hard to imagine a time when babies were born at home or when doctors delivered babies on tables with fathers in the hospital waiting room, but at one time, that is how it was done. At Evangelical Community Hospital, all of that changed decades ago, with the introduction of the first birthing room.

With the latest renovations coming to a close in Evangelical’s The Family Place, many are reflecting on how things have transitioned in the world of obstetrics over the years. George Miller, MD, of Lewisburg Gynecology and Obstetrics, PC, recalls when everything started to change.

“When I came to Evangelical in 1978, I had seen birthing rooms in other hospitals. The beds in those rooms made delivery more comfortable, less clinical feeling, and a much better environment for the mother. I wanted to share that experience with the staff at Evangelical and arranged to have a trained registered nurse from a hospital with birthing rooms come in and do an in-service about what goes into a specialized room for birth and the difference it can make for the patient,” said Miller.

The nurses who attended were immediately excited about the prospect of introducing a birthing room at Evangelical and they took it upon themselves to find a space and a bed to be used for more comfortable deliveries. By the end of May 1979, the first mother, Elizabeth Pursley of Montandon, was giving birth to a baby girl, Brandy, in the room especially designed with patient needs in mind.

“It was that exact excitement and innovation of the nurses, their dedication to their work, that made Evangelical a good choice for me as an obstetrician and an exceptional choice for patients seeking a personal birthing experience,” said Miller.

The birthing room was the beginning of many changes at Evangelical. Other physicians began supporting the idea of a less medicinal, more inviting environment and began purchasing wallpaper and other items to make the room more comfortable. The idea was well-received and soon the hospital had a second birthing room and other hospitals were asking to see the beds in place and how the rooms were used.

The birthing room was the start of a movement toward patient comfort that didn’t feel so much like a hospital setting. That momentum has continued and many of the available services to women today include pre-natal education, classes especially for siblings, having fathers in the room for birth, a greater focus on family, and maternal/infant bonding by having the baby in the room instead of the nursery.

“We’ve seen so many changes, all for a more improved experience for everyone involved,” said Miller. “We cater to each individual woman’s plan for her birthing experience. We try to make this monumental event in their lives be one that they are part of beyond just going through labor by honoring their wishes for how it happens.”

Around 1990 Evangelical’s obstetric unit became known as The Family Place and many of the nurses and unit assistants have continued their careers on the unit and been around to see the changes first hand.

Fast forward to 2014 and the change continues. Renovations on The Family Place that started in December 2012 are nearly complete. Modern birthing rooms and a C-section room on the unit complete the labor and delivery wing. Those rooms are equipped with the latest medical equipment needed for delivering babies while at the same time including rocking chairs and fold out couches for family as they wait through the hours of labor. And the beds aren’t typical hospital beds but instead are designed specifically for women giving birth that bring comfort and provide obstetricians and mid-wives with better birthing positions.

Once delivered, the individual patient rooms now feel more like home with comfortable furnishings and warm colors, complete with new nurse calling systems and temperature controls so each patient can have their own personalized experience. While the comforts of home are there, the safety of the Hospital and medical expertise of the staff is always present.

“Times have changed the way babies are delivered at Evangelical Community Hospital, but the reasons for change remain the same: dedication to the patient, the passion to better serve those needing obstetrical services, and the commitment the Hospital has as a caring and compassionate community hospital,” said Miller.

Evangelical is a non-profit organization that employs approximately 1626 individuals and has more than 170 employed and non-employed physicians on staff. The Hospital is licensed to accommodate 132 overnight patients, 12 acute rehab patients and 18 bassinets. The Hospital serves residents throughout the Central Susquehanna Valley, including those living in Snyder, Union, Northumberland, and Lycoming Counties.

In May of 1979, Elizabeth Pursley of Montandon, center, was the very first woman to deliver a baby in a birthing room designed specifically for patient comfort during labor and delivery at Evangelical Community Hospital. Her daughter, Brandy Pursley, left, was delivered by George Miller, MD, right. Elizabeth and Brandy recently returned to the Family Place at Evangelical Community Hospital to see the new birthing rooms that include the comforts of home like rocking chairs and pull-out couches, bright light from windows, special beds that provide different positions for laboring, and modern equipment to monitor both mom and baby during delivery.