A few years ago, I had the pleasure of connecting with Jeannie Connolly, the nurse manager of West Florida Hospital. She has such a vision for providing a welcoming and calm place for her patients to that when Pensacola Birth Services decided to do a hospital tour series, I knew that West Florida would be a great place to start.
West Florida Hospital's Labor and Delivery Unit is called The Family Birthplace. It is a smaller unit than many of the other hospitals in our area with an intimate feeling and calm atmosphere. I have always enjoyed attending births there because they strive to treat each patient individually and allow for her desires to be met when possible.
The Birthplace is on the 3rd floor of the main hospital building facing Davis Highway. I am always greeted with smiles and welcomes upon entrance into West Florida. It is arguably one of the easier hospitals to navigate. The elevator is directly behind the welcome desk, and The Birthplace is directly accessible from that main elevator. Upon exiting the elevator, you can either go straight to the waiting room, a comfortably large room, or turn right to enter The Birthplace.
I have taken many naps in all of the hospitals' Labor and Delivery waiting rooms, and West Florida's is one of the more roomy and comfortable ones. There are rarely more than one or two families waiting on the "Baby's Here" announcement and often there is no one in the waiting room.
To enter the unit, you must lift a telephone receiver to tell a nurse at the nurse station who you are. The unit is highly secure and nurses are not afraid to turn away unwelcome guests. They encourage patients to maintain a peaceful and intimate atmosphere and that is often by restricting visitors.
Upon entrance, a long hallway leads down to the nurses station where guests apart from patients and their partners must sign in with a photo ID. I have been to the unit several times both for clients and just to check-in to see what's new, and I have always been greeted with a smile and warm welcome. The nursing staff is on the small side, so I have had the privilege of meeting most of them. I can honestly say that I have not met a nurse who did not seem like she genuinely liked her job and was happy to serve her patients.
The day of this particular tour, I accompanied two of my clients as they did their final step in preparation for their birth. We encourage our clients to do a hospital tour prior to their delivery to be able to ask questions and get a good conceptual idea of what laboring in their chosen birth location would be like. To set up a tour at The Birthplace, you simply call Labor and Delivery at (850) 494-4368 to set an appointment. They ask that you confirm with them an hour prior to your appointment to make sure that they do not have a surge of patients during your scheduled appointment.
Our nurse took her time and answered all of our questions thoroughly. Make sure to write your questions ahead of time, as they can easily be forgotten in the sensory overload of the tour. She started by walking us by the triage room where there are 4 beds. It was occupied at the time, but I know that in the past when I've accompanied clients, it can get a little tight. They do not limit visitors like other hospitals may do in the triage rooms. Beds can be separated by curtains for some privacy. Triage is where you may go in order to be monitored and have an initial cervical check if your labor is spontaneous. If active labor or some other indication for admittance is perceived, then patients are moved to a Labor and Delivery room where they typically will remain for the duration of their stay. Unlike many hospitals, West Florida does not transition patients post-delivery to another unit, which can be quite nice.
Next, we viewed the Operating Room. My clients were planning a vaginal delivery, but it is always nice to view an OR so that if an emergency Cesarean section were to become necessary, there is one less element of unknown and unfamiliarity. They have a singular OR without a separate OR recovery room. They are open to more family-centered C-section procedures such as immediate skin-to-skin and support people present. Because it is smaller, the OR is a little less austere than other in my opinion. Post-op, patients return to an L&D room to recover, so once again, there is a little less musical room hopping at The Birthplace than perhaps other hospitals. At this time, West Florida does not perform vaginal deliveries after cesarean (VBAC).
From the OR, we went down to the end of the unit, which is in the shape of an "L" to view one of their larger rooms. I was happy to see that they had been able to start upgrading furnishing and decorations as they had hoped for the year 2016. For instance, they have started to replace all of the existing pull-out couches with nice, large, and surprisingly comfortable new ones. Comfortable accommodations for support people is hard to come by in our area, but a well-rested partner is just as important as a well-rested patient.
The rest of the room is very standard with a standard L&D bed, monitoring system that is not wireless, and newborn warmer. While intermittent monitoring is very possible at West Florida given a spontaneous and low-risk labor, monitoring must be conducted in the room and close to computer. This does not mean the patients must remain in the bed during monitoring. The Birthplace welcomes and encourages movement and use of such tools as an exercise ball. They do have one on the unit, but it is encouraged that you bring your own for correct sizing and as they cannot guarantee its availability. More pillows can always be requested and come readily available. This is another difference with West Florida that is perhaps underrated. It can be rather difficult to obtain extra pillows in other birth locations, and I often encourage clients to bring their own, but West Florida rarely has pillow shortages.
Another perk to The Birthplace is in-room climate control which can be essential to the hormonally-induced hot and cold flashes in a laboring woman. As far as other accommodations for the natural laborer, women may utilize the shower in the rooms. Some of the rooms have shower/tub combinations and others have large showers. Submersion in the tubs is not permitted at this time. Women may also walk the halls freely during their time when they are not asked to be on the monitor. Rooms are comfortable and large enough to accommodate a wide variety of movement though.
We were able to then visit the nursery which had no babies at the time which is quite often the case. They encourage rooming in with your baby. West Florida does not have a NICU, so for any issues outside of a standard nursery's capability, babies are transported to Sacred Heart Hospital's NICU.
The final part of our tour included a visit to the refreshments room which offers a coffee machine, ice machine, refrigerator, and some other food goods and supplies. I was pleased to learn that patients could bring their own food, label it, and store it in the refrigerator. Prior to delivering at The Birthplace, make sure to discuss what types of food and beverage you may consume with your doctor.
At the end of the tour, the nurse encouraged further questions, and made sure that my clients' knew they could call L&D for any questions they thought of after. We never felt rushed or as if we were inconveniencing anyone. It was wonderful to see my clients respected.
- Labor, birth, and postpartum suites
- Birth ball
- Tub/shower combination bathrooms
- No telemetry monitory
- No VBACS performed
- Easy to navigate hospital
- Friendly Staff
- Comfortable accommodations for support people
- Hospital tours encouraged
- Dr. Jennifer Payne
- Dr. David Mehta
- Dr. James Reynolds
- Gina Pierce, CNM
New Patient: (850) 308-6522
Existing Patient: (850) 969-2038
West Florida Medical Group Obstetrics & Gynecology
8333 N Davis Hwy Fl 2
Pensacola, FL 32514
West Florida Medical Group - Pace
4262 Woodbine Rd
Pace, FL 32571
West Florida Medical Group Obstetrics & Gynecology
4244 Avalon Blvd
Milton, FL 32583