Dignity From the First Breath

It’s week three of our #ebnjc December blog series which celebrates the inspiring contributions that nurses and midwives make across a variety of settings. 

Thus far we have celebrated children’s nursing with blogs from Jayne Pentin, Kirsten Huby & Marcus Wootton, as well as learning disability nursing with blogs from Professor Ruth Northway, Jonathan Beebee & Amy Wixey.

This week our #ebnjc blog series focused on midwifery and we have already shared blogs from Louise Silverton CBE & Gina Novick.  Today we are delighted to bring you a blog from Lynsey Wilgaus, a student midwife from Queen’s University Belfast, on the topic of dignity.

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Dignity from the First Breath

Dignity ‘is concerned with how people feel, think and behave in relation to the worth or value of themselves,’ (RCN, 2008, pg8). Considering dignity from this individual perspective alone, some outside the nursing profession may believe that it is not something we need contemplate in regards the care of infants from birth as developmentally they lack the cognitive capacity to consider at the depth of ‘self-worth.’ However, does that really mean that dignity in their care is not as important for them as it is to you or me as adults?

As a prospective children and young people’s nurse, in my second year of study, I am proud to say that dignified care was absolutely at the forefront of holistic nursing care for children and young people from my recent experience in clinical practice. While observing an unwell baby receiving immediate and invasive care shortly after birth, I noticed a nurse immediately place a screen around the area. I turned to see who she was shielding the infant from. I expected to see the prying eyes of visiting parents, but there were none; a visiting allied health professionals tending to other babies, but there were none; other nurses in the room, but again, there were none. I quickly realised in this single and thoughtful act that the nurse was not protecting this baby’s dignity because she needed to but because it is what the baby deserved; a basic right that needs preserved and maybe even more so for those who cannot cognitively consider their own ‘self-worth.’ In that exact moment of realisation I felt a sense of pride for the profession I hope to embark upon, pride not only as a prospective children and young people’s nurse but also as a mother.

I reflected on this experience and committed to always preserve the dignity of my patients to a standard of this exemplar and embrace the meaning of dignity in its entirety. Dignity is equally concerned about how people feel, think and behave in relation to the worth or value of others and how they treat them as a consequence, (RCN, 2008).

Royal College of Nursing (2008) Dignity: At the heart of everything we do


Lynsey Wilgaus


Check out EBN’s own top 5 recommended resources on midwifery below:

  1. Hoyer, B. (2015) Fever during pregnancy linked to child motor development, Evidence Based Nursing, E-Published Ahead of Print.
  2. Creedy, D. and Gamble, J. (2015) A third of midwives who have experienced traumatic perinatal events have symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, Evidence Based Nursing, E-Published Ahead of Print.
  3. James, J. (2015) Review: higher caffeine intake during pregnancy increases risk of low birth weight, Evidence Based Nursing, 18, (4).
  4. Pivarnik, J. and Conway, M. (2015) Review: Structured physical activity during pregnancy reduced risk of caesarean delivery, Evidence Based Nursing, 18, (4).
  5. EBN Associate Editor Allison Shorten’s Podcast with Dr. Middeldorp on The risk of venous thromboembolism for women who are hospitalised during pregnancy.

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