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Nursing Resources by Type of Maternity Unit Across Regions of the United States

Written by: Rebecca R.S. Clark, Morgan E. Peele, Eileen T. Lake
Published on: Jul 20, 2022

nurse with couple and newborn baby
Photo credit: Tyler Olson/Adobe Stock


To examine variation in nursing resources across three different types of maternity units in five regions of the United States.


Cross-sectional descriptive.


Maternity units in hospitals in 48 states and the District of Columbia that participated in the 2016 National Database of Nursing Quality Indicator survey.


Staff nurses (N = 19,486) who worked in 707 maternity units.


We conducted a secondary analysis of survey data examining nursing resources (work environment, staffing, education, specialty certification) by type of maternity unit, including labor and delivery, labor/delivery/recovery/postpartum, and postpartum. We used descriptive statistics and analysis of variance.


Participants worked in 707 units (269 labor and delivery units, 164 labor/delivery/recovery/postpartum units, and 274 postpartum units) in 444 hospitals. The work environment was not significantly different across unit types (mean = 2.89–2.94, p = .27). Staffing, education, and specialty certification varied significantly across the unit types (p ≤ .001). In terms of staffing, postpartum units had, on average, almost twice the number of patients per nurse as labor and delivery units (7.51 patients/nurse vs. 4.01 patients/nurse, p ≤ .001) and 1.5 times more patients than labor/delivery/recovery/postpartum units (5.04 patients/nurse vs. 4.01 patients/nurse, p ≤ .001).


Nursing resources varied significantly across types of maternity units and regions of the United States. This variation suggests that improving nursing resources may be a system-level target for improving maternity care in the United States.

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