Qualitative Analysis of Registered Nurses’ Perceptions of Lactation Assessment Tools: Why and How They Are Completed

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Background:Although lactation assessment tools are consistently used in clinical practice, there is no evidence describing registered nurses’ perspectives regarding the purpose and thought processes involved when conducting a breastfeeding assessment.Research aim:This study aimed to explore registered nurses’ perceptions on the purpose of lactation assessment tools and the thought processes involved in completing one.Methods:Seven focus groups were held from April 2015 through July 2015, in coordination with regional and international lactation and perinatal conferences. Participants included 28 hospital-based registered nurses who routinely used a lactation assessment tool to assess postpartum mothers with healthy breastfeeding newborns. Focus groups were audiotaped, transcribed verbatim, and content analyzed by two lactation researchers to identify relevant themes and subthemes.Results:The analyses identified four different purposes of breastfeeding assessment tools (Teaching and Assessing Simultaneously, Infant Safety, Standardized Practice, and “It’s Your Job!”) and four themes related to the thought processes used in completing the tool (Novice vs. Expert, Real-Time vs. Recalled Documentation, Observation or Not, and “Fudging the Score”).Conclusion:Registered nurses found lactation assessment tool completion to be an essential part of their job and that it ensured infant safety, standardized care, maternal instruction, and lactation assessment. Differences in the lactation assessment tool completion process were described, based on staff expertise, workload, hospital policies, and varying degrees of compliance with established protocols. These findings provide critical insight for the development of future breastfeeding assessment tools.

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