My Specialty

Labor & Delivery, Terri Smith, Huntington Hospital

Leading the Family Birth Center on the night shift

Terri Smith in a white coat stands smiling in front a computer

Terri Smith, RNC
Patient Flow Coordinator, Inpatient Obstetrics
Huntington Hospital, Pasadena

Tell us about the arc of your nursing career journey and how you landed where you are now.

My journey really began during the birth of my first baby. Having never been a patient in a hospital before that, I had no idea that this world even existed!

I fell in love with my new baby boy, and also with the idea that the labor & delivery team had the privilege of sharing such a personal and intimate moment in a total stranger’s life. I was enamored with the experience and knew then that I had to be a part of this world.

When I graduated from nursing school in 1999, I first worked as a medical-surgical nurse, but after a year, I moved into perinatal nursing and trained for my dream job. I had a vision of what L&D nursing was like, and I just had to be a part of it. I couldn’t imagine myself doing anything but this. I was hired at Huntington Hospital in October 2001 and have worked here ever since.

How did your current role come about?

About four years into my career here at Huntington, the opportunity arose for me to become a leader on the unit, and I enthusiastically accepted. My manager at the time must have seen my leadership qualities and took a chance on a newer nurse, and I am so glad that she did. I really admired the charge nurses when I was new to the team, and I continue to have the pleasure of working beside some of them today.

What are your responsibilities in this position?

I am the patient flow coordinator, which is very similar to a charge nurse. I am responsible for coordinating all of the patient flow operations through the antepartum, intrapartum and postpartum periods. There are many daily tasks that must be accomplished in order to maintain a safe and efficient work environment.

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I provide clinical leadership for the Family Birth Center team, in part by promoting teamwork and collaboration in a highly complex environment. I must add that the team I work with is an amazing group of professionals who help me to learn and grow every day! We get through everything together, and they help to “lead” me more than they realize.

Have you always worked the night shift? How does that schedule impact your home/personal life?

Early on, I briefly worked the day shift, but the majority of my career has been night shift. I found that this schedule allowed me more time to spend with my children when they were infants and school-age, which was basically when they needed me the most. I

generally don’t have trouble sleeping after my shift, and am able to flip-flop between night shift and day shift schedules. I realize that I am one of the lucky ones! My husband and my family have always been very protective of my sleep schedule, and I appreciate them very much for that.

In the years you’ve been doing this work, how has L&D changed? What aspects of it do you see evolving over time?

I have seen L&D become more patient- and family-focused, keeping the patient at the center of our decision-making process. Safety is such an important part of the work we do, and there has been a great deal of care and growth in terms of making sure that patients have the best possible outcomes based on best practices.

We’re over a year into the COVID-19 pandemic. What have been the greatest challenges that you, your colleagues and the birthing families have faced?

It has been quite a year, for sure, and it still seems surreal. One of the biggest concerns has been keeping up with the evolving data on how to best keep ourselves and our patients safe. Our leaders have done a fantastic job of providing us with the tools we need to do just that.

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Keeping families together was difficult during the pandemic surges when case numbers were high. Patients were sometimes left to labor without their significant others, in which case we became their “family.” I am proud of our entire Family Birth Center staff and our fearless leaders, and also proud of the community we serve in trusting us enough to get through this together.

Are there any COVID-19-related practice changes on your unit that you think may become permanent? Is there a “new normal” developing?

Early on in the pandemic, our management team created a “Baby Bonding Team,” with the goal of providing our birthing families with information, support and clinical care during their stays, especially through the uncertainty of the pandemic.

These nurses provide one-to-one care immediately following the birth of the baby, to help initiate breastfeeding, promote bonding and support the normal physiological transition of the newborn.

Although we are in a very different place than we were a year ago, the Baby Bonding Team has proven to be an essential part of our patients’ birth experiences.

How can new parents best be guided towards success and happiness with their newborns and growing families?

I see every birth as an awakening for the families. The love that I see in their eyes during the delivery of their babies is a love like no other. Our families are provided with education from the moment they arrive on our unit in preparation for a birth to the moment they take their newborn home.

What are your professional and personal goals for your nursing career?

I am 100 percent content and happy doing exactly what I am doing now. I will continue to grow by staying informed on best practices, but my leaders, the staff I work with, and the families we serve continue to provide me with so many new learning experiences. Of course, being a guest at some of the BEST birthday parties in the universe is also very special to me!

Even after all these years and all the deliveries I’ve been a part of, I feel what a privilege it is to be there for and with the families. I am forever grateful for it all. Sometimes, through the feelings I get during a delivery, I can still catch a glimpse of that new mom that I used to be, who fell in love with a baby being born.

KEITH CARLSON, RN, BSN, CPC, NC-BC, has worked as a nurse since 1996 and has hosted the popular nursing blog Digital Doorway since 2005. He offers expert professional coaching for nurses and nursing students at

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