The doctors, nurses, and other staff in the hospital determine the character and feel of a hospital. Sometimes just walking through the halls will give you a sense that the hospital is concerned about its patients. In others, one gets a cold and aloof feeling. The personnel of a hospital make a large difference in the care you receive.
For example, Cesarean section rates among hospitals vary even after adjusting for differences in the types of patients they treat. Some of this is due to subtle differences among patients, but it is also related to the practice styles and habits of the physicians and personnel.
The rate of epidural anesthesia also varies by hospital. Epidural anesthesia is thought by some to increase the length of labor and to increase the likelihood of a cesarean section or the need to use forceps. Many hospitals keep statistics on the rates of these interventions. Just knowing that the hospital monitors these interventions says something about their commitment to quality. Interpreting the statistics is beyond the ability of many professionals and most lay people; however, if epidural anesthesia is a major concern, you can ask for the data and ask your doctor or midwife to help you understand it.
The percentage of mothers who successfully breastfeed their infants varies among hospitals. Part of this variation depends on the practices of the hospital where the baby is born. The World Health Organization (WHO) encourages breastfeeding in all nations as a way to improve the health of babies. WHO has developed 10 criteria for awarding hospitals the baby-friendly designation. Hospitals that do not meet these criteria are not necessarily "unfriendly," they just have not adopted WHO's recommendations. The hospital you choose can make a difference in how successful you will be in breastfeeding your baby. If this is important to you, ask your doctor about it.
Meeting Hospital Personnel
Many hospitals sponsor events that allow you to get acquainted with doctors and nurses before you are admitted in labor. You can obtain some idea of the style and approach of the doctor and other personnel at these meetings. Try asking a few questions and see how they are answered.