Improving team members’ lactation experience — which supports UVA Health’s 2022-32 Strategic Plan “Best Place to Work” initiative — was one of six ideas selected for implementation by the 2022 Spark Project Team.
During phase one — within six months of the project kick off — the team made significant updates to the lactation spaces around UVA Health, and added the following amenities:
- Side tables for lactation supplies
- Full-length mirrors
- VOIP phones
- Mini refrigerators
- New chairs, dividers, and privacy curtains
- Gender-neutral signage
This project had a big impact on Kate Bidwell Horton, PharmD, BCPS, Medication Use Policy Pharmacist. Her children were born in 2020 and 2022. When Kate returned to work following maternity leave, she used the lactation rooms for 10 months each time, usually three times per day.
As Kate explains, “Returning to work after having a child is complex for so many reasons, but pumping was, by far, one of the biggest challenges for me. There are a lot of logistics to pumping at work and two that caused me a lot of stress were figuring out times to pump during my work day and finding an open lactation room. Dealing with that process multiple times a day for 10 months, all while working, was mentally exhausting at times.”
Online Scheduling and Wayfinding
During phase two of implementation, the project team solicited feedback from team members including Kate: “I took the initial survey and then provided additional details about the logistics of my lactation breaks. These included the frequency of lactation breaks, how I arranged coverage if it was needed, how long each break lasted, and how the time was spent (walking to and from the lactation room, pumping duration, and set up/clean up).”
Many team members shared they did not know whether the lactation rooms were available until after they arrived at the location. If the room was occupied, the team members struggled to find the next closest room to lactate. With time of the essence on team member breaks, this became a significant challenge.
Michele E. Bryant, MS, ATC, CO, recalls, “Occasionally there were some barriers like occupied rooms when I needed one or patient appointments running over, but in these rare cases I fortunately was able to be a little flexible with my time.”
To fix this, UVA Health University Medical Center added scheduling functionality for the 22 lactation rooms, which was made possible through a partnership with Claude Moore Health Sciences Library. The scheduling webpage links are available on UVAHR webpage under “Support for New and Expectant Parents” or KnowledgeLink, and QR codes are posted on the lactation room doors. The spaces are grouped based on locations to make it easier to find relevant rooms for the team members’ workplace.
Lactation rooms also can be located on MazeMap, where team members can see locations mapped out and easily identified with the blue gender-neutral lactation signage.
Lactation Support Policy
As a result of the Lactation Experience Improvement Project, University Medical Center implemented a comprehensive lactation support policy effective Nov. 1, 2023, which emphasizes key elements such as providing reasonable paid lactation breaks with a recommended frequency of at least one break every three hours for a minimum of 30 minutes. Team members are encouraged to coordinate break schedules with supervisors, recognizing the individualized nature of lactation needs.
The policy also states designated lactation rooms are established near team members’ workstations, equipped with essential amenities including a nearby sink, electrical outlet, chair, and a flat surface for pump use. The rooms prioritize cleanliness, privacy, and proximity to a refrigerator for storage.
In terms of pumping and storage, team members are required to provide their own pumping parts, and expressed milk can be stored either in University Medical Center refrigerators (excluding those for patient nourishment or medications) or in the team member’s personal cooler. Finally, the policy also outlines a complaint process, emphasizing that failure to accommodate a team member’s need to express milk could be considered discrimination under the PADH Policy. The full policy is available on PolicyTech. Team members can also provide feedback and address concerns about the lactation rooms to the Lactation Room Oversight Team.
The Lactation Experience Improvement Project is in the very early phases of identifying additional lactation rooms at Fontaine Research Park and in the Battle Building.
Kate recognizes the impact of the project: “I think it’s important UVA Health, as an institution that promotes breastfeeding, ensures its lactating team members are supported adequately throughout their breastfeeding and pumping journeys. The creation of the lactation policy, improvements to lactation rooms, and implementation of online scheduling are a great start to improving the lactation experience for team members at UVA Health. All these factors made my second experience of pumping at work a lot less stressful and I am so grateful for that.”
Michele wants other employers to take note: “There are so many families and mothers who don’t have access to this support and my hope would be that UVA Health’s model can become the norm for more employers and families.”
UVA Health is excited to open the second round of the Spark innovation and ideas competition, which will help bring your great ideas to life. Think of the last time you said, “What if…” or “If only….” Share those thoughts and ideas through the Spark website. This round of the competition has a focus on our research environment. UVA Health wants to hear ideas from every part of the health system. Disrupt the norm, create positive change, and submit your ideas for a chance to win $1,000. Learn more.
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