Andrea Shea | RN, C-EFM
Learn How Andrea Shea, RN, C-EFM Contributes to the Reiter & Walsh, P.C. Birth Injury Legal Team
Andrea Shea is a licensed Registered Nurse (RN) and maintains a certification in Electronic Fetal Monitoring (C-EFM). She reviews our clients’ medical records to determine whether errors may have occurred during labor and delivery. Read about her experience as a labor and delivery nurse, clinical instructor, and investigator of birth injury cases.
“It was all very sudden…I was unprepared for it,” recounts Andrea Shea, of giving birth to twins via emergency C-section when she was only 21. She remembers that the experience was quite overwhelming as a young person without a medical background. But throughout her daughters’ three-week stay in the hospital, the nurses patiently helped her to acclimate, encouraged her to visit frequently, and taught her how to properly care for premature babies.
The time she spent observing and communicating with those nurses sparked an interest in the medical world. However, as far as her own career went, Andrea had other plans. “I wanted to be a police officer or a lawyer,” she says. “Different things motivate different people: I’m driven by a need for justice and equality, and to feel like I’m helping people.”
That goal was put on hold while she cared for the twins, and then two additional children. In her thirties, she began to reconsider her options. Andrea decided on a path that would allow her to have a positive impact on others: nursing. In particular, she wanted to help other women navigate the beginning of motherhood.
With this goal in mind, she chose to pursue a Second Degree Accelerated Bachelor’s in Nursing from Oakland University with a focus on obstetrics, the branch of medicine concerned with childbirth. After receiving her degree, she began working in the labor and delivery unit at St. Joseph Mercy Hospital in Ann Arbor, MI.
Andrea emphasizes that being a medical professional, especially in a labor and delivery unit, is an incredible responsibility. “People think that being a labor and delivery nurse is all happy – sharing joy and being around babies.” While her job was often very enjoyable, she says, it was not carefree. Working in a labor and delivery unit requires very specialized training, and Andrea treated many patients with high-risk pregnancies. Every day, she had to carefully watch for subtle signs of deterioration in the mothers and babies. Cutting corners could have spelled catastrophe.
“I have heard many more experienced nurses teaching new nurses and saying things like, ‘There’s the way we’re supposed to do things, and then the way we actually do things,’” Andrea says. “I always did things the way we were supposed to.” She recalls that one of her professional mentors had instilled this sense of meticulousness in her.
Soon, Andrea would have the opportunity to do the same with her own students, from her alma mater. The Oakland faculty had reached out and offered her a position as clinical instructor, teaching Obstetrical Nursing on her unit at St. Joe’s. She was pleased to accept.
Although Andrea told her students that she was a “rule follower” – whether that meant carefully following the steps of a medical procedure or “filling out every piece of documentation that exists” – she did not do so blindly.
“I personally was somebody who questioned doctors, questioned systems,” she says.
To this day, one system that particularly troubles Andrea is how, in hospitals all over the country, staffing has been determined in large part based on poorly thought out models. Labor and delivery units tend to be short-staffed at night. While some hospital units can safely increase the nurse: patient ratio at night because people are sleeping, labor and delivery does not work that way. Laboring patients do not sleep much, and require the same 1:1 care on both shifts. Furthermore, there are fewer physicians on the unit at night, so nursing vigilance is critical. Andrea mentions that some nurses would feel empowered by their ability to handle more responsibility, and almost wore it like a badge of honor. “They think they can handle it, so they don’t complain,” she says. “But I think it’s really unsafe.”
Andrea notes that more and more people are realizing that this is problematic, and their concern is reflected in changes to hospitals’ policies. But the only thing that really ensures that hospitals and medical professionals increase their safety measures, she stresses, is facing accountability for mistakes that should not have happened. It’s the only way to prevent needless harm to patients.
When Andrea saw the opening for a position as an on-staff labor and delivery nurse at Reiter & Walsh, P.C. she was instantly struck by how well it combined her early interest in the justice system with her expertise in medicine. The team at Reiter & Walsh, P.C. agreed that Andrea was an excellent candidate.
Now, Andrea works closely with our lawyers to evaluate sensitive and complex birth injury cases. She spends weeks to months looking through medical records for a variety of potential errors. Her familiarity with labor and delivery, the hospital setting, and working with patients helps to create a more complete picture of our clients’ stories.
“I can pick up on things that are wrong, that are subtle nuances, that other people who don’t have the medical background can’t,” Andrea says. “When I’m reading the records, it comes to life. Like when you are reading a book about a place you’ve visited before or a thing you’ve done, you can really see it. And that’s how it is for me.”
Because of Andrea and Lesley Atton, the on-staff intake nurse at Reiter & Walsh, our lawyers are able to delve much deeper into the cases than they would without a medical team. We are able to secure more resources for our clients, so that they can have better care throughout their lives.