Black Maternal Health Week 2024: How an Overlake RN is Working to Make a Difference Nationally

print page Print

During this year’s recognition of Black Maternal Health Week, we are pleased to spotlight the incredible work of Bethany Van Baak, RN, who championed critical research on this important topic.

Van Baak, who works in Overlake’s Emergency Department, authored an article in the Journal of Obstetric, Gynecologic & Neonatal Nursing, making a candid call for change in the healthcare industry to reduce the alarmingly high and disproportionate rates of maternal mortality among Black patients.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), In the United States, Black women are three times more likely to die from pregnancy-related complications than white women for a variety of reasons including, variation in quality healthcare access, chronic conditions, institutional racism and implicit bias.

Van Baak worked alongside fellow Seattle University students to write a final paper on this subject while they were in nursing school—specifically focusing on the role racism places in the mortality disparity Black women face during pregnancy. Their research details the critical role that perinatal nurses play in the “care of advocacy for, and research with Black women in the perinatal period.”  

According to the students’ research, many nurses reported feeling “detached” from the life-threatening inequities Black women face, so they created a five-step nursing action guide to address the issue. The guide is aligned with the Future of Nursing report and the American Nurses Association Code of Ethics and recommends nursing activities focusing on the following topics: 

  • Understanding drivers of health inequities among Black women.
  • Reflecting upon implicit bias.
  • Using respectful care frameworks with Black women.
  • Conducting ethical research.
  • Advocating for change.

View the action guide to learn more about Van Baak’s research on Black maternal health.