Laborists are doctors who deliver babies.

You’re probably thinking: Isn’t that the same thing as an OB/GYN?

It is. The difference is that laborists don’t typically see patients in a doctor’s office. They work almost exclusively in a hospital setting — just delivering babies and managing other OB/GYN emergencies.

Dr. Shannon Zona recently returned to the Triad from Kansas City, Missouri, to join Novant Health Kernersville Medical Center as a laborist at the hospital’s new maternity program that launched in March.

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Before moving to the Midwest, the former Dr. Shannon Mattern delivered hundreds of babies in her nearly 20 years in private practice in High Point. The mom of two sons – a 15-year-old and a 17-year-old headed to UNC Chapel Hill this fall – remarried in July. She has a new husband, new name and, as of early May, a new job.

When Zona’s children were entering junior high and high school a few years ago, she had begun to feel private practice wasn’t ideal for her family life. “I wanted more established hours and to actually be able to make it to some of my kids’ events,” she said. At that time, the laborist model had not expanded to the smaller community hospitals in the Piedmont Triad.

Dr. Shannon Zona wears a white coat and smiles.
Dr. Shannon Zona

“That’s what led me to Kansas City. I grew up in the Midwest, and we have season tickets to University of Missouri football and the Kansas City Current women’s soccer games. I Googled ‘OB hospitalist Kansas City,’ which sounds completely nuts. But I found an opening for a laborist in a suburban community hospital just beginning to employ this model.”

Before that, Zona had always been a traditional OB/GYN who divided her time between clinic and a hospital. But focusing on delivering babies and managing patients in the hospital greatly appealed to her. When she’s at the hospital full-time, she can be completely engaged and present for patients.

Historically, OB triage nurses assess a patient’s condition and then contact the OB on call. In the laborist model, no one’s waiting for the on-call OB to arrive. He or she is already at the hospital and able to provide more immediate care.

The laborist model benefits the OB/GYN, the rest of the labor and delivery team and, most importantly, the patient. Some women become close with their OB/GYNs and are understandably disappointed to learn their OB won’t deliver their baby. In truth, however, women often don’t have their baby delivered by their OB/GYN because he or she is not on call when the moment arrives.