May 15 2012
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A Nurse-Midwife and a PhD Candidate

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office on Women’s Health has designated May 13 to May 19 as National Women’s Health Week. It is designed to bring together communities, businesses, government, health organizations and others to promote women’s health. The goal in 2012 is to empower women to make their health a top priority. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) Human Capital Blog is launching an occasional series on women’s health in conjunction with the week. This post is by Elisa L. Patterson, MS, CNM, a fellow with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) Nursing and Health Policy Collaborative at the University of New Mexico.

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I have been a certified nurse-midwife for almost 19 years. It is an ingrained part of who I am. I have served women of many different ethnic, socioeconomic, and cultural backgrounds. Being a nurse-midwife embraces my duality of being a nurse and a midwife. I am very proud of these credentials.

As I add to my education in a PhD program – through the RWJF Nursing and Health Policy Collaborative at the University of New Mexico College of Nursing – I have found it a challenge to express in my “elevator speech” how these two credentials enhance my abilities to do policy work. I tried starting with what I am doing as a PhD student at the University of New Mexico. But when I say, “I’m also a nurse–midwife,” listeners seem to tag onto that singular piece of information and forget the rest of the conversation. Then, they might share their personal birth story or one that is a fond memory from a close friend. Or, they might ask me if I deliver babies at home.

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I have not been able to figure out how to combine the important and, to me, impressive fact that while, yes, I am a nurse-midwife, I am also very capable of conversing about, researching and representing many other issues.

The American College of Nurse-Midwives (ACNM) has a way to help me and other nurse-midwives who face this dilemma. Next month at their annual gathering, a public relations campaign will be presented to the membership. It will include a vision, mission statement, and core values. The ultimate goal is to describe the value of nurse-midwives and, in general, support the provision of high-quality maternity care and women’s health services by Certified Nurse-Midwives.

Starting at the grassroots effort of the ACNM organization, I hope this promotion process will amplify the voices of nurse-midwives not only as essential, quality health care providers but also as advocates for women. I hope it will also promote the concept of woman-centered care, and will help ensure woman can access safe, affordable health care.

If so, it will help me refine my “elevator speech” as well so people can better understand all the roles nurse-midwives can play in improving health in our communities and our country.

Follow Elisa Patterson on Twitter: @epattcnm

Tags: Health & Health Care Policy, Health Care Education and Training, New Mexico (NM) M, Nurses and Nursing, Nursing, Nursing and Health Policy Collaborative at the University of New Mexico, Voices from the Field, Women and girls, Women's Health Week