Parkview recently introduced a new role, intended to help expecting and postpartum mothers identify and secure the critical needs that come with pregnancy. Britte Nihart, nurse navigator supervisor, Women’s & Children’s Hospital, tells us more about the OB nurse navigators and what this offering means for women in the communities we serve.
Who are OB nurse navigators?
The Women’s & Children’s maternal child nurse navigators are a group of RNs with a passion for working with women and families of childbearing age. There are currently six of us, all with backgrounds in obstetric nursing, mental health nursing, surgical and NICU nursing.
What is the purpose of an OB nurse navigator role?
The purpose of the program is to help to identify, and when possible, remove the barriers to obtaining quality prenatal care and to address the various social determinants of health that can impact the health of women and their pregnancy outcomes. We help with this by connecting (or “navigating”) patients to programs and resources in their communities that are available to help them with their particular needs. We then remain available for questions or to help out in other ways if new circumstances arise. Our ultimate goal is to reduce the infant mortality rate in Indiana, but that involves much more than just the infant.
What are some examples of support you provide to families prior to delivery?
We screen pregnant patients early in their pregnancies, and again later in the pregnancy, for needs such as food insecurity, safe housing, reliable transportation to get to medical appointments, as well as mental health needs, substance use and financial needs. We then provide referrals for resources to help families in any of those areas.
For example, we can provide everything from information on how to apply for WIC, to assistance with getting their needed baby supplies, to connecting them with a maternal recovery specialist if they need support to stop using drugs or alcohol. We really try to find them assistance with any issue they’re having.
What are some examples of support you provide to families postpartum?
We remain available to patients in the postpartum period, for any questions or concerns they may have. They can call or text us whenever questions or concerns come up. For example, we can provide information for local breastfeeding support groups or lactation consultants, or counseling options for a new mom struggling with postpartum depression. In the world we live in, many new mothers no longer have a large extended family nearby to help them. We try to get these moms involved in programs that will provide mentorship and connection throughout this time, so they don’t have to do it alone.
What are some other resources you are able to provide families?
We can connect them to programs that help with depression, anxiety, building healthy relationships, smoking (or vaping) cessation, prenatal and breastfeeding education, safe sleep programs, and we also have social workers to help them navigate difficult situations that might involve substance abuse, homelessness or domestic violence, as well as community health workers who can assist with finding jobs, food, subsidized housing, transportation, and more. Allen County really offers some wonderful programs that will support these families. We just guide them to find what’s available and then follow up to make sure they have gotten connected.
How do you get connected with an OB nurse navigator?
Currently, we screen and reach out to all pregnant women who come in for prenatal care to a PPG – OB/GYN office in Allen County. We are working on extending this to all PPG OB providers in the region.
Why is it important to support women and families during this time in their life?
Infant mortality is an important indicator of the overall health of a region. Sadly, Indiana ranks 41st in the U.S. for infant mortality (as of 2020, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). While we know that good medical care is an important aspect of having a healthy pregnancy, we are trying to look at the needs of the woman and her family, outside of just medical care and really try to look at the whole picture of what is impacting these families during the year encompassing pregnancy and postpartum.
We are hoping that by supporting women and families during this crucial time, by asking them what they need and then helping them get connected to those resources and remaining available to them throughout pregnancy and postpartum, we can begin to move that rate in the right direction, as well as leaving these families, including their newest member, in a better place than they were before they came to Parkview.