Amy Hailey couldn't figure out why the woman in front of her kept turning around. The occasional glances during the church service had thrown Hailey off guard. She started questioning whether she had done something to offend this person.
"I thought maybe my children were misbehaving," recalled Hailey.
But soon after the service was over, the woman came over to break the ice.
"Your picture is posted in my daughter's room," she told Hailey, "you delivered her 13 years ago."
This happening is one of the many stories Hailey, MS, RN,C, has accumulated over her two decades of nursing.
"It just illustrates how women's health nurses impact the lives of women and their families," said the director of women and infants' services at Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital Fort Worth, who has built a career in this area of care.
Falling in Love
But working in the nursing field wasn't always foremost in Hailey's mind. In the mid-1980s, she showed up for freshman orientation at Texas Christian University (TCU) with her heart set on being a teacher.
"But when they handed out advisors, I was assigned to a member of the nursing faculty who asked me, 'Why don't you try this elective class in human growth and development?'" she said. "That course was taught by a wonderful instructor who took us through the human lifespan and talked a little about nursing. I was hooked before I knew it. I changed my major to nursing immediately and have never regretted it."
Hailey's first exposure to women's health came during her student days when she took a position as a hospital scrub tech in labor and delivery.
"That's where I fell in love with the whole childbirth experience," she said. "[In labor and delivery] you're there at the very beginning of a child's life, whether it's happy or sad. You're there to support the whole family, and make a difference in how that family begins bonding and interacting with their new baby."
After graduating from the TCU nursing program in 1989, Hailey began her career as an L&D nurse at Texas Health Harris Methodist Fort Worth. She worked there for 8 years before taking on a new role as clinical service coordinator working with population of high-risk mothers.
"I was really challenged as I cared for these very ill women at various stages of pregnancy, using my critical thinking and creativity to get them as far along in pregnancy as possible," she said.
When Hailey accepted her current management role in 2005, she gained a broader perspective of women and infants' health.
"It's not just about L&D," she explained. "It's about the care of the mother during the antepartum and post-partum periods, and the babies in the NICU as well. And women's health deals with the aging female and what she faces as she moves along in life."
All in One Place
The recent $17 million renovation of the Harris Methodist Forth Worth Jones Tower has allowed Hailey and her colleagues to create a Center for Women and Infants Health, a fully functioning facility that offers services such as obstetric services, high-risk care, infertility treatment, gynecological services, wellness programs and nurse-midwife options.
"We know women make the healthcare decisions in most families, so it's important to do everything we can to make their experience at our hospital as positive as possible," Hailey said. "We really listened to the women we serve, holding focus groups with patients along the continuum of women's health. What they wanted was a hospital that was warm and welcoming, and we created our new environment with those wishes in mind. For example, we have a Healing Arts Center that offers aromatherapy and massage therapy."
Patients have responded positively to the centralized services in the new center, Hailey added.
"While there are some reasons to admit women to specialty areas - say to CCU after an MI - we believe women coming in for hysterectomies and breast surgeries belong in women's health, not in the general surgical population," she said.
Welcome to Women's Health
The facility also provides a good environment for nursing students to grow.
"We offer a 3-month internship for new grads that includes classroom learning and then mentoring in our women's health areas," said Hailey. "I recently told a nursing management student that a year of med/surg would help a novice nurse develop competencies and develop skills in critical thinking and time management. That being said, I went straight into OB and a facility like Harris Methodist Fort Worth has the resources to back up other new grads as well."
And not all of these students and new grads are of the female persuasion.
"There's still some discomfort on the part of our male nursing students in the L&D environment, but we've hired some who do well and the women love them," said Hailey. "Where we do tend to see our male nurses is in the NICU."
When talking with nurses who are considering women's health as a career, Hailey encourages them to do as she did: follow their hearts.
"If there's something you really love, you should go for it." she said.
Sandy Keefe is a frequent contributor at ADVANCE.