Frontier Nursing University (FNU) Alumni Christina Felten, DNP, CNM, RNC-OB, has spent her career serving others. At the time of her high school graduation, she was a nurse’s aide who quickly became an EMT. However, her life changed when she was floated to labor and delivery and fell in love with supporting women during birth.
“I had already been accepted into a different program at Bloomsburg University, but after spending some time in the labor unit, I knew I had found my calling. I got in touch with the nursing department and convinced them to let me switch programs,” Felten said.
However, before Felten finished earning her degree, the twin towers were struck in NYC, and Felten was called to another form of service. She quickly signed up to join the navy and was caring for wounded soldiers within a few short months as a Naval Nurse Corps Officer.
While Felten thrived tending to the soldiers, she admits that her heart knew labor was where she was meant to serve.
“Although it was extremely difficult for me to leave the soldiers, I had never lost my passion for labor and delivery. I put in for multiple transfers and was eventually sent to the post-partum floor. However, as soon as my patients were tucked in for the night, I shadowed the labor and delivery nurses because I knew that was what I really wanted to,” Felten said.
Despite it being incredibly challenging to work through school while in the Navy, Felten set her mind to it when she found out about FNU- although she admits she didn’t entirely know what she was signing up for.
“When I saw FNU’s nurse-midwifery program I thought it sounded exactly like what I wanted to do. I wasn’t sure what a nurse-midwife was, but the description fit like a glove, so I went for it,” Felten laughed.
Later in her career, Felten’s unexpected midwifery path would play to her advantage. Felten was the first midwife to be hired by the Lehigh Valley Physician Group, and she did so by explaining midwifery to those less familiar with the practice.
“When I applied for the job, they initially weren’t looking for a midwife, so I explained, I’m essentially a nurse-practitioner who delivers babies. And it worked,” Felten said.
Felten knew that being the first midwife would come with challenges, and it took time for the hospital to understand her value.
“For years, I was just doing postpartum rounds and seeing patients in the office, which wasn’t what I signed up for, I wanted to deliver babies,” Felten said.
Felten even left Lehigh for a time to work elsewhere. However, following her absence, the hospital hired another FNU alumni, Sherilyn Gibbs, DNP, CNM, who really transformed the program. Shortly after Gibbs was hired, Felten received a phone call asking her to return to Lehigh Valley.”
“What we have now is a true collaboration between the doctors and the midwives,” Felten said. “We have become ingrained in the culture of the hospital so that patients and healthcare workers who might not have known much about midwifery, now see us at work and realize we are educated professionals,” Felten said.
According to Felten, COVID-19 only enhanced this sense of togetherness. “During COVID, there was no room for ‘Us vs. Them’ mentality,” Felten said. “We have all been one team throughout the pandemic.”
“That doesn’t mean this year wasn’t hard though,” Felten said. “Some days, it was easy to feel bitter when we were working overtime while so many others were staying at home. Some days felt lonely; as midwives, we love bonding with our patients, and the layers of PPE made everything feel distant. We’ve had to reevaluate so much of what we do.”
Felten said that on her most challenging days, she would think back to a memorable patient experience from early in her health care journey. When Felten was serving injured soldiers, she treated a man from Pittsburgh whose leg was damaged by an IED explosion. He always enjoyed her accent and called her Nurse Philly.
One night she heard him screaming for ‘Nurse Philly’, and when she went to him, he was watching a video someone had sent him of the blast that left him scarred. He was frightened and just needed someone to hold his hand.
Years later, he requested Felten to assist his wife with the birth of their twins. During that much happier time, she was able to again hold his hand.
“What I’ve realized is that life doesn’t always turn out as you expect, and sometimes you might not feel like you’re in the right place, but life has a way of circling back around. If you follow the path your heart is leading you towards, it’s amazing the way things line up,” Felten says.