Onidis Lopez is a Frontier Nursing University (FNU) master of science in nursing (MSN), doctor of nursing practice (DNP) alumna, but she was a midwife long before arriving at FNU for Frontier Bound. Born and raised in South Florida, Lopez grew up in a lower-income community that worked together to build each other up. Lopez’s grandmother was known as the ‘community grandmother.’ She was a voice of reason and a helper; the person called whenever someone needed advice or had a life event. By the time Lopez was 15, whenever her grandmother received a call about a birth in the community, Lopez was the one sent to help.
“I remember always feeling drawn towards pregnant women,” Lopez says. “As a child, I was imitated by adults and didn’t like being around them, but whenever I saw a pregnant woman, I felt at ease. I would go up to them and ask them questions; I was so excited to learn more about their baby.”
Lopez remembers skipping school to help with births. She was there to welcome every one of her nieces and nephews into the world and even recalls abruptly leaving a club with her college friends to assist with the birth of her cousin’s child. However, as much as she loved helping mommas and newborns, she didn’t initially believe she wanted to be a doctor.
“When my sister was giving birth, I saw the doctor come in for the last few minutes, and I thought, I don’t want to do that. I wondered if there was a job out there for someone like me who wanted to support the mother and child through the whole pregnancy,” Lopez said.
Lopez initially went to college for architecture, but in 2002 she finally followed her calling and enrolled in Miami college for her associate’s degree in midwifery.
Because of Lopez’s experience in hospitals during births, she did not initially believe she was interested in a nursing degree. However, Lopez greatly admired her midwifery professor, Diana Gregory, and one day while visiting her office, she noticed the degree on Gregory’s wall. Gregory had graduated from FNU.
“I thought to myself then, if I ever do decide to become a certified nurse-midwife, I’ll go to Frontier,” Lopez said.
In the meantime, Lopez worked closely with families providing home births through a birth center. In 2012 she decided to further her knowledge of midwifery and enrolled at Frontier. Lopez chose FNU for its strong history of success, the program’s flexibility and the excellent example of midwifery that her professor had provided.
Today Lopez is a certified DNP, APRN, CNM-BC working at St. Lucie Women and Children Center in St. Lucie, Fla., where she still holds close to her midwifery roots.
“That is who I am at heart. I use that presence to calm the mommas and the families; if something doesn’t go as planned, that’s okay. I will walk with them through the halls and talk with them; I tell them this is their body, and we will work with it. It isn’t about getting an IV at the right time, or having a certain number of nurses, it is about bringing new life to this world,” Lopez says.
For Lopez’s DNP project, Reducing Primary Cesareans: Improving Patient-Centered Care By Standardizing The Induction of Labor Processes, she worked to bring the sense of compassion and community that she has used her whole life into the hospital setting.
“The goal of my program was to create shared decision making between the clinician and the patient, so many times the physician will say ‘this or that happened so we are inducing you’ without explaining or asking the patient how they feel. I believe the patient should have a larger role in their birth experience.”
Through Lopez’s project, the Primary C-section rate at the trial locations decreased from 24.4 percent to 16 percent in just eight weeks. Lopez found that patients were unlikely to argue with a sudden C-section option when feeling pressured by healthcare workers. However, when presented with all of the information and given a choice, many women chose to wait and had equally successful pregnancies.
As the first member of her family to attend college, encouraging others to be their best self is extremely important to Lopez. As her interview closed, Lopez ended with a heartwarming story of the power of representation.
“In our area, we regularly see a population of indigenous people who have children at a very young age. Recently I assisted 16 and 19-year-old sisters with their births just months apart. When the 19-year-old came in, their mother recognized me and introduced me to her younger girls, ages seven and 10. The 10-year old looked at me, surprised to see someone who looked like her in a leadership role at the hospital; she asked, ‘You’re the midwife?’
“I told her that I was and that I would make a deal with her- I would deliver her baby too, but only after she came back to me with two diplomas, one from high school and one from college.”
“The next day, I saw her mother again while performing her sister’s post-partum check-up. The girl’s mother told me that the night after I spoke with the 10-year old, she announced at dinner, ‘Dad, I’m not going to have a baby until I go to college and have two diplomas. I think that’s really important.’
“When I heard that, I got goosebumps. In my career, I want to help as many mothers find comfort as I can, but if I can also help little girls see a bigger future for themselves, that makes me feel truly wonderful.”
Lopez was recently the featured nurse-midwife in the American College of Nurse-Midwives’ (ACNM) Quickening publication and was invited to represent her area on the ACNM’s Midwives of Color Committee.
FNU is unbelievably proud of Lopez and her many accomplishments. We believe that she will continue to promote positive change throughout the healthcare community and help lead nursing and midwifery towards a brighter future.
To find out more about other compassionate and driven FNU alumni, visit the alumni news page.