The Frontier community is proud to have students and alumni serving on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic. Throughout the next few weeks, we are committed to sharing their stories in order to provide insight, hope and encouragement. Thank you to all the health care workers who are risking their own well-being daily to serve our nation. Click here to read more stories of courage and dedication.
Even in the best of times and conditions, expectant mothers understandably experience a range of emotions such as excitement, fear, joy and uncertainty. Now, many are facing an additional stress element in the form of the COVID-19 pandemic, and it’s a fear understood and, at times, shared by their providers.
“Each new day brings a heightened level of concern from our families and while we try to practice social distancing; birth is a very intimate process,” said Dolores (Dee) J. Polito, APRN, CNM, who is the Director and Chief Midwife at the University of Kentucky Midwife Clinic in Lexington, Ky.
“Mostly we are seeing high levels of anxiety among staff and patients both. It is difficult to maintain a calm demeanor when staff is anxious about exposure and to encourage staff to portray calmness to patients for their care is challenging. I work with an amazing team of CNMs (FNU graduates JoAnne B. Burris, APRN, CNM, Class 130 and Hayden Murrell Meza, APRN, CNM, Class 136, along with Chrissie Adams, CNM). They demonstrate strength and creativity and I am proud of their responsiveness, dedication and perseverance. They inspire me to be innovative and I wouldn’t want to be in a crisis with anyone else.”
Dee, who received a certificate in midwifery from Frontier Nursing University (FNU) in 1997 and is certified by the American Midwifery Certification Board, offers both pregnancy support and non-pregnancy services at the UK Midwife Clinic. For women with healthy, normal pregnancies, the certified nurse-midwives provide care and guidance through the pregnancy, up to and including delivery.
In 2019, Dee completed the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) training to be able to prescribe Buprenorphine, allowing her “to create a midwifery-led centering model of group care for pregnancy in the setting of substance abuse with the support of medication-assisted therapy.”
The ability to understand and adjust to the needs of the women and families in her career has always been important, but never more critical than in the midst of the pandemic. Dee credits FNU with helping furnish her with the skills to face this challenge.
“FNU prepared me for my role as a leader and an advocate for women and families in their independent, community-based learning platform,” Dee said.
“When I was a student, we sent our assignments to our faculty by snail mail and it seemed innovative at the time. The innovation and creativity it took to translate midwifery education to a community-based model was unique at the time and those same traits were instilled into me as a student. Being innovative and creative is a requirement when faced with the challenges and uncertainty of the global health crisis for COVID-19.”
Part of that innovation for Dee and her team has been the implementation of Telehealth to reduce risk of exposure.
“We are responding to many patient concerns about keeping their pregnancies healthy and safe and we are having to be creative in getting patients the care they need,” Dee said.
“Telehealth is teaching us that this may be a valuable tool in how we provide care. There have been wrinkles to iron out and we continue to learn how to make the experience better and how to meet all the requirements for appropriate and timely billing. Telehealth will be a part of our services going forward.”
Even though there is fear and uncertainty every day for Dee, her patients and her staff, Dee leads the way, understanding that she has been prepared to handle this challenge. Experience, training, education, innovation, and leadership are just some of the tools she has acquired throughout her career to give her the confidence to face the COVID-19 pandemic day after day.
“I was a student of Kitty Ernst,” Dee said. “She was my faculty for the Birth Center Course. She was perhaps the most influential force to prepare me for my role now.”
“During Midwifery Bound, Kitty met with a small group of students and talked to us about our journey to midwifery school. She asked, ‘What important thing have you done in your life?’. I responded that I hadn’t really done anything important in my life thus far. She asked, ‘Are you a mother?’ and I responded that I was indeed a mother. She exclaimed, ‘Then you have done the most important thing in the world. You are a mother.’”
“From then on,” Dee continued, “I felt empowered, inspired and motivated to achieve any goal I set for myself.”
What is a Certified Nurse-Midwife (CNM)?