The Frontier community is proud to have students and alumni serving on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic. 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.
There’s no doubt that the COVID-19 pandemic has changed life as we know it, but for many Frontier Nursing University (FNU) graduates and faculty, their call to serve has remained the same. This especially rings true for Greta Cohn Gill MSN, CNEP Class 25.
Gill is a nurse-midwife and service director at El Rio Health, the largest and oldest midwifery service in Southern Arizona. She has had the privilege of caring for a wide range of patients – from Air force pilots, engineers, and professors to refugees, unaccompanied minors, people suffering from substance use disorder, and homelessness. Her midwifery team places a high priority on education, honoring patient preferences and role modeling health to influence long term outcomes for families.
Baseline community health needs have remained constant during the pandemic. Responding to the crisis and meeting baseline needs has required flexibility and creativity in the delivery of services.
“We were part of a relatively well-coordinated public health response initially,” said Gill. “Unfortunately, location mitigation orders were lifted without safeguards in place. Now we are experiencing a surge and remain in the first wave of the pandemic.”
As this first wave continues, Gill’s diligence has as well. Her clinical team, consisting of seven FNU alumni, two FNU faculty, and three FNU students, was able to leverage existing innovations and rapidly adapt.
“We have nurse-midwives on our team with health vulnerabilities. We needed to deploy our resources in a conservative and thoughtful manner. We have altered our on-call staffing to meet the needs of our mothers while lowering unnecessary exposure for the workforce. Our Centering program continues on Zoom. All of our nurse-midwives are able to meet with a client virtually. We were already offering early discharge in our alongside midwifery unit and we are pleased that more families are choosing this. And of course, there is an endless effort towards COVID testing and supporting those who are sick.”
She would never wish for a pandemic, but she is choosing to look at the bright side of how it’s transformed care.
The pandemic has required our team to examine institutionalized patterns, habits, and workflows. We laser-focused on the truly necessary components of maternity care. The pandemic has been a challenge but also an opportunity to remodel maternity care. We have become more honest about what mothers really need to have good outcomes.”, she said.
In 2020, El Rio Health celebrates its 50th birthday. The health center’s mission to care for the vulnerable in Tucson has never been more urgent. Currently, 25% of the clients at the health center test positive for the virus. In response, Gill and her team have rapidly adjusted to the changes in clinical practice.
“Nurse midwives are calm under pressure. I would bet our resilience is higher than in other professions. We find joy in being with families and this brings balance the constant clinical pressures that came with COVID 19,” Gill said.
Adaptations have made their way into the lives and rituals of the midwives. They even threw a drive-by baby shower to celebrate a CNM colleague who recently gave birth in their CABC accredited Alongside Midwifery Unit.
The crisis has also brought hope to the El Rio Midwives. They plan to leverage the great changes that happened as a result of COVID-19 and transform maternity care delivery.
“Generally innovative change is slow and incremental. COVID 19 has proven that we can and must do better without delay,” Gill said.
Beyond changes to maternity care delivery, Gill is also an advocate for growing the midwifery workforce locally. She has a vision of mentoring young people of color through nursing and midwifery education so that the midwifery workforce better reflects the community at large.
Thank you, Greta, for serving and being an advocate for your community of Tucson, Ariz. Most importantly, thank you for answering the call amidst this global pandemic.