As a nurse-midwife at St. Lawrence Health System in Potsdam, New York, Dr. Megan Gagner, DNP (Class 30), APRN, CNM, is accustomed to working in a rural, underserved area. Potsdam is located in upstate New York, close to where Gagner grew up in St. Lawrence County, just 30 minutes from the Canadian border.
Gagner worked as a labor and delivery nurse at St. Lawrence Health for four and a half years while completing her nurse-midwifery degree at Frontier Nursing University.
“I fell in love with pregnancy and how fascinating it was,” Gagner said. “I decided to attend Frontier after the birth of my second child was delivered by Heather (Donovan) Hogan, DNP, CNM (Class 50), a Frontier alumnus who inspired me. I wanted to do what she did for other women. She was patient with me. She saw me at every visit and was there when I needed her the most at the delivery. She never seemed rushed. She reassured me and was full of empathy and compassion.”
Gagner has practiced as a nurse-midwife since 2018 and continued her journey at Frontier by completing the Doctor of Nursing Practice in 2019.
“I always wanted to have a Plan B, and I love teaching, so I did the companion DNP,” Gagner said. “It only made sense to continue to climb the ladder.”
Advancing her skills and knowledge has meant not only additional coursework but also the opportunity to go on a mission trip to Nicaragua earlier this year. It was a nine-day adventure that changed Gagner’s life.
She was invited on the trip through her connection with a local physician assistant (PA) program offered by Clarkson University in Potsdam. Eleven of the PA program’s students – seven of whom Gagner has precepted – and three preceptors were on the medical mission trip. The trip was organized in partnership with Los Rayos De Esperanza, a local non-governmental organization, as part of a six-year partnership between Clarkson’s Students Without Borders group and Los Rayos.
“We traveled to Diriomo, Nicaragua, to provide medical care to medically underserved communities,” Gagner said. “We provided care to more than 500 people in four days and gave away 150 vision glasses. We went to multiple areas in Nicaragua where we walked door to door offering medical assistance. We had a clinic set up on the base where people from the community could come. We visited communities and provided a pop-up clinic for people in the area. We offered a children’s health fair that served about 60 children between the ages of 4-14 years old, mommy-and-me classes, and education to the community health members. The community was very thankful and welcoming to us coming. They provided chairs for everyone at home visits, and the whole family would observe. It is a way of life that they accept.”
It was an eye-opening experience for Gagner, who hopes to return to Nicaragua on another mission trip next year. In the meantime, she is embracing what she learned and using it to become an even better nurse-midwife.
“It was an important experience that has changed my perception of healthcare and also my life,” Gagner said. “We don’t realize the things that are so basic for us that we take advantage of. For one week, we had cold showers, walked miles a day, and experienced no power for a couple of days. Time was nothing when we were in Nicaragua. It could take all day to be seen, and no one was upset. They would wait weeks or months to be seen and would be grateful.”
Even as we face healthcare provider shortages and many in the U.S. struggle to find accessible and affordable healthcare, Gagner said that her experience was a reminder that there is much to be grateful for.
“The mission trip changed my daily scope of practice by learning patience with myself and my patients,” Gagner said. “I returned as a more thankful, patient, and caring provider and mom.”
Learn more about advanced nursing degrees and specialties at Frontier Nursing University, including our online Doctor of Nursing Practice. Subscribe to our blog for the latest news and events at FNU and to get inspired with stories featuring our alumni, students, faculty and staff!