At Frontier Nursing University, we educate students to provide care to all individuals with an emphasis in rural and underserved communities. FNU Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP) student and U.S. Navy veteran Robyn Roche-Paull, BSN, RNC-MNN, IBCLC is doing just that with the underserved community she belongs to, and has been for several years now.
Roche-Paull didn’t start out in the healthcare field. She was an aircraft mechanic in the U.S. Navy for six years. During this time, she met her husband and had her first child while on active duty, which brought on some major challenges. There was a lack of support and understanding for childbirth, breastfeeding, and caring for a child while on active duty. Policies weren’t in place, and it was expected that you return to your deployment six weeks after giving birth.
Once her enlistment was up, Roche-Paull left the military and went to get her degree using her GI Bill. While getting her bachelor’s degree in human lactation, she began doing volunteer work, helping new moms work through breastfeeding.
“I found I had a knack for helping others,” Roche-Paull said.
To complete her degree, she had to do a special project; she chose to do a pamphlet for active-duty women on breastfeeding in the military. This pamphlet turned into a 50-page PDF, which turned into a book!
“Breastfeeding in Combat Boots: A Survival Guide to Successful Breastfeeding While Serving in the Military” helps pregnant people in the military navigate breastfeeding while working through their long shifts, trainings, and deployment. The guide helps new active-duty moms successfully breastfeed their babies. At the same time, Roche-Paull launched a non-profit virtual consultation organization under the same name as the book and received her certification as a Lactation Consultant.
She visited military bases and gave talks to healthcare personnel and commanders on how to support breastfeeding women. Today, there are more policies in place to support and help breastfeeding women, but that was not the case in the late nineties to early 2000s.
Soon after, Roche-Paull went back to school to receive her Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) to become a registered nurse. She has since worked in labor and delivery and as a postpartum nurse. She is a two-time Daisy Award winner. Currently, she is solely a lactation consultant at Madigan Army Medical Center in Washington.
Roche-Paull calls herself a perpetual student. She began working towards her advanced practice registered nurse (APRN) degree to become a family nurse practitioner in 2020.
“I want to become a family nurse practitioner. I want to be able to do more because right now I am limited; I can’t diagnose, and I can’t treat,” Roche-Paull said.
“Something people don’t realize is that you are taking care of mom and baby,” Roche-Paull said. “They are a dyad. You can’t work with one and not have the other included.”
Thus, Roche-Paull is working to become an FNP to be able to address the full picture and treat both mom and baby, rather than piecing the care together with several different providers.
“Midwives only see the baby up to six weeks, Pediatricians only see the child and obstetrician’s only see the birth parent, but breastfeeding can and should go on a lot longer,” Roche-Paull said.
Once she graduates, Roche-Paull hopes to open a Lactation Clinic that is run by an FNP for military people. She hopes this clinic is a “one-stop shop” for pregnant people wanting to breastfeed and that she can see them during pregnancy and after. She also hopes to offer support groups through this venture.
“I know that Frontier really focuses on serving underserved communities, and I really feel like this truly is an underserved community. It’s not one that you think of right away, but it is,” Roche-Paull said.
SIG meetings are held monthly and are facilitated by faculty, but students drive the goals and purposes of each SIG. During the meetings, the group talks about current issues and offers support to each other.
“We want to have a community because if you are not a veteran or haven’t served there are just certain things you don’t understand,” Roche-Paull said. “It’s nice being able to talk to other people who have been through what you have been through.”
Veterans Day is on November 11th. Roche-Paull offered some advice to healthcare professionals:
Ask your patient if they have any military service at intake, especially if you don’t have any military bases nearby.
Research how military service affects individuals; especially the psychological effects from PTSD and other issues like sexual assault or sexual harassment.
She also asks that everyone recognize that women are veterans too.
Roche-Paull and her spouse have three children and five cats. When she’s not working, you can find her on the leaderboard of a Peloton class, doing photography, or working on or racing her sports car. All this while sipping on an iced coffee, probably.
“I chose Frontier because I have run into so many people who have gone there. Everybody told me ‘go to Frontier!,” Roche-Paull said. “I love the ability that I can go to school when I can fit it into my very busy schedule.”
Robyn, thank you for recognizing this underserved community and providing care to pregnant veterans or service members!
To learn more about FNU’s top-ranked FNP program visit our website.