Frontier Nursing University (FNU) Student Rachel Featherstone, WHNP-BC, MSN, PMH-C, has spent their career finding problems in the world around them and looking for ways to meet those needs. Originally a member of the United States Army, Featherstone began to think about switching their career path after having a challenging birthing experience within an Army hospital.
“I felt disrespected by a lot of the hospital staff and had a very emotionally draining delivery,” Featherstone said. “I walked away from that experience thinking when I get out of the military, I’m going to make a difference for other people in this position and become a midwife.”
After finishing their time in the military, Featherstone became certified as a nurse and then moved on to FNU to pursue a Certified Nurse-Midwife degree when they realized that midwifery might not be the best fit for them after all.
“As a single mother who was already sleep-deprived, the schedule of a nurse-midwife simply didn’t seem like one that I would be able to sustain,” Featherstone said. “During that time, I also realized that my favorite part of midwifery wasn’t the births. What I really loved was sitting down and talking to people and building relationships with them as they transitioned into parenthood.”
Following this revelation, Featherstone pivoted to the Women’s Health Care Nurse Practitioner (WHCNP) program with the intention of pursuing a Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (PMHNP) degree following graduation. Featherstone is currently in the clinical portion of earning their PMHNP.
Once Featherstone earned their WHCNP, they were given an exciting opportunity to build a cutting edge interventional psychiatry clinic with a physician where they were able to dive into research on neurotransmitters and learn all about mental health on a cellular level. However, they really missed working with pregnant and postpartum families. So, when COVID-19 changed the face of healthcare, Featherstone realized it was time to open their own telehealth practice.
“I knew I wanted to work where the need was the greatest,” Featherstone said. “After significant research, Idaho was the place I chose to open my telehealth clinic.”
Featherstone chose Idaho because every county in the state is underserved in mental health services. Additionally, in 2020, Idaho saw an influx of population as people in California sought a cheaper cost of living. Families from multiple western states fled wildfires and chose to reside in a less volatile area.
“Idaho was in desperate need of mental care before 2020,” Featherstone said, “even though I live in Virginia, I knew this was the community that most needed my services.”
In November, Featherstone opened Eucaplytus Health, a private practice focusing on perinatal mental health. Upon opening, Featherstone reached out to the public health department, the doula community, and Idaho pediatricians to build a network that could best connect them to new patients who could be screen and treated early.
One of Featherstone’s mottos for Eucaplytus Health is “bringing the heart of midwifery to mental health.” Featherstone chose this because although they transitioned away from midwifery, they still feel very connected to the mission of building relationships, sharing helpful information, and honoring the decisions of their patients.
“Perinatal health is so misunderstood by healthcare providers for how common these issues are,” Featherstone said.
Between 1 in 5 and 1 in 7 birth parents experience a mood disorder. Yet, many parents are afraid to take drugs for their mental health because they are scared of the effects on the baby. However, most of what these parents have heard is misinformation. The reality is that the risks are much higher for a new parent experiencing mental distress than for a fetus or baby whose parent is stable on psychiatric medication.
“I believe it is important to prepare birthing parents for the emotions they may face and inform them that medication is better for them and their baby than suffering,” Featherstone said.
“It is the 6-9 month postpartum period where we see the highest rates of suicides and overdoses following a pregnancy,” Featherstone said. “This is due to several factors. At this time, it is common for parents to have returned to work, be caring for multiple children, and have an expectation of feeling ‘normal’ again, when, instead, the family is constantly evolving and there is usually a lot of chronic sleep deprivation. Unfortunately, the combination of these factors can lead to a breaking point.”
“I truly believe that the most important part of my job is listening,” Featherstone said. “So many women simply need someone to genuinely ask them how they are feeling, how their body is doing, and what struggles they are facing. OBGYNs and psychiatrists both do great work, but they are often overwhelmed by the unique needs of these patients. We need more people specifically trained and dedicated to helping parents in these transitional stages.”
Featherstone is committed to reaching as many parents as possible with their services and has partnered with every form of willing insurance. Eucalyptus Health accepts Medicaid, Medicare, Tricare, and many commercial plans, with sliding scale also offered.
“I struggled to find the right help when I needed it; I want to make sure that as many people as possible know that there are options,” Featherstone said. “Reaching underserved populations is what brought me to healthcare, and that is why I feel so aligned with Frontier.”
“I have also been very pleased with the way FNU has addressed racial disparities in the history of the university, as well as how they have respected my requests and concerns as a non-binary provider. I am proud to be part of such an inclusive community that I see continuously working to do better to understand and support marginalized people.”
Thank you, Featherstone, for your dedication to caring for underserved communities and bridging the gap between birth and psychiatric care. We cannot wait to watch the ripples of your work extend across the country as more providers become aware of this need.
Click the links to learn more about Frontier’s Women’s Health Care Nurse Practitioner Program, Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner Program, and our growing Diversity Inclusion Program.