Tuesday, March 2, 2010

What is a Perinatal Nurse?

I have been asked over and over, "so what is a perinatal nurse? ". I had the occasion to write a small description for a local publication and I thought I might share with you readers of readybirth.com's blog what I came up with. A doctor recently asked me why I refer to myself as a perinatal nurse, instead of "just" a nurse. It's because I am proud of the additional education, training and on-going continuing education that allows me to certify with the American Nurses Credentialing Center that I claim the title.

A perinatal nurse wears many hats. Because she has a certification in perinatal nursing she has qualified herself to address the needs of women through-out their reproductive life span. In the broadest sense, that means from pre-menstruation through menopause. And she gets to take along a lot of others as well: parents, husbands and partners, children and friends. Because a woman has a broad circle of intimates with whom she shares all the reproductive milestones of her life. There are the normal transitions that women make as they journey through this cycle and there are also developmental tasks and challenges that are met at every stage. Some are universal and some are unique to the individual woman. There are cultural influences and societal expectations and women do a much better job with a safe and nurturing, accepting and welcoming haven to explore how to grow and develop with each phase.

A perinatal nurse is unique in that she has the education to appreciate the physical influences and also the background to understand the psycho-social elements that comprise the total of a woman’s reproductive life.

I have a long and rich log of experiences that makes taking the journey with women a pleasure and a privilege for me. I am able to relate to women struggling with pre-conceptual questions and dilemmas. I have solid knowledge about infertility and I have the ability to hear about the struggles of failure and loss and the wisdom to allow time to sometimes do it’s own healing.

I am equipped to help a young family through the travails of pregnancy and I can teach them how to labor and deliver. I can hear the doubts of new parents and identify when the fears are more than developmental. I have much experience leading support groups for women in the post partum period of their lives. I can identify with breastfeeding complaints and I am skilled in providing essentials of newborn care. I am called upon to do sibling classes and I am well able to address parenting questions.

I have met with women dealing with their adolescent children. And beyond that, when those children flee the nest and it is empty, women need to plan for the next stage of their life. Menopause brings its own challenges and many surprising rewards.

My experience as a perinatal nurse has allowed me to become intimately involved in all aspects of a woman’s reproductive life. And as an added result, because women’s lives are so enmeshed in the lives of their families, I have had the pleasure of including those families: husbands, partners and parents, children and friends in the larger circle of the life and issues of the women that I serve. Milestones are markers and each marker along the way brings its own questions, challenges and discoveries.