This week, Planned Parenthood says “thank you” to the compassionate and skilled nurses who work every day to keep the women, men, and young people in their communities healthy, and to ensure they have access to the full range of reproductive health care options, including cancer screenings, birth control, testing and treatment for STDs, and accurate sexual health information. Join us in celebrating the remarkable dedication of Planned Parenthood nurses this week and all year long!
Paula, Women's Health Nurse Practitioner at Planned Parenthood in Bemidji and Grand Rapids, recently told us:
I’m a small town girl, born and raised in Bemidji, Minnesota. As part of my nursing degree for the University of North Dakota, I had to complete a one semester practicum – a kind of on-the- job experience. What most intrigued me was either working in labor and delivery or in some type of women’s health, and I found a place that was basically a county-based equivalent of Planned Parenthood. I immediately felt at home there. The nurses were very welcoming to me; they gave me a great experience of working with young adults, adolescents, with contraception and sexually transmitted infection, diagnosis and treatment, and I was encouraged by one of those nurses to go ahead and apply for a job with Planned Parenthood. My first job out of college was a clinic nurse at Highland, in the abortion clinic, and I worked in various nursing positions at Planned Parenthood locations around the Twin Cities for the next few years. I left briefly when I started missing my small town life and moved back home, but when the nurse practitioner at Bemidji retired, Planned Parenthood got in touch and asked me to come back. That was in July of 1998, and I’ve been here ever since.
There are a lot of things that keep me at Planned Parenthood. First and foremost, I feel very strongly about every child being a wanted child, strongly about women’s access to reproductive health care. I’m a feminist and I believe that women need control of their fertility to fully participate in society. Beyond that, it’s fun! My patients are a blast. They’re fun, young people with their lives ahead of them, and I learn something from them every day. I love the moments when I can teach someone about their body, how it works and how to keep themselves healthy. Everyone who works at my clinic is a happy, fun person, and we really just want to be kind and care for others.
Of course, it’s also exciting to work for an organization at the top of their field. Planned Parenthood really is a nationwide leader in contraceptive care, so I find that we do tend to be the first ones or the early adopters of new and better treatments and plans. There’s constantly additional training, new information coming out, and we are the better for it. We also prioritize the safety and comfort of our patients in a way that’s unique. Before I came back to Planned Parenthood, no one ever secured me a Spanish interpreter for my patients. They would just use their husbands, and nobody really understood when I’d say, “This isn’t right. We need to have a third-party interpreter, in case the husband isn’t on the up and up, in case this patient is being trafficked, in case this man isn’t actually her husband. How am I going to know, if he can’t leave the room?” I never have to worry about that with Planned Parenthood. We do that.
I think patients really notice that and appreciate that, and they reward us with their loyalty. I have patients who have been coming to me for fifteen years just to get their pap smears and breast exams. Some patients have a primary care provider, but they just feel that this isn’t information that they want to share with that provider, or they’re just not getting the level of care that they want. I’ve heard patients say, “Well, he just kind of blew it off like it was no big deal, but you’re actually talking to me about it and asking me about it.” At Planned Parenthood, we are trained how to take a sexual history, we are trained how to gather sensitive information in a nonjudgmental way, and to meet the patient where they are and help the patient achieve their health care goals based on their personal beliefs – vital training that a lot of health care professionals simply don’t receive.
In the future, I just really want to see Planned Parenthood be able to continue on as it has been. Our society can very easily slide back on rights for certain groups, like women and minorities, if there aren’t always advocates for those groups. Planned Parenthood has always been there for these folks, and we need it to continue on so that these groups can continue to make progress.
Find out more about what it's like to be a Planned Parenthood nurse: