by Jason P. Smith
Not sure what to eat while you’re pregnant or what form of birth control to use after your baby is born?
A group of women who have decided to try something a little different with their office visits at Kaiser Permanente’s Lakewood offices can discuss these ideas with each other or ask experts when they come to speak.
Joan Monroe, RN, NP in the department of obstetrics and gynecology with Kaiser Permanente said the idea of having women meet in groups to discuss ideas and ask questions is something that was created from a history of doing groups in other departments.
"Our supervisor went to a conference on group meetings and came back very enthused about how we could apply it to our department," Monroe said. "A committee modified and developed this for Kaiser. Then, when we started this two years ago, I wanted to do it, so I got in on the third group."
Monroe now heads up one of the groups that meets regularly.
The concept is one that’s been around for a long time, but isn’t something generally applied to prenatal care. A group of about 10 women get together with a nurse practitioner, a nurse and usually one or two guest speakers during a two-hour session to discuss a variety of topics surrounding pregnancy. Tums or Zantac seemed to be a hot topic during a recent meeting where heart burn came up.
"It’s been very interesting, and people are calling to find out if they can have it at their clinic," Monroe said.
"We did three pilots three years ago, and then this January we started it in full force. So, we open a new group every other month. This is the fourth group, but it’s the first official group.
"In the pilot there was a group with five or six and the other two groups had eight to10 in them, and that’s a very nice number to have," Monroe said. "That’s the size we would aim for. This group now has about seven, which is nice because they get a little more comfortable sooner, but 10 is even better for giving and sharing information.
"We offer orientation classes twice a week. During that orientation, we tell them they can do the standard alternating visits with the nurse practitioner and doctor or you can try this new group concept thing that goes really well."
According to Monroe, the people who choose the group really like it for the support and the sharing as well as friendships made along the way. Something else that seems to be popular is the fact that so many guest speakers come to the meetings.
"The fact that we have different people come and talk is something that you wouldn’t get in a regular visit," Monroe said.
Another popular point is that in a two-hour meeting things can be discussed in further detail.
"I think that’s it," Monroe said. "For example, this Zantac thing going on today – certainly in the first trimester people are always sharing what’s going to help with their nausea and vomiting and their insomnia.
"If you have people who have had other children that’s really helpful because they can talk from experience about what worked and what didn’t work. Another thing is that different people do different research. Some people go to libraries and get videos and other people get on the Web. People do things I wouldn’t have time to do and then share it."
One of the guest speakers is a nutritionist who comes in and talks for "a good 25 minutes and has tons of handouts," Monroe said.
Another speaker is a physical therapist who comes in with the exercise balls and handouts on back exercises – how to do them pregnant, postpartum and with the babies. A counselor also comes in to talk about becoming a parent and a lactation consultant speaks to the group as well about breastfeeding.
"I think it’s really exciting," Monroe said. "Personally it’s so nice to do something new and different and use all of those skills that we all have that we don’t get to put into use just seeing people individually. People do, however, come in for appointments if they need to, and we try to do everything kind of all inclusively to help save people money. In fact, for some people the group is cheaper for them, so it’s a financial benefit.
"This system has been very, very supportive of this program. I think it’s a big time commitment to get this up and running and keep it."
Although finding time to prepare for the meetings and getting guest speakers lined up can sometimes be a challenge, Monroe said she’s having a good time.
"It’s just fun," she said. "I was so nervous at first, because my personality unfortunately is more didactic, where I give information. It’s been a real learning experience for me to try to get people to talk and take it over. It’s been a lesson for me, but it’s been a good thing. Sometimes it’s hard to just sit there with the quiet and wait until someone says something."
When it comes to the challenge of organizing speakers for different days, Monroe said being part of a bigger system like Kaiser has its advantages.
"I think that’s one of the reasons it works so well," she said. "We have more resources than you would at a private office. If they need to go somewhere you send them, and if they want to hear from someone, you just call them and ask them to come speak.
"It also offers some access for the patients. If they’re back is killing them, they have a card and know what the person looks like from physical therapy when they call. They know people’s names and faces and that’s a big deal."
Heidi Ben of Lakewood decided to try meetings for her second baby, but went through normal visits for her first.
"I might not have wanted this for my first baby," Ben said. "I was paranoid about everything the first time and asked a lot of questions. Here, you get lots of different information from different people — I like it for my second baby, plus it’s nice to come and get away from my 3-year-old for awhile," she laughed.
Alice Frisch from Blackhawk also enjoys the different approach.
"I think it’s a great program," Frisch said. "Instead of 10 minutes with a doctor you get two hours of consulting with all the experience from the nurses and other girls in the class who have done it before.
"Questions you are embarrassed to ask, someone else in the group will ask, which is great – shy girls get more information that way."
According to Monroe, the program has been a success and, as she mentioned before, it’s fun.
"You meet more people, and you meet a variety of people all at the same time and you get a bunch of information that way," Monroe said. "Plus, I love seeing all the babies – that’s always the fun part of this job."