by Sarah Sangosti
Some people search their whole lives to find the profession they love. But not Vanessa Valentine-Werthan, RNC. She is one of the lucky ones.
Valentine-Werthan works in labor and delivery as a charge nurse at Presbyterian St. Lukes Medical Center in Denver. She has always been drawn to working in obstetrics and women’s health.
"I felt that was my calling," she said.
After graduating with a BSN from the University of Colorado in 1991, Valentine-Werthan began working at PSL in medical-surgery oncology in the women’s care unit.
Hospitals weren’t hiring new graduates into labor and delivery units at that time, she said, so she didn’t begin in that area right away. Two years later, she transitioned into a six-month position working with post-partum patients on the labor and delivery floor.
Soon, she was oriented to take care of labor patients, and today, 12 years later, she is charge nurse and fulfilling her dream.
As charge nurse of labor and delivery, Valentine-Werthan oversees operations of the entire unit, directs patient care and, as a team, cares for the whole spectrum of birthing.
She said PSL follows a collaborative care model, which means nurses, NPs, physicians and midwives all care for patients in on the labor and delivery floor. All labor and delivery patients are cared for on the same unit, so the nurses are cross-trained to attend to varying needs. That means the nursing staff can handle pregnancies with complications, low-risk labors, critically ill pregnancies and post-partum patients.
Valentine-Werthan said many hospitals separate these patients, so PSL is unique because it encompasses the entire spectrum, which allows all labor and delivery nurses to care for each type of situation.
"I like the combination of autonomy and team work," she said.
Because PSL works with the spectrum of low- to high-risk pregnancies in the same unit, Valentine-Werthan said there is a lot of professional growth opportunity due to the acute variations among patients. Additionally, the hospital encourages continued education, and additional training is required, she said.
All nurses in the labor and delivery unit have completed training in basic life support, CPR, advanced care life support, neonatal resuscitation and critical care obstetrics. Additionally, Valentine-Werthan has a certificate in in-patient obstetrics, which is the "C" in her RNC designation.
Despite seeing the benefits to PSL’s educational goals, Valentine-Werthan said one challenging part of her job is keeping abreast of regulatory requirements. She said the nurses must be continually updated, which takes their time away from patient care. Additionally, there is a lot of litigation and documentation that takes place in the labor and delivery unit, she said.
Another challenge she sees, which applies to nursing in general, is working with the different priorities, work ethics and expectations of multi-generational staff members. She said younger employees and older employees should learn to learn from each other.
Although she works hard as a charge nurse overseeing the unit’s operations, which sees about 180 births per month, Valentine-Werthan still makes rounds on patients and performs patient care as it’s needed.
The best part of her job is knowing it’s worth it, even when it’s hard.
"I serve a higher purpose in what I do," she said. "My work has significance. It’s not just a job. It truly is a calling with meaning and non-material reward."
With 10 years of labor and delivery under her belt, Valentine-Werthan knows the ups and downs of working in this niche of nursing.
"People sometimes go into OB with inaccurate expectations that it’s always happy and has good outcomes. But there are losses and grieving that happen, as well," she said.
She suggested that nurses explore internship possibilities to make sure labor and delivery is a good fit for them before they make the commitment to working in such a unit. They need a realistic picture when they make that decision, and should take advantage of new graduate programs, she said.
Valentine-Werthan said she’s been blessed to have found her nursing niche and have a job she loves.
"It’s an incredibly rewarding profession. If you’re willing to give, you’ll get back from it," she said.