Heidi, CRNP, CNM, is a family nurse practitioner and certified nurse midwife (CNM) at Geisinger where she enjoys working closely with women and their families, supporting them in their healthcare and pregnancy journeys. As a CNM, she provides gynecologic exams, prenatal, postpartum and labor and delivery care. Supporting the growth of midwifery across Geisinger’s service area, particularly in Central PA, Heidi believes in empowering women in their care and she truly enjoys working with her patients.
She hitchhiked over the Andes Mountains from Chile to Argentina and recalls seeing the most brilliant spread of twinkling stars on the dark nighttime sky.
One fun fact about Heidi:
We asked Heidi a few questions about her career journey, obstacles she’s faced and what International Women’s Day means to her. Here’s what she said:
I grew up having conversations about health and healthcare at the dinner table. My mom, a hospice nurse who drove all over the Central PA countryside, told stories of the courage she witnessed from the families for whom she cared for. My dad, an engineer in an exercise research laboratory at Penn State, shared his latest design to measure the blood pressure in the carotid artery of a rat on a treadmill. From a young age, I was fascinated with human health –how to protect it, how to improve it and how to celebrate its marvelous capacities.
Why did you decide to pursue a career in healthcare?
After college and some national and international volunteer experiences, I took a weekend career counseling course that was enormously helpful to me. Because of insights acquired then and of interviews with a variety of healthcare providers, I decided to study to work as a family nurse practitioner. I first studied and then worked in an urban community health clinic in Massachusetts, doing work that I loved. I realized that while caring for the entire family, the small piece that I lacked was the ability to care for women during their labors and births. Studying midwifery was joyful for me and proved to be a natural progression in my intention to support women throughout their lifetimes, and especially at some of the most critical moments in their lives. I have always been grateful that I landed on a career that allowed me to work guided by my heart as much as by my mind.
Now, 23 years later, I enrolled myself back in school to work toward a doctorate in midwifery. Finding time to study, read and write, in addition to working full-time, caring for my teenage children and staying connected to my parents, family and my friends is not easy. Fortunately, my professors are wise and understanding, allowing me to study very part-time. I have a strong and supportive cohort of student peers. My administrative and clinical teams at work are supportive and my family is encouraging. I am hoping that this might also be an example to my teenage daughter and son of the value of lifelong learning in subjects of importance to us. My parents remain deeply supportive of my work and of my learning. This continues to be a daily blessing to me.
Tell us about a challenge you have faced along your journey.
To the contrary, when I was in eighth grade and wanted to play field hockey, my school didn’t have a team. My dad suggested that I make an appointment with the middle school principal to inquire as to how to go about forming a team. At his suggestion, I found 60 girls in my grade who were eager to play on a team. The principal found us two coaches, one of whom was my mom. My dad bought me a hockey stick to celebrate and my mom set up a practice course in our back yard. As small as this may seem, it taught me early on how to go about opening doors of possibilities in ways that we may not have previously been able to imagine. I also learned how capable my mom was as an athlete!
Have you ever been told you couldn’t do something as a woman or as a girl?
I would suggest that women make their choices wisely, considering carefully where one’s passions lie, what one’s educational trajectory would entail, costs of the education and potential earnings and benefits of a particular profession, what a typical day might look like, and what challenges and joys one might expect to encounter. One might also consider where the health care professional needs are anticipated to be in the next few decades and beyond. When I was uncertain which field to study, I found it helpful to interview several people in each profession, asking each of them these questions. I would suggest shadowing several people in each profession even if simply for a few hours. This can inform women in ways that are likely to be realistic. Finally, if a profession is not sitting right, one is always free to change one’s mind and pursue something different.
What advice would you give to other women looking to get into the healthcare field?
I am heartened and inspired by reading biographies and watching films of great women. We can learn from their challenges, their successes and their stories. On personal levels, we can proactively seek out experiences that grow our own self-awareness, practicing forgiving ourselves and others for all the times that we fall short of our own and others’ expectations. We each have our resources for strength whether they be prayer, yoga, meditation, music, nature, writing, art or anything else that we know can support us. It is well worth our time and effort to build relationships and community in ways that improve conditions for women and for everyone everywhere.
The theme for this year’s International Women’s Day is “Balance for Better,” focused on building a gender-balanced world. What does that mean to you? How can we make a positive difference for women everywhere?