In Northern Kentucky, local providers are looking to connect with the community on the topic of women’s health. Instead of waiting for women to bring their questions to doctors, both St. Elizabeth Healthcare and The Christ Hospital Health Network are reaching out to help women with everything from holistic health to drug addiction.

A Helping Hand

St. Elizabeth Healthcare is already known for its caring, compassionate care for women’s health. Its Nurse Navigator program, which was first started in the mid-‘90s, assigns a team of nurses to any woman who has been told they need to come in for additional tests after a mammogram. While most tests come back normal, the nurses follow the patients who need further care. From a breast biopsy through surgery, chemotherapy or radiation, the nurses help the patient navigate their cancer care, and even follow the patient for a year afterwards in case they need more assistance.

“We started out with one, but now we have about 10 [nurses]. All of the nurse navigators know all of the patients,” says Toni Carle, nurse manager of women’s health at St. Elizabeth.

St. Elizabeth has taken a similar approach with its new program, Baby Steps. The grant-funded program works with substance abuse disorder moms to help them limit any damage to their unborn children.

Women who come to the hospital for any reason but are pregnant and test positive for drugs are invited to join the program.

“It’s multidisciplinary and they’re doing counseling with them, they’re seeing the physicians in the Journey to Recovery Center, and it takes about 12 months. After they’ve had the baby they follow the mom and try to get her into treatment post delivery as well,” says Carle. The state, which has provided some of the program’s grants, is already looking at using the program in other parts of the state.

Another outreach program is the Nurse Family Partnership program. The program has nurses do home visits with expecting mothers to help prepare them for their future child. The program is referral and word-of-mouth based, but it mostly helps women with limited resources.

“They also help after the baby is here with making sure that they’re bonding and that they are developmentally working with the child and making sure that they have a successful infancy up to 2 to 3 years old,” says Carle.

Both programs reflect St. Elizabeth’s commitment to women and infants. In fact, St. Elizabeth recently received the Perinatal Care Certification from The Joint Commission. “How [The Joint Commission] describes it is that it shows that the quality of care for our normal as well as high-risk pregnancies and births is of higher value and we meet certain standards that are over and above Joint Commission normal standards. We’re the first in the state of Kentucky to get it,” says Carle.

Time to Chat

The Christ Hospital Health Network is educating women on all aspects of their health through a new initiative called Let’s Talk, Ladies.

The multi-format initiative features videos, live events and a website that organizes health information by a woman’s stage in life.

“What we’re trying to do is really look at it as a women’s life, not just ‘OK, here’s their gynecology care and now they’re pregnant and here’s their menopause.’ But looking at what else does that mean for their bones? For all types of health—their breast health, their cardiology, their heart health. So looking horizontally over a women’s life rather than just focusing on the aspects of OB-GYN care,” says Dr. Leanne Olshavsky, the associate medical director for women’s health and medical director of the family birthing center for The Christ Hospital Health Network.

The videos, for example, features five female physicians—orthopedic specialist Dr. Sandra Eisele, OB-GYN Olshavsky, urogynecologist Dr. Aparna Shah, breast surgeon Dr. Jennifer Manders and internist Dr. Geraldine Vehr—who discuss the problems women may face, from stress and overscheduling to specific health matters. When this publication went to print, two panel videos were available for free online.

In addition to the videos, women can attend free live events that are held quarterly.

“It’s a panel of our physicians, again, across multidisciplinary specialties, who attend the live event. There is usually something fun to do before it starts,” says Olshavsky, like a cooking demonstration. Attendees are encouraged to anonymously submit questions.

“We read the questions out loud and the panelists answer the questions and it ends up being really fun. We get some hysterical questions. The women can really be interactive about asking the questions, hearing from the specialists, and it’s a super fun event. There’s wine, there’s fun beverages, usually there’s a little gift so it’s just a way to engage the community,” says Olshavsky. Previous events have covered topics like menopause, what to do after you’ve had a baby and what women should know when they’re trying to get pregnant.

Olshavsky says that the events have already become very popular. “Every event has sold out and most have waiting lists,” she says.

The goal of the initiative is ultimately to help women look at their health in a more holistic manner instead of only looking at certain aspects.

“I think that the most surprising thing is that [different health issues] all intersect all the time, or very frequently or more frequently than you may think,” says Olshavsky. “How does your period affect breast changes? How do hormones or absence of them affect your overall cardiovascular health? … Just really looking at these things less in a silo and more in a really horizontal approach. This is the patient as a whole.”

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