Steph works as an RN at a large academic hospital in Philadelphia as well as for Planned Parenthood in New Jersey. She blogs for GYNRN.blogspot.com and on Twitter @GYN_RN.
I will share a short anecdote that best exemplifies my personality and my love for my work. My friends were hosting a dinner party (in Philadelphia) that I was running late to since I was coming from work. They decided to create a bet amongst themselves on what the length of time would be from my arrival until I said the word “vagina.” The longest length of time anyone gave me was 30 minutes. I only lasted 2 minutes. Needless to say, I love working in women’s health, and I’m pretty vocal about it.
What brought you to reproductive health work?
I realized that reproductive health care was a place where I could make an impact in people’s lives with only a few small interventions. I strongly identify as a feminist and many of the injustices that I see women face are very closely tied to their own healthcare choices and control over their body. I wanted to be able to play a role in allowing women the ability to empower themselves through making their own best health care choices.
How do you identify with the term feminist?
Feminism is surprisingly still a very controversial term, even within (probably more so) the feminist community. I choose to abide by the definition that simply states that gender shouldn’t have any role in dictating what opportunities people have access to or inform the way a person is treated.
Reflect on two favorite things about your profession.
My favorite part of my field is the quirky sense of humor that I think all reproductive health workers have. It helps us deal with seeing the pain that our patients may experience. It helps us bond as workers. It helps us keep our spirits up in the ever constant fight to help advance gender and reproductive justice.
I also love the ability of this field to be the full life spectrum. Where I currently work as a RN, it is conceivable for me to be in one room, helping a woman get through her pregnancy, and in another room holding the hand of a woman who is actively dying from a gyn cancer. Women are a huge part of the cog that turns the circle of life and I love being a witness and a participant to that. It feels like a very privileged gift.
What one aspect of reproductive health work are you currently working to change?
One of the areas I’ve decided to focus on within reproductive health care is LGBT health care. I believe that most people who work in reproductive health care truly wish to be as culturally competent and compassionate to the LGBT population as possible, but may have so little exposure to it that they may refrain from caring for LGBT patients or may inadvertently create a bad patient experience. So a lot of my efforts have focused on educating other health care workers about issues faced by LGBT individuals and how to be more culturally sensitive to this group.
Describe a project or accomplishment you consider to be the most important in your career so far.
My biggest accomplishment has been my graduation from a master’s program that allows me to work as a women’s health nurse practitioner. Being a nurse practitioner grants me greater abilities to make a more direct impact on my patient’s health. It affords me the ability to give women more reproductive autonomy via contraceptive and pregnancy choice.
List your top three sources of inspiration right now.
My main sources of inspiration are the people around me in my life. The stories that friends, family, co-workers, and patients share with me feed me and only cement my belief that there is still so much work to be done.
I also look to other people who have blazed the trail before me. I look up to women who wouldn’t stop their work, no matter how much society tried to make them stop. There are so many women like that in the tales of history, I can’t help but respect them and thank them for enabling me to do the work I do today.
And finally, my professors inspire me. All of the people who patiently worked with me to give me the skills and knowledge to go out there and help people. They quietly coached me and helped set me up for success and provided me with ample opportunity to explore what I wanted to focus on as a women’s health nurse practitioner. They served as model examples of what a provider should be. I can only hope one day to be as great as they are.
If you met someone looking to work in reproductive health and justice, what words of advice or resources would you share?
I would congratulate them and tell them they’ve made an excellent career choice. I would advise them to make sure they find ways to take care of themselves because while there is much joy in this field, there will be lots of days where they will leave work with a heavy heart. I would say that there are a lot of really great technology apps out there. Use them to make your life easier and stay up to date on new health information.
Who are your heroes, and why?
My heroes are the people who have so many obstacles in front of them. Poverty, low education, lack of access to care, misogyny, racism, classism, etc, and yet they still keep truckin’ and do the best that they can do for themselves and their families. Those people never cease to amaze me with their strength and courage.
Share a quote that currently is keeping you grounded and motivated.
“Hope has two beautiful daughters. Their names are anger and courage; anger at the way things are, and courage to see that they do not remain the way they are.”