To confirm my interest in the role of nurse-midwives, I shadowed a CNM practice during my senior year. At the time, I was still very torn between midwifery and public health. I talked to a nurse-midwife there about the connection between midwifery and public health and I will never forget what she said to me: that nurse midwifery is public health--working with women has ripple effects on the entire community because moms just want to take care of themselves and their babies. She was right!
About Jodie Simms, MSN, CNM, FNP-BC: Jodie Simms is a Certified Nurse Midwife at Lisa Ross Birth & Women’s Center, where she provides full-scope gynecological and obstetrical care to women of all ages. Her daily responsibilities include completing women’s health examinations and providing prenatal care, childbirth education, birth control consultations, labor and delivery services, and postpartum care and emotional support to a diverse patient population.
Ms. Simms’ professional and volunteer experiences illustrate her longstanding interest in women’s health, public health, and helping underserved populations through a combination of research and individual counseling and support. Prior to her position at Lisa Ross Birth & Women’s Center, Ms. Simms engaged in a Community Based Participatory Research project with Dr. Jennifer Foster, CNM, MPH, PhD, focusing on pre-term birth outcomes in low-income communities. She also interned at the Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Clinic, the Marcus Autism Center, and was a Resident Fellow for Project Horseshoe Farm, where she managed a housing program for women with mental disorders and also coordinated three afterschool programs for vulnerable youth. Her other volunteer experiences include working as a Street Medicine Team Member for Mercy Care, as a Community Health Educator for Covenant House and Atlanta Day Shelter, and as a Health Counselor for Motherhood Behind Bars.
Ms. Simms earned her Bachelor of Science and Master of Science in Nursing from Emory University in 2012 and 2014, respectively. She earned her Bachelor of Arts in Biology with a Certificate in Culture, Health, and Science from Amherst College in 2009. She is dually certified as a Certified Nurse Midwife and as a Family Nurse Practitioner.
[OnlineFNPPrograms.com] May we please have an overview of your academic and professional experiences in nurse midwifery?
[Jodie Simms, MSN, CNM] I earned my BA from Amherst College in 2009 with a degree in Biology and an interdisciplinary certificate in “Culture, Health and Science.” After graduation, I worked for two years at a non-profit organization in rural Alabama, called Project Horseshoe Farm. There, I was able to explore my interest in rural public health and mental health while also completing my pre-requisite courses for nursing school. In 2011 I was awarded the Fuld Fellowship to attend Emory Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing. I earned my BSN at Emory through an accelerated program for second-degree students and went straight on to complete my Masters degree. While at Emory, I studied to become both a Nurse Midwife and Family Nurse Practitioner. I did my training at various clinical sites in and around Atlanta and also had the opportunity to be involved in some interesting research, including an internship with the Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Clinic at the Marcus Autism Center and work as a Research Assistant for one of my instructors, Jennifer Foster, CNM, MPH, PhD. I also volunteered with a community non-profit organization called Embrace, as a leadership team member, to support local Refugee women throughout their pregnancy, birth and post-partum.
In 2014, I graduated with my MSN, passed board exams and shortly after started working as a CNM at the Lisa Ross Birth & Women’s Center in Knoxville, TN. I am board certified by both AMCB and AANP (for family practice) and as a requirement for working in an out-of-hospital birth setting I am certified in BLS/CPR, NRP and STABLE.
[OnlineFNPPrograms.com] Could you please describe your role and responsibilities as a Certified Nurse Midwife (CNM) at the Lisa Ross Birth and Women’s Center? What kinds of medical conditions and challenges do your patients face, and how do you help them manage their conditions?
[Jodie Simms, MSN, CNM] As a CNM I am trained to provide full-scope obstetric and gynecologic care to women. I work with a great group of midwives to provide care and counseling for women at all stages of life. We focus on a holistic approach to health and wellness, trying our best in each visit to address the clients’ physical, social, emotional and spiritual needs. We do everything from family planning and birth control counseling, to routine prenatal visits, education on preparation for childbirth, catching babies, treating postpartum depression, newborn exams, STI testing and counseling, well-woman annual exams and pap smears, supporting women through menopause and beyond. A day in the office consists of physical exams and assessments, ordering lab work, interpreting lab tests and ultrasounds, making referrals, developing treatment plans, and counseling and educating patients.
At Lisa Ross, we also offer Centering Pregnancy groups, which is a model of patient-centered, group prenatal care. Centering is an alternative to individual visits and brings women together who are due in the same month to meet at regular intervals throughout their pregnancy. Clients get time with a midwife and also learn from each other and benefit from increased time for community bonding, education and questions. Research has shown that the use of the Centering model can actually lead to lower rates of pre-term birth and increased rates of breastfeeding, among other proven benefits. Facilitating Centering groups helps me build stronger relationships with my patients and is one of my absolute favorite things I get to do as a midwife.
Outside of clinic and Centering, a large portion of my job is to be on-call for births. At the birth center we have strict criteria for identifying low-risk women who can safely deliver in an out-of-hospital setting. We work closely with a physician practice at UT Medical Center to develop those criteria and we collaborate with them in the care of our clients, especially those that develop complications in pregnancy, such as Gestational Diabetes or high blood pressure. If a client has had a healthy pregnancy and is appropriate for birth center delivery, we help prepare women for natural birth and offer the option of waterbirth. When moms labor with us at the birth center we are continuously providing support and using our skills and training to help ensure a safe, healthy, and empowering birth experience for mom, baby and their families. If complications arise, which is rare, we are able to quickly and safely transfer to the hospital. Working in this setting is very rewarding because there is greater freedom for the naturally delivering mother and greater autonomy for the midwife.
[OnlineFNPPrograms.com] You were also a Leadership Team Member at Embrace: Refugee Birth Support, where you train doulas to provide support to women throughout pregnancy and during childbirth, and also teach childbirth and women’s health classes. Could you elaborate on your responsibilities in this role?
[Jodie Simms, MSN, CNM] Before graduating from college, when I discovered my interest in women’s health and midwifery, I trained to become a doula, which is someone who is trained to provide physical and emotional support for women in labor. While I was living in Atlanta, I sought out community organizations where I could use my doula skills and support local women. When I met Liz Johnson, co-founder of Embrace, I knew I had found the perfect fit for me. Over the 3 years I was at Emory I worked closely with Liz and the other amazing leadership team members at Embrace to support local refugee women and their families by providing training and managing volunteer doulas (including training Emory nursing students), and teaching childbirth, baby care and women’s health classes in Clarkston.
Clarkston, GA, has one of the largest refugee communities in the country, representing over 120 countries. Many of the women Embrace works with have recently entered the country and pregnancy and childbirth may be their first introduction to the U.S. healthcare system. There are many challenges that Embrace volunteers navigate together with these women and their families, including ensuring adequate interpretation services at prenatal visits, empowering them to have a voice in their own healthcare and preparing them for differences in our medical system. I was very grateful for the opportunity to volunteer with Embrace. I enjoyed learning about different cultural beliefs and practices surrounding pregnancy, birth and beyond. I also loved being able to combine my nursing skills with my love for community and public health work.
[OnlineFNPPrograms.com] In addition to your clinical work with women and their children, you also engaged in a research project under the supervision of Dr. Jennifer Foster, CNM, MPH, PhD, where you investigated pre-term birth outcomes in a low-income community. Could you elaborate on this research project and what your key takeaways were?
[Jodie Simms, MSN, CNM] Dr. Foster is an expert in Community-Based Participatory Research, which is something I became very interested in while at nursing school. I was fortunate to be able to work with her as part of an honors research course I was taking. For the project, we worked with a local community organization and did focus groups and individual interviews to help identify the needs of the community and risk factors for pre-term birth.
There are many opportunities for research in nurse-midwifery and other nursing specialties, and I think the need for research is growing, as there becomes more and more emphasis on the importance of evidence-based practice. Although I am not currently involved in any research projects, I find it very valuable and do think learning about nursing research and participating in this project enhanced my understanding of the field. Research may be something I would like to return to later in my career.
[OnlineFNPPrograms.com] Why did you decide to become a certified nurse midwife, and what professional experiences helped you determine that this area of advanced practice nursing was the right one for you?
[Jodie Simms, MSN, CNM] I first became interested in midwifery because of a love for medical anthropology that I discovered sophomore year of college and an internship I had between junior and senior year of undergrad, where I first learned about nursing, public health and home birth. I had known for a long time that I was interested in the health care field, but it took me a while to find my place in it. I went to a college where everyone seemed to be on one of 4 tracks, pre-med, pre-law, finance, or education. I struggled finding where my interests and career goals fit in, until I learned about nursing. Nursing and specifically nurse-midwifery was where I found the perfect intersection of my interests in both the biological and social side of medicine. Pregnancy and birth represent a very transformative time in a woman’s life and that of her whole family and the way in which a woman births and cares for her babies is inextricably wrapped in her social and cultural beliefs. I love being a part of that transformative journey.
To confirm my interest in the role of nurse-midwives, I shadowed a CNM practice during my senior year. At the time, I was still very torn between midwifery and public health. I talked to a nurse-midwife there about the connection between midwifery and public health and I will never forget what she said to me: that nurse midwifery is public health–working with women has ripple effects on the entire community because moms just want to take care of themselves and their babies. She was right!
[OnlineFNPPrograms.com] What have been some of the most rewarding aspects of working in women’s health and nurse midwifery? On the other hand, what specific challenges have you encountered in this field of work, and how have you managed these challenges?
[Jodie Simms, MSN, CNM] The greatest reward for me is the relationship I get to develop with my patients and also the amazing women I get to work with everyday who are all committed to providing the most patient-centered, holistic, sensitive and evidence-based care possible for the families in our community. One challenge we face on a daily basis is the amount of documentation and paperwork that is a very important part of the job, but takes up more time than any of us would like. Another challenge for us is the financial struggle of working for a non-profit that serves uninsured patients and issues with insurance reimbursement…all the systemic stuff that I think should be emphasized more in school! I have had to learn a lot about insurance and billing through trainings at work and on my own.
[OnlineFNPPrograms.com] For current and prospective MSN students who are interested in becoming certified nurse midwives, what advice can you give them about optimally preparing for this field while pursuing their degree?
[Jodie Simms, MSN, CNM] Take advantage of every opportunity you can! Even though learning new skills is scary at first, always say “yes” that you are willing to try and don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it. At the same time, being a student can feel very disempowering at times; know that if you are not feeling comfortable with something being done by your preceptor or something you are being asked to do, don’t be afraid to speak up! Lean on your classmates for support and find at least one mentor you can talk to. The American College of Nurse Midwives (ACNM) also has a mentoring program for students and new midwives who need support outside of their institution or community that is available to anyone. I do highly recommend joining ACNM as a student (they have a special discounted rate for students) and trying to attend at least one convention.
[OnlineFNPPrograms.com] You are dually certified as a CNM and as an FNP–could you explain the advantages of such dual certification? What additional skills and qualifications do you feel you have gained from your training in both nurse midwifery and family nursing, and how have you applied this training?
[Jodie Simms, MSN, CNM] I specifically looked for dual-degree programs because of my interest in rural community health, in addition to labor and birth. I wanted skills to help me serve families in lower resource settings through the complete life-span from conception through end of life care. I also wanted the flexibility and increased job opportunities that my FNP degree provides. The schedule of a nurse-midwife is very challenging and can be hard on families (being on-call, working long nights, etc.); I know that I may not be able to sustain this lifestyle forever and one day may want to focus solely on women’s health or family practice. The FNP helps me keep my options open! I’m sure my FNP training helps me on a daily basis in some ways with more confidence in primary care. However, it is extra time and money and is definitely not necessary for work in women’s health. Everyone has to choose the path that is right for them, of course. I think just being passionate about the career you choose allows doors to open and will take you a long way!
Thank you Ms. Simms for participating in our APRN career guide interview series!