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LifeLong Medical Care’s Midwife Program

Blog Contribution: LifeLong Medical Care

LifeLong Medical Care’s Associate Medical Director in Richmond, Dr. Nathan Stern, says they provide “really competent, patient-centered, lovely care.” Dr. Becky McEntee describes them as “incredible.” Any way they’re identified, nurse midwives are the backbone of women’s health care at LifeLong – and have been since the beginning.

The quality of care that they deliver is exceptional.- Dr. McEntee

The seven midwives at LifeLong provide pregnancy and postpartum care as well as treatment that spans every sort of gynecological issue – pap smears, fertility, menopause, birth control, and more. For pregnant moms, they do everything but attend the births.

“These midwives are so much more than people who deliver babies. It is not complicated to put your hand out and catch a baby. A woman’s body knows what to do. But the skill and the art is everything you have to do to have that healthy baby at the end,” says Dr. McEntee, who’s a faculty leader in LifeLong’s Family Medicine Residency Program.

“We’re training family medicine doctors to practice like midwives, putting both patients (mother and baby) at the center of the care,” Dr. McEntee notes. “The quality of care that they deliver is exceptional. Beyond the medical, they deal with what’s happening socially, nutritionally, emotionally. It’s really patient-centered care.”

At LifeLong, there’s a built-in duality to midwives’ roles. Their skills and training are so specific that other providers look to them for state-of-the-art obstetrics and gynecological knowledge. Yet at the same time, the midwives follow a long-standing tradition of “de-medicalizing” prenatal and postpartum care as much as possible.

“Midwives are the champions of normal pregnancy and normal birth and not making things over-medicalized that don’t have to be,” says Kate McGlashan, who practices at Ashby and is Lead CNM (Certified Nurse Midwife) at LifeLong’s West Berkeley Health Center.

“And that’s a challenge because a lot of our patients are medically complicated. They are sicker than the general population, and they are more likely to have things like preeclampsia or heart disease or a lot of different comorbidities. But people who are medically super-complicated still have the same needs and questions and discomforts as everyone else.”

The team is led by Associate Medical Director for Women’s Health, Kim Cardoso, herself a nurse midwife at LifeLong’s Ashby Health Center. The other five nurse midwives are Sarah Briand, Lead CNM and Lisa Jensen CNM, both at Brookside San Pablo Health Center; Tiffany Lundeen, William Jenkins Health Center Lead CNM; Nicole Sata, Lead CNM at both Howard Daniel and Ashby Health Centers; and Alison Roberts CNM at West Berkeley.

Cardoso notes that LifeLong as we know it today has its roots in the strong midwife practice that established the former Berkeley Primary Care Access Clinic. That clinic merged with the Over 60 Health Center to form LifeLong Medical Care.

LifeLong midwives are proud of innovations over the years, including the Centering Program groups conducted in English and Spanish for women during their pregnancies and beyond. The groups are a chance to get medical attention, such as blood pressure checks, but also receive support from other women with similar experiences.

“All the midwives here are really practicing to the full scope of our training,” Cardoso says. “Ob/gyns commonly have to decide between obstetrics and gynecology. We do both. And we’ve been able to do both for the whole time we’ve been in existence.”

That’s long enough for generations of women to be coming to LifeLong for care. “People come back to us over and over,” says McGlashan, who’s been a LifeLong midwife for 19 years. “We’re seeing people over time, over their whole pregnancy, maybe two or three pregnancies. And then they bring you their sister, their cousin. Maybe their mom has a problem, and they bring in their mom.”

Brookside San Pablo Nurse Midwife Lisa Jensen notes that midwives who follow patients closely for nine months are particularly suited to take the time “to establish trust, build connections, and reliably follow through.”

“These ‘soft’ aspects of care are as essential in addressing the abysmal maternal and neonatal morbidity and mortality rates in this country as the clinical care that we provide,” Jensen says.

Along with teaching LifeLong’s Family Medicine Residents, the nurse midwives also have a 30-year relationship with UCSF’s nurse-midwifery program as preceptors for their students. “We’re not only teaching the next generation of CNMs but also the next generation of NPs (nurse practitioners) and MDs,” McGlashan says.

“I’ve been so grateful to find a work home at LifeLong, where I feel like my expertise as a midwife is needed and appreciated by both colleagues and patients,” she says. “I’ve been really lucky to find this, to be here.”

You can learn more about LifeLong Medical Care HERE.