News Story

Doctoral Student Seeks to Improve Prenatal Care in Rural United States

“. . . I noticed that laboring women were in need of providers who can walk alongside of them. This need inspired me to expand my education and to gain the ability to be that provider who walks the walk along with them.”

January 23, 2019 – Nora Elizalde (G’14, G’20), MS, CNM, WHNP-BC, a graduate of Georgetown’s Nurse-Midwifery/Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner Program, is now back at the university pursuing another degree through the Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) Program.

Nora Elizalde is a doctor of nursing practice student at Georgetown.

Nora Elizalde (G’14, G’20), MS, CNM, WHNP-BC

Elizalde took some time to share information about her background in nursing and her goals to improve prenatal care in rural areas of the United States, something she has been focused on in her professional career for a number of years.

Nursing Background

I moved to Guymon, Oklahoma from Mexico when I was 19. I had the opportunity to get my associate degree in nursing from the Oklahoma State University (OSU) via one of the first virtual online programs available from the Oklahoma Panhandle State University (OPSU) in Goodwell, Oklahoma. I graduated in 2001.

Since then, I practiced nursing in different areas of rural health with a focus in labor and delivery. Right after graduating, I started college once more at OPSU, focusing on the bachelor of science in nursing (BSN). I graduated in 2006.

Rural Health Care

During this time, I continued to work in the rural areas of the Oklahoma Panhandle, focusing on labor and delivery, but also gaining experience in units such as the emergency department, surgical services, the post-anesthesia care unit, the medical-surgical unit, the gastrointestinal unit, among other departments.

As I gained nursing experience and while working for more than 15 years as a labor and delivery nurse, I noticed that laboring women were in need of providers who can walk alongside of them. This need inspired me to expand my education and to gain the ability to be that provider who walks the walk along with them.

Master’s at Georgetown

After a great deal of thought, I applied for the online master of science in nursing at Georgetown, based on the faculty’s reliability, program curriculum, and, most of all, the Jesuit and Catholic identity and mission. I graduated with my MS in 2014 and had the honor to sit for my certified nurse-midwife (CNM) and women’s health nurse practitioner (WHNP) boards.

After acquiring my master’s from Georgetown University, I worked in rural health in the southwest area of Kansas as a CNM/WHNP offering prenatal care. But I was unable to offer delivery services due to local hospital restrictions.

With time, I had the opportunity to move to the Dallas/Fort Worth area. I worked in a private obstetrics/gynecology (OB/GYN) practice, where I was able to offer prenatal care and attend deliveries. During this short time, I was able to gain a variety of skills in this field.

Community Engagement

I currently work as a CNM at a family medicine clinic in a rural and undeserved area in southwest Kansas and the Oklahoma Panhandle, where I offer prenatal care to the surrounding towns.

In working in rural areas for most of my nursing career, I wanted to do something meaningful for the community. This desire prompted me to continue my education and seek my doctor of nursing practice (DNP) degree. So I have pursued this at Georgetown, and I hope to graduate in the fall of 2020.

Doctoral Focus

My passion for obstetrics and rural health has sparked my interest in a DNP project that includes the possibility of increasing prenatal care in rural areas, as well as identifying early screening tools for OB patient at high risk for gestational diabetes.

Some regional resources exist to increase obstetric options and access to care. These include three offices in the rural communities of southwest Kansas and the Oklahoma Panhandle that operate with the aid of local and corporate hospitals and offer prenatal care access to the surrounding communities.

The DNP will help me further define myself and to have the courage to continue to increase prenatal care opportunities in areas that are undeserved and lacking these resources.