“My dream when I decided I wanted to become a nurse was to be a midwife,” said Judy Wilson-Griffin, MSN, RNC-OB, C-EFM. “Then I decided if I was going to stay in St. Louis, I wasn’t going to be unemployed because they weren’t going to hire midwives.”
Now she is a prenatal clinical nurse specialist at SSM St. Mary’s Health Center in labor and delivery and an adjunct instructor for the School of Nursing at Saint Louis University.
For more than 30 years Wilson-Griffin has supported and facilitated care for women and newborns. Initially, she wanted to deliver babies.
“I just looked at the number of people who having problems with their pregnancies and it was just fascinating to me,” Wilson-Griffin said.
Almost as fascinating as some the excuses she heard.
“I heard people talk about ‘those people’ not being compliant and that ‘they’ just didn’t get their prenatal care,’” Wilson Griffin said.
“I was like, ‘Well, really? Do we really do a good job of telling people why they need to come? And do they really have access? And do they have transportation?’ And maybe if we focused on identifying why people don’t come, we would have better outcomes.”
She wanted to know if there was a real correlation between good prenatal care and improved outcomes.
“We should really look at a better way of bringing people together and giving them good information, and then maybe they would show up,” Wilson-Griffin said.
“It was just fascinating to me that as a health care team we presumed people didn’t come because they really didn’t care, and I just didn’t buy that.”
Another area of concern is those mothers who lose their babies. She says every hospital has a program for support.
“We look at what kind of memories can we create for that family, because even though the baby did not survive, that is still a baby, a child that the family was looking forward to having,” Wilson-Griffin said. “We create a memory book and tokens for that child.”
She concluded that meeting the needs of African Americans who have experienced such a loss is not being addressed.
“We don’t have the right mechanism in place to address that. Because people say things like, you had a loss, you can do it again,’” Wilson-Griffin said.
“But we don’t’ have the right support or right support group in place for African Americans when they experience a loss. We haven’t tapped into that yet.”
Wilson-Griffin co-chairs a program called FIMR, the Fetal Infant Mortality Review Project, which examines fetal infant deaths in St. Louis County and city to see if there are any identifiable community issues factoring into the occurrences. FIMR identified one problem that was addressed through the educational intervention “Back to Sleep” which promotes babies sleeping on their backs.
“There wasn’t a program in place to say to daycare workers and to other family members about ‘Back to Sleep,’” Wilson-Griffin said. Now they’ve had one for about 10 years, she said.
Prior to joining St. Mary’s six years ago, Wilson-Griffin worked for 26 years at Barnes-Jewish Hospital, as a prenatal clinical nurse specialist, a maternal transport coordinator, assistant head nurse and staff nursing positions in labor and delivery and the newborn nursery.
Wilson-Griffin grew up in St. Louis and graduated from Sumner High School. She earned an associate’s degree in nursing from St. Louis Community College at Forest Park and a bachelor of science in nursing as well as a masters of science in nursing at Saint Louis University.
Wilson-Griffin is retired from the U.S. Navy Reserve Nurse Corp and served a few months as a staff nurse in a 500-bed combat zone field hospital in 1991 during the conflict in the Persian Gulf. Wilson-Griffin said military service is just one of the many experiences that nursing has opened up for her.
“I love my job, and nursing for me has afforded opportunities I could have never imagined,” she said. “It just gives you such a way to connect with people that I don’t think you get in other jobs.”
Wilson-Griffin is active in community health efforts, working with churches to perform screenings for diabetes, cholesterol, hypertension and HIV. She serves in the health ministry at Christ Southern Mission Baptist Church and guest lectures in middle and high schools about sexually transmitted diseases, teen pregnancy and teen development.
She is a board member of the maternal Child and Family Health Coalition and previously served on the board of RESPOND, a child advocacy and recruitment agency for adoptive and foster care families.
Nursing crosses all barriers and all disciplines, Wilson-Griffin said,
and seeing people in good times and bad times has taught her a lot. She tells her students that being clinically proficient won’t get them far by itself.
“Anybody can be good technically,” she said “but without compassion, there is always going to be something missing.”