March 14, 2008

New system boosts Center for Women

Featured Image

Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner faculty of the Vanderbilt Center for Women include, from left, Laurie Tompkins, W.H.N.P., Susie Csorna, W.H.N.P., Beth Huff, F.N.P., and Lucy Koroma, W.H.N.P. (photo by Dana Johnson)

New system boosts Center for Women

Women who seek their well-woman, gynecological care at Vanderbilt University Medical Center now have an option to receive that care more quickly and efficiently.

The Vanderbilt Center for Women, part of the Division of Midwifery and Advanced Practice in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, has rolled out a new appointment system that improves access for patients seeking routine gynecological care.

The new centralized scheduling system assures, in most cases, that women can be seen within four weeks of the time they call for an appointment.

The patients will be seen by one of the department's 10 Women's Health Nurse Practitioner faculty in one of several locations, including Vanderbilt Cool Springs, Medical Center North, The Vanderbilt Clinic and the Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center.

Eventually, the Center for Women will be located under one roof at Vanderbilt Health at One Hundred Oaks.

“Right now we're a virtual practice in that we're all over the place, but we will ultimately be working in a common pod in the One Hundred Oaks space,” said Deborah Wage, F.N.P., C.N.M., assistant professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology and director of the division.

“We have coalesced with a mission and a centralized schedule. We had an access problem, how long women had to wait for appointments. Our goal is to get patients in within four weeks for annual exams, but once they are in for the initial visit, they become our patients and we all have work-in slots within just a few days,” she said. “We're really bending over backward to get people in when they call.”

Wage and Laurie Tompkins, W.H.N.P., assistant professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology and coordinator of the initiative, hope the new appointment system will encourage female Vanderbilt employees to receive their well-woman care at Vanderbilt.

“At some point we realized that lots of women who work at Vanderbilt were going outside for well-woman care. We want to take care of our own as much as we can,” Tompkins said.

The Vanderbilt obstetrics and gynecology practice has traditionally been seen in the community as a place to go when there is a complication, but not necessarily a place to seek routine, well-woman care.

The new system will make it easier to receive routine care, freeing Vanderbilt ob/gyn physicians to see patients who need more complicated specialty care.

“With this initiative, physicians would be able to spend time in the specialties they are most skilled for,” Wage said. “Instead of trying to see annuals with their busy surgery schedules, they know that their faculty colleagues are going to be taking care of some of their longtime patients. It's been an incredible relief to them and an incredible benefit to the patients.”

Wage said the advanced practice nurses can serve as gatekeepers for their patients' health care needs. “We can refer if there's a need, if they need primary care or a specialist within the Vanderbilt Medical Group.”

Phone schedulers are an important part of the success of this venture, Wage said.

“As women call in to schedule their yearly physicals, the patients are told that their physician providers are working with our group of advanced practice nurses. Our goal is to provide excellent women's health care that is efficient, evidence-based and patient-centered. If the patient really prefers to see a physician, that appointment will, of course, be made.”

Future plans call for offering extended hours for patients who need to be seen after 4 p.m.

The group will also help train medical and nursing students, and will offer group patient education opportunities.

Wage and Tompkins said that Nancy Chescheir, M.D., chair of Obstetrics and Gynecology, and Ted Anderson, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology, have been instrumental in seeing the new plan get off the ground.

“We could not do this without the support of the department, and all of our faculty — both physicians and nurse practitioners,” Wage said.

Chescheir said she is excited about the program. “We think it's a triple win — for the patients, the doctors and for the nurse practitioners.”

In addition to being a “wonderful practice opportunity” for the advanced practice nurses, it's also a cost-effective and patient-friendly system, Wage said.

“We're providing continuity of care, and personalized relationship-based care. It just doesn't get any better than that.”