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St. Catherine of Siena RNs Start Postpartum Depression Support Group

For three nurses at St. Catherine of Siena Medical Center in Smithtown, N.Y., postpartum depression is much more than a disease they’ve witnessed in their patients — it’s a force that has shaped their lives.

Years of collective experience coming up empty-handed when attempting to find community resources for new mothers grappling with the socially isolating disease led Jennifer L. Giordano, RN, BSN, IBCLC; Diane Rettig, RN, ANCC; and Sinead Suszczynski, RN, MSN, WHMP-BC, to take measures into their own hands.

“I was taking phone calls on my own time, was talking to obstetricians, the social worker — we were sort of piece mealing it and I remember telling my supervisor that we couldn’t just put a band-aid on it anymore,” Giordano says.

Last year, following a perinatal mood disorders in-service by Sonia Murdock, the executive director of the Postpartum Resource Center of New York, the women began laying the groundwork for a support network within their workplace.

Mary Ann Gulutz, RN

Supported by St. Catherine’s administrators, the members received training through the Postpartum Resource Center of New York on starting a postpartum depression support group; devised a format; enlisted the guidance of hospital social worker Dorothy Raniolo; recruited speakers; and brought the Post Partum Depression Support Group to life.

The first 10-week session began in April and ended early this summer. The second incarnation of the group kicked off in September.

“This was a burning desire for me and it’s a dream come true to be a part of this innovative experience to help the women in our community,” says Rettig, a maternal/child nurse for more than 25 years. “It’s part of my job, but I also feel like it’s above and beyond the 12-hour shift. This is my passion.”

Dorothy Raniolo

That passion was among the reasons St. Catherine’s administration eagerly embraced the program, says Chief Nursing Officer Gara Edelstein, RN, MSN, senior vice president for patient care services at St. Catherine of Siena.

“This was really a grass-roots project where the nurses recognized the need for these women to come together for some type of support because there was not a lot of these sort of groups in the community,” Edelstein says. “It’s a tremendous initiative for them. They do it after their working time, going above and beyond their duties and it’s making a tremendous difference in the lives of these women and their families.”

The necessity of such support was evident in the overwhelming interest in the program, says Giordano, adding the September group already has several members.

Gara Edelstein, RN

“Once we started advertising the group we were shocked at the number of phone calls we received,” Giordano explains. “Having 10 members is huge for a first-time support group. I run lactation support groups and many times only have one or two people in the first session.”

To the nurse facilitators, however, the need for postpartum depression support is not surprising. According to Giordano more than 20 percent of women develop a postpartum mood disorder, such as anxiety, obsessive compulsive behavior, post traumatic stress syndrome, and bi-polar disorder.

Moreover, postpartum depression can effect anyone. Among St. Catherine’s group members are a lawyer, a teacher, and a nurse.

“These women are just like me, professional, educated. It’s not as easy as it seems,” says Suszczynski, adding she understands the complexities of postpartum depression because she struggled with a mild case following the birth of her 4-year-old son.

Diane Rettig, RN

Simply having an outlet to share their stories with others experiencing the same problems lessens the burden of bearing postpartum depression.

“This particular diagnosis still receives so much stigmatization in our culture and these ladies are able to hear women in the same socio-economic class saying ‘I suffer as much as you while the world is telling me I should be happy’,” Ranolio says. “Such a program tells them they’re not alone and isolated even though depression does isolate you.

“These ladies have been able to access the support and security they needed and really grow. It goes beyond just (new) relationships, they really understand their diagnosis, treatment options, how important it is to treat and takes the fear away from getting appropriate treatment. Some women have already sought out therapy based on other group members’ experiences.”

Advancing that healing process exemplifies the importance of complete healthcare, adds Mary Ann Gulutz, RN-C, MS, director of woman and child services.

“For us, being able to provide this group is an extension of our maternity services after delivery. It’s a more holistic approach to maternity care,” Gulutz says.

Delivering such a spectrum of care not only speaks to the nurses’ mission, but also has reinforced their own commitment to the profession.

“We have such an opportunity to help them and while we try not to give medical advice, I feel like as a nurse, we really have an eye on the whole health picture. We can encourage them to get complete check ups, thyroid screening and additional therapies,” Suszczynski says. “As facilitators we are more invested in these patients than we expected and it’s really been an amazing experience because of that emotional investment. It’s made us realize how much we really care.”

Rettig agrees that the group has “I’m helping the women I’ve seen suffering for too long get better,” Rettig says. “What more gratification and satisfaction could I have in my job?”

By | 2020-04-15T15:04:14-04:00 September 21st, 2009|Categories: New York/New Jersey Metro, Regional|0 Comments

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