Around the time Nicole Plenty, M.D., MPH, MS, FACOG, was entering medical school, her cousin unfortunately passed away from preeclampsia complications during her pregnancy. The tragedy launched Dr. Plenty into more research on women’s health and advocacy and ultimately led her to the specialty of Maternal-Fetal Medicine (MFM). “I was on this quest to figure out what happened and why. When she passed away, I knew I had to pursue this field,” she explains.
A few years later, Dr. Plenty was experiencing her own difficult pregnancy with her first child. She was admitted into the hospital at ten weeks’ gestation, struggled with hyperemesis and had blood clots in her leg and lungs. “When you go through something traumatic like that, it makes you want to become closer to your family,” she says. Finding it difficult to renegotiate her contract at her previous hospital, Dr. Plenty decided to explore a new opportunity with MEDNAX in Houston, Texas, much closer to her hometown of DeRidder, Louisiana. It wasn’t until she interviewed that she realized just how much the stars had aligned.
Finding a new home
“I chose MEDNAX because it felt like family. This was the only practice where I walked into the interview dinner and thought, ‘they actually like each other!’” she shares while laughing. “The entire night, the other physicians were sharing stories about their families and the things they did outside of work. I could tell they not only valued patient care, but they also valued family—and that was very important to me.” For Dr. Plenty, this made MEDNAX stand out against other practices she felt were more concerned with money and inflating their patient volume.
At the time of the interview, Dr. Plenty was still pregnant and was relieved that the Obstetrix Medical Group team understood her high-risk issues and was willing to help her when she needed time off. Most importantly, she says the practice’s kindness and generosity have never ceased, and they are always looking for ways to fill in and help each other. The team also does a wonderful job of celebrating each other’s accomplishments, both inside and outside of work. They are constantly celebrating the special days in each other’s lives, such as birthdays, engagements, promotions and other life milestones. “We are definitely a group that likes to have fun!” declares Dr. Plenty.
Developing strong relationships between the care teams
There can be numerous specialists involved in the care of a high-risk mom and her baby. Dr. Plenty says having a good relationship between all the groups is vitally important for patient success. In her hospital, they have nurse navigators who coordinate the consultations between specialists. Once a request for a consult is made, the nurse navigator contacts the specialist, provides the necessary health information and works with the patient to schedule an appointment. Dr. Plenty says the nurse navigators are the “engines that make everything go” and are of great help to her and the rest of the team. Dr. Plenty is also frequently in contact with the hospital’s sonographers. Things are always in motion between the physicians and sonographers throughout the day, including sending each other updates, looking at scans, and sending requests back and forth. Another critical group Dr. Plenty and her team engage with are the hospital residents. The residents often work side by side with her, coordinating surgeries, checking on patients and helping out wherever they are needed. Outside of her direct team, she says MFM specialists work closely with referring providers, like the hospital’s OB/GYNs, to develop better care plans for their patients. Finally, Dr. Plenty and her team work closely with the hospital department chairs to draft and establish protocols.
It takes a village, and Dr. Plenty acknowledges the teamwork across multiple disciplines necessary to care for those experiencing high-risk pregnancies.