Tracey Arwood is first certified nurse midwife ever employed by Texas County Memorial Hospital.
At TCMH Arwood has found what she calls “the perfect relationship”—the opportunity for women to receive their healthcare from a certified nurse midwife, an obstetrician/gynecologist or a family medicine physician.
“There are three different options for women’s health and obstetrical care,” Arwood said. “That’s very uncommon for a rural area, and I’m happy to be a part of it.”
Arwood is familiar with rural America. She grew up in Wichita, KS, and after graduating high school, she moved with her family to Missouri.
Arwood has always leaned toward healthcare and providing education to the patients she served. She pursued a bachelor’s degree in health science at Truman State University in Kirksville, MO. Her degree had a community health concentration, and she also minored in psychology and women and gender studies.
While in Kirksville, Arwood found two things that would become a key part of her future. She met Chris—who would later become her husband, and she took a test at the university career center that pointed her toward the field of midwifery.
“I wanted to do something that was more individualized and personal than the traditional community health worker role,” Arwood said, adding that in her time in community health in Kirksville, she came into contact with midwives that worked in the area.
“It’s a special opportunity to be present with a patient and their family at the beginning of life,” Arwood said, explaining that she felt a calling to be the healthcare provider present when new lives entered the world.
The Arwood’s moved to St. Louis where Tracey completed a fast-track nursing program through Barnes-Jewish College of Nursing. After getting her bachelor’s degree in nursing, Arwood began pursuing a master’s degree in nursing through Frontier Nursing University in Hyden, KY. Arwood trained in the Community Nurse-Midwifery Education Program at Frontier.
“I was always interested in the field of women’s health,” Arwood said, adding, “Women’s health is an area of need because many healthcare providers do not choose to specialize in women’s health.”
Arwood believes that when women’s reproductive health is overlooked in the healthcare field, it becomes hard for women to access quality reproductive healthcare and information.
Frontier Nursing University, a school located in rural Kentucky, was founded in 1939 by Mary Breckenridge. Breckenridge was concerned with improving the health of children in rural Kentucky, but she quickly realized that improving a child’s health actually began with the mother of the child, before the birth of the child.
While completing her education, Arwood grew her women’s health and obstetrics experience through positions she held in various hospitals in St. Louis and Kansas City. Arwood worked in the mother-baby, behavioral health and women’s care units. She also worked independently as a doula, helping women prepare for and carry out plans for birth as well as providing postpartum and breastfeeding support.
Arwood was a National Health Service Scholar while in school, so after completing her midwifery training, she had to find an underserved area that met certain criteria for her employment. She and her family moved to Garden City, KS where Arwood went to work as a certified nurse midwife for the United Methodist Mexican American Ministries, a healthcare outreach program to the residents of Southwest Kansas.
Arwood collaborated with a family medicine and obstetrics trained physician, and she cared for patients in four clinics in four different rural communities.
“I very quickly began to do deliveries,” Arwood said, explaining that she delivered her patients at three hospitals in Southwest Kansas–Garden City, Dodge and Liberal.
Arwood cared for a lot of immigrant patients and had a very busy practice.
“I saw everyone,” Arwood said. “Many of my patients were uninsured, and I was the only healthcare provider that would see them.”
A combination of administrative issues at the clinic where she worked and the failing health of a parent caused the Arwoods to begin look back toward Missouri for a new home and a place for Tracey to practice.
Arwood also describes her new position at TCMH as “perfect”. They are close to her parents in Marshfield and Chris Arwood’s family in Clinton, MO.
“There was definitely a need for an additional obstetrical provider, and everyone at TCMH was very nice and excited to have me,” Arwood said about her interview at TCMH.
The Arwood’s liked the “small town feel” of Houston and Mountain Grove. Tracey was also not intimidated about providing obstetrical care to patients through the two clinics–Houston and Mountain Grove—25 miles apart.
“Everything about this position is an improvement over my previous job,” Arwood said. “At TCMH there seems to be good communication between everyone, and there’s a positive feeling of collaboration in providing care for the patients.”
In order to bring Arwood to TCMH the hospital medical staff had to amend their by-laws to allow a mid-level provider to practice in the obstetrics department. TCMH also recruited Dr. Christopher Baldwin, a board certified obstetrician and gynecologist, to collaborate with Arwood.
“It was an easy process coming here,” Arwood said, adding that she “likes the vision” of TCMH chief executive officer, Wes Murray. “He believes in promoting the hospital and its services and understands how important healthcare services are in rural America.”
Arwood is also pleased with the opportunity to collaborate with Baldwin.
“Dr. Baldwin has a great deal of experience,” Arwood said, adding, “He’s friendly, and he stays very calm about patient care.”
Arwood is passionate about women’s healthcare, and she relishes her role as mid-level provider that allows her to spend more time with her patients. She believes that the field of midwifery is growing as more women seek a midwife to oversee the birth of their child.
“Midwives are key globally in saving the lives of moms and babies,” Arwood explained. “In the US certified nurse midwives have low Cesarean section rates and better breast feeding rates.”
Arwood noted that in her practice she likes to spend time with her patients explaining healthcare choices and discussing the risks and benefits with those patients.
“My approach to care is to collaborate with patients and their family members,” Arwood said. “Each woman receives individualized care.”
Arwood believes that focusing on the woman and her pregnancy experience creates a better experience overall.
“I consider the woman’s overall health, how she’s taking care of herself and any social issues,” Arwood explained, adding, “The better the pregnancy experience, the better the bond between the mother and the baby.”
Arwood noted that many studies are finding links between chronic issues in children and the lifestyle habits of the mother when she was pregnant with the child.
“Women are more likely to make positive changes to their lifestyle and health habits during pregnancy than at any other time in their lives,” Arwood said. “I want to be the healthcare advocate and educator that my patients can connect with and trust to help influence those positive changes during pregnancy.”
Arwood will provide care for low-risk obstetrics patients, and she plans to take call and provide one-on-one support during labor for her patients whenever possible. Arwood is trained and experienced in assisting with breastfeeding initiation, newborn care and any complications that may arise postpartum.
Arwood can provide care for infants in the hospital, and after birth, babies will be referred to Dr. William Wright, a family medicine physician in the TCMH Medical Complex in Houston.
Arwood also provides complete women’s healthcare from 13 years of age through menopause. She provides birth control counseling and care, infertility treatment and low-risk obstetrics care. She will see her patients in Houston at the TCMH Medical Complex on Monday and Wednesday and patients at the TCMH Mountain Grove Clinic on Tuesday and Thursday. She plans to attend to her own patient deliveries as much as possible.
The Arwood’s have two children—Jaeda, age 3, and Corbin, age 5. They enjoy spending time in the outdoors together.
“I grew up doing outdoor stuff, and we enjoy camping, hiking and biking as a family,” Arwood said, explaining that they spent a lot of time with extended family, too.
Arwood also enjoys reading and watching movies.
“We are really excited there’s a drive-in here,” Arwood said. “And we’ll spend a lot of time at the library, too.”
Arwood is accepting new patients in Houston at (417) 967-5639 and in Mountain Grove at (417) 926-1770.