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Caring for Every Stage: Early Prenatal Care at Watermark Health

"Ultimately, it ministers to us more than it does to them."

Since its official launch in September 2023, our EPC service line has provided care and support to dozens of women navigating unexpected pregnancies or pregnancy-related complications. Recently, we had the opportunity to sit down with Kirby Key, our EPC provider, to get a pulse on the ministry and dreams for the future of Early Prenatal Care at Watermark Health.

What is your background, and how has it prepared you for your current role?

I am a proud Baylor nurse!  (Sic em cubs). I graduated in 2005 and started working as a nurse at Parkland. In 2008, I went back to school to become a family nurse practitioner. I spent 5 years of my nursing career working in women’s health, and some time across different internal medicine specialties.


When I transitioned to working outside of traditional healthcare settings, I started to serve at the Prestonwood Pregnancy Center, and through that partnership got connected with Watermark Health. Fast forward to October of 2023 where I came on part time as our EPC provider!


What do you see as the importance of Watermark Health’s Early Prenatal Care Line, particularly for our patient population?  How does it differ from traditional urgent care?


Our goal with EPC is to lighten up the load of urgent care and offer comprehensive care.


Our patient population largely consists of internationals and folks on the margins. They don’t necessarily know all their options when it comes to pregnancy or have been in unexpected crises. That’s where our EPC line comes in. We partner with these families during this time, helping them navigate their options, next steps and come up with a plan of care.


A typical urgent care clinic might diagnose a patient as pregnant and discharge them without further follow-up care. However, we stand out as we are uniquely prepared to support mothers and their families through a variety of resources. These include treatment plans, education, connections to OBGYNs, prenatal plans, a discharge booklet, and mentorship through partner organizations, such as The Life Initiative (a ministry of Watermark Community Church).



When it comes to EPC, what are some common myths you have had to dispel?


One misconception we come across is the belief that EPC is only needed for the unexpectant first-time mom.


Many of our patients, however, have experienced previous pregnancies. Some have recently given birth and find themselves temporarily without Medicaid coverage, while others are international patients who have had children in their home countries and are learning our healthcare system.


Regardless of their state entering pregnancy, these moms and their families need support and resources to navigate the system effectively and receive the care they need.



What are some trends you've noticed in our patients and referrals?


We have seen a big trend in patients experiencing potential miscarriage.  The emergency room is an expensive option, and even if they did visit the ER for care, they still need a place to follow up.


In response to this need we are working to expand our care for these patients, and really be able to walk alongside them as they process the challenges and emotions surrounding miscarriage.



What is the biggest barrier to care for our EPC patients? And what are some of the biggest needs that you see they have?


When we talk about unplanned pregnancy, whether that's happy to parent or not, it can be overwhelming.


To look at needing care and support through 10 months of your life, especially if you're in a busy season – either at work or at home, with family demands, or whatever’s going on in our patients’ lives– it might feel like a barrier for them. However, we view these circumstances as opportunities to journey alongside our patients, offering support every step of the way.


I love that our clinic can help with some of the big challenges our patients face from the moment they find out they are pregnant all the way through to a healthy delivery and beyond. Sometimes, being pregnant can be the easiest part; they need just as much support and care after the baby arrives.



What has been your most memorable patient encounter so far, and why?


It's hard to pick just one memorable patient encounter because there have been so many special moments. I often think about the patients who come in with abdominal pain, not even considering pregnancy, and the joy that fills the room when we discover they're expecting. Our sonogram machine has been a blessing, allowing us to share the joy with mothers as we display the image on the screen, celebrating and praying with them about this new life.


Seeing their surprise and excitement as they realize they're going to be parents fills me with so much joy. It's heartwarming to witness their hope for the future and the joy of adding a new family member. These are the moments that remind me why I do what I do, and they bring me immense satisfaction.


What are some organizations we partner with for referrals?

Prestonwood Pregnancy Center is a significant collaborator, alongside Birth Choice and Woman to Woman, which are some of the largest ones we currently partner with.


What is the hardest part about your role?


The hardest part about my role is navigating the uncharted territory of running a Pregnancy Resource Center (PRC) within an urgent care clinic.


The idea of having an EPC service line run out of an urgent care clinic is an incredible idea to me. We have such a fantastic medical team of staff and volunteers! The challenge lies in finding the best way to expand the service line while maintaining harmony with the existing urgent care operations.

Looking ahead to the future of EPC, one thing we're really excited about is expanding our OB network. Our dream is to team up with obstetricians and gynecologists (OBGYNs) who can take on of our patients. We're big fans of Parkland, HHM, and the other health networks we're partnered with, but we'd love to bring more folks on board who see the value the value in how wonderful our patients are and the value in taking care of them.


Because ultimately, I think it ministers more to us than we do to them.


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