Nurse Midwife Lisa Scheiman
Helping women give birth, and survivors of sexual assault heal.
Published in March, 2021
Nurse midwife Lisa Scheiman has always been fascinated by human reproduction. As a reporter for her high school paper, Scheiman wrote about birth control, pregnancy, and abortion.She got her BSN at St. Francis Hospital School of Nursing and worked as an ICU nurse helping patients and families through critical illnesses. Then, drawn to the idea of helping mothers and families through intense periods in their lives when they are not ill, she got a master's in midwifery from the University of Illinois in 1988 and practiced at Hutzel Hospital in Detroit. She taught at the U-M nurse midwifery education program before joining the midwife team at Von Voigtlander Women's Hospital.
The number of women giving birth with the help of midwives rather than obstetricians has nearly tripled since Scheiman began, from 3.3 percent of U.S. births in 1989 to 9.1 percent in 2019 "I think that this upcoming generation of people who are seeking reproductive healthcare want a model of care that affords them greater ownership of their health and their pregnancy," she says. Mothers with low-risk pregnancies often "don't want routine interventions, but ones that are focused on their particular situations. So we make suggestions and offer things we think would be helpful and the person gets to decide. Whereas OB care is more like 'This is what we do, this is how it's gonna go.'"
Soon after arriving at the U-M, Scheiman began working with survivors of sexual assault as a nurse examiner. Today, she directs Michigan Medicine's Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner program. Her team cares for survivors, gathers evidence that may be used in court, and collaborates with campus and community partners to raise awareness about sexual assault and improve the way institutions and individuals support and respond to survivors.
While reporting of domestic violence and sexual assault has generally gone down during the pandemic, "There are some people who think there were more sexual assaults because we had more people stuck in
their homes with partners who were lashing out, but they were scared because they didn't want to come to a hospital," Scheiman says. "In 2019 we did 108 exams in our ER. In 2020 we did 71. From the end of March to April 2020 we saw no one. Then it trickled back and now it's back to normal."
The number of survivors they see has increased over the years, particularly since making one critical change in policy. "The word is getting out that [survivors] can come for care without involving law enforcement," Scheiman says."Providers save the evidence kit for a year to allow people to wait until they can make a decision about going forward with an investigation. That was the best decision."
She and her team also give lectures to medical students, college students, and community groups. Scheiman believes strongly that receiving good care after an assault can have a life-changing impact, "because the response that people get when they disclose this experience can really affect them in their journey towards healing."
After thirty-three years as a nurse midwife, Scheiman is considering retirement. She has two adult children who live on opposite coasts, and she'd like to spend more time with them as well as pursue other passions. "It's time to do other things. I think I'll do a lot of volunteering stuff and spend some time with my family," she says.
"Part of my focus is raising up the next generation of midwives," she says. "I want them to keep some of the old midwifery ways."
[Originally published in March, 2021.]
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