We interviewed Penny Merkel, a registered nurse with 40 years (and over 2,000 couples) of childbirth education experience. She is an accredited Leclaire Hypnobirthing Instructor, a Certified Lamaze Instructor and also a Lamaze Breastfeeding Support Specialist. In addition, Penny is also a Senior Childbirth Instructor at Mount Sinai Roosevelt Hospital in New York City. She is also Director of Medical Services for Ogilvy, an international advertising, marketing and public relations agency based in Manhattan.
1. Why did you choose to become a nurse?
I just celebrated my 40th year as a nurse. There were limited opportunities when I was first starting out. However, my love of biology and my sense of altruism were a natural fit for the field of nursing. I couldn’t have asked for a better, more rewarding career.
2. What motivated you to devote your nursing career to the childbirth experience?
I have worked in areas of nursing that involve both ends of the lifecycle, and I have a great respect for how we enter and exit this life. I feel that I could still work with both areas of nursing, and many OB nurses that I’ve spoken with agree with me.
I also believe that how a woman gives birth matters. I love fusing alternative medicine with the traditional. Setting the stage for a calmer and more comfortable birthing experience through various techniques including Lamaze and Leclaire Hypnobirthing is something I take great pride in. There is so much stress and anxiety surrounding birth and so many questions that couples have. If I’m able to help them through those anxieties, I feel like I have done a good job.
3. How do you try and create a great patient experience?
By allowing patients the time and “space” to verbalize their concerns. And inviting them to participate in creating a plan for their care. I believe the more you can empower patients with information, the more confidence you can instill in them. This is why I’m such a big proponent of providing opportunities for new parents to take courses in childbirth education to help them create positive birth experiences and the skills needed to have a confident start in parenting.
4. What do you think are some of the most challenging aspects of meeting patients’ needs?
The most critical aspect is when there is a time restraint to the visit. We all wish we could spend as much time as possible with each patient, but unfortunately it’s not always realistic.
“the client is not an idiot, respect their intelligence All of our patients are clients.
5. Who are your career role models and why?
My career role model has nothing to do with nursing and everything to do with nursing. His name was David Ogilvy. He is the “father of advertising”. I got the chance to work with him for several years, as the nurse for his company. He taught me to always bring my “A” game to work. Do not offer anyone anything less than your best effort. He was also quoted numerous times as saying that “the client is not an idiot, respect their intelligence. ” All of our patients are clients.
6. Why do you love being a nurse?
You get to help people in some of their most joyous or their darkest hours. What a privilege to be invited into their lives for that chapter.