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Jennie aiming to give women 'birth story of their dreams'

Jennie aiming to give women 'birth story of their dreams'


Methodist Jennie Edmundson Hospital is taking big steps to expand and upgrade its women’s services program.

“We certainly believe Council Bluffs and southwest Iowa deserves the center of excellence we’re going to be able to provide with our women’s services program,” said Steve Baumert, president and CEO of Methodist Jennie Edmundson.

Jennie celebrated the opening of its three-story medical plaza building in June and is currently building a new birthing center on the fifth floor of the hospital.

“This really is the third piece to the three-legged stool in bringing the Methodist Women’s Hospital level of care in women’s services to Council Bluffs,” Baumert said.

The first leg was lining up strong providers to deliver services, Baumert said.

“We just have an outstanding group of providers,” he said.

In addition, the hospital worked to integrate its birthing center with the one at Methodist Women’s Hospital, Baumert said.

“The birthing center staff has worked with the birthing center at Methodist Women’s Hospital,” he said. “They worked very well together.”

Finally, the hospital is working on a $10.75 million remodeling project to create a new birthing center on the fifth floor. When it opens in December, it will replace the one currently operating on the second floor.

“This is a huge step forward for us,” said Ashley Nihsen, director of the birthing center.

The new birthing center will be 18,000 square feet, compared to the current 10,212 square feet, Nihsen said, and will increase the number of births the hospital can handle.

“We’ll go from 600 to 700 deliveries a year, which is what we can accommodate now, to 1,000 deliveries a year,” she said. “Right now, we’re doing about 500 deliveries (per year).”

The new center will be state of the art, Nihsen said. It will feature:

• Six private rooms where moms can labor in a comfortable and soothing environment

• Three Jacuzzi tubs available for pain control

• Twelve postpartum rooms where mothers can bond with their newborn babies

• A Caesarian section suite that offers moms the ability to hold infants skin-to-skin immediately after surgery

• Four Level II neonatal intensive care unit bays and a dedicated space for consults

• Expanded space for childbirth education and prenatal breastfeeding education, as well as postpartum breastfeeding support

• A new infant security system

• A larger waiting area for family and friends

The new center will have fetal telemetry monitoring “so mom can walk the halls while she’s in labor,” Nihsen said.

“They want to be able to get up and walk during labor – they want to be able to get out of their beds,” she said.

Mothers can also be in the Jacuzzis while in labor, Nihsen said.

“We have the Jacuzzis for pain control for moms who want natural labor without medication,” she said.

There will also be central monitoring of newborns and a cardiac monitor for pre-op and post-op C section patients, Nihsen said. Newborns will be fitted with ankle bracelets that will tie in with the new security system.

“That’s a security system that, if a newborn gets close to a door, it automatically shuts down – locks,” she said.

The new birthing center should allow mothers to have the kind of experience they are looking for, Nihsen said.

“What we’re aiming to do is give them the space to have the birth story, really, of their dreams,” she said. “There’s a vision for that, and we want to be able to provide that vision for them – all while staying close to home.”

The hospital and nearby medical plaza will have six OB/GYNs, five pediatricians, one midwife and, of course, nurses, Nihsen said. Jennie currently has 25 nurses (including lactation consultants) for the birthing center.

“As we continue to grow, we’ll increase our nursing staff,” she said.

The second floor of the new Methodist Jennie Edmundson Medical Plaza is dedicated to women’s services, said Stacey Tams, senior director of Methodist Physicians Iowa clinics. The floor has 25 exam rooms, four intake areas, six OB/GYN providers, as well as three maternal-fetal nurse practitioners. There’s a diagnostic lab offering mammograms, two ultrasound rooms and a bone density scanner. The floor also has two treatment rooms and two non-stress testing rooms.

Locating the providers and diagnostic center all in one place makes the care more convenient for women, Baumert said.

“A woman can come and see her doctor and walk across the hall and get a mammogram,” he said.

There was so much demand for mammograms at the hospital that there was a waiting period of several months, Baumert said. Having a second mammography suite has helped.

“We’ve brought it down to two weeks,” he said.

The first floor houses a Methodist Physicians Clinic with 36 exam rooms, four intake spaces, three nurse/physician pods, an X-ray and diagnostic lab. On the other side of the floor is an urgent care facility with nine exam rooms.

The first level is also home to MD West One, which offers orthopedic and neurosurgery care. Midwest Gastrointestinal Associates uses part of the third floor.

“I’m extremely pleased with the commitment of Methodist Health System and the hospital board to invest in not only women’s services but the whole medical plaza,” Baumert said.

For years, Jennie has had the goal of adding physicians to its campus but didn’t have space in its existing facilities, Baumert said. Women’s services was an area the hospital wanted to strengthen.

“Obviously, that has been a strength of Methodist Health System, and we felt we had the opportunity to bring that kind of excellence to this community,” Baumert said.

There’s also a need for women to have access to that level of care, Baumert said.

“There’s a significant number of Pottawattamie and Mills County residents that deliver in Omaha,” he said. “What we’re looking at is, if we bring that level of excellence to Council Bluffs, we (may) be able to keep a lot more of those in Council Bluffs.”

In recent years, the hospital has added specialists in head and neck, infectious diseases and now maternal-fetal medicine, he said.

A few of Nihsen’s staff members may be trying out the new birthing center before too long. Three are due to deliver in 2021, including two in February, Nihsen said.

And if the quarantine baby boom materializes, Jennie will be ready.

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