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Serving the medical needs of women | Northwest | lmtribune.com – Lewiston Morning Tribune

Posted: October 23, 2020 at 5:54 pm


Heather Witters helps to fill a niche in the Lewiston-Clarkston Valley health care community.

An advanced practice registered nurse and certified nurse midwife, Witters recognized the need for a health care provider exclusive to women and, going on a year ago, she opened Thrive Womens Health Center in Lewiston.

And then COVID-19 hit, forcing her to close temporarily. She reopened in June and her services have been well received.

Im thankful that I opened when I did and Im thankful that I can be there for the women that arent comfortable going to other places, she said. Its grown every month. Ive been doubling in my patient load. So, its really good.

Craig Clohessy: What made you decide to open a health care center exclusive to women?

Heather Witters: I opened Thrive because I wanted to give the women in the valley a different kind of health care experience. I wanted to be able to focus more on wellness, spend more time with patients. I just wanted to be able to hear my patients and really address kind of chronic, ongoing problems that sometimes we dont have time to address in a different setting.

CC: Share a little more about what makes your clinic different from other clinics in the valley.

HW: Part of it is that I do spend more time with my patients. I spend about an hour with them at their first visit, which is sort of unheard of at a providers office. The other piece of it is its a micro practice, so its literally just a small office. Its really nice and cozy and theres no waiting room, theres no front desk its just me. The patient gets that entire hour with me.

Its also a little different because I take more of an integrative or holistic approach. Its kind of a buzzword but its true. I look at things more from lifestyle; I use supplements more. So we do a combination of conventional medicine and ... naturopathic medicine.

CC: You served as a nurse in New York City during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic. Talk a bit about that experience.

HW: I do mostly wellness at my clinic, so I closed ... mid-March and thought, What am I going to do now? It came up that FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) was funding disaster nurses to go to New York. So I went as a nurse, as an RN, and I actually worked in an OB (obstetrics) unit in a busy Brooklyn hospital.

Its hard to find the words to describe how difficult it was, how almost apocalyptic it was just to be in New York at that time because people were scared. No one was on the streets, it was quiet, the hospitals were overflowing, it wasnt just media hype, it really was like that.

People were sick and dying and alone. That was the hardest part, they couldnt have their family with them going through that and so they were terrified.

CC: How have you dealt with that yourself since coming back?

HW: Thats a good question. ... This has been consistent with the other nurses Ive talked to who went there, when they got home it was a little bit, I dont want to say its PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) because it wasnt ... but its close. It takes you a couple months to feel right again.

Youre just trying to process because when youre in New York working as a nurse, you work shift after shift after shift. Theres no days off. Just 12-hour shifts one after another. You have your head down and youre working and then you come home and you start kind of absorbing everything that you saw and did there.

So yeah, I remember at two months thinking, OK, I kind of feel like myself again.

CC: How did your experience there help you with your practice here?

HW: I dont know that it helped me specifically with my practice but I also fill in PRN (when necessary) at St. Joes (St. Joseph Regional Medical Center) and I know that it helped me there. It just helped me be more accepting of the fact that we dont know what COVID is or what to do with it. And the administration at all health care facilities is doing the very best they can. The nurses are doing the very best they can. And tomorrow the plan might change.

I think being in New York made me more accepting of we just have to do the best we can. We got to do what we can do with what we know and then we have to accept that tomorrow we might know something different. So thats probably what it taught me the most.

CC: When you got into nursing, had you decided at that point that you were interested in womens health? I know youre also a midwife nurse.

HW: It is. When I first went to nursing school, I said that, but then life happens. I had two children and lived my life and then 18 years later went back to school to get my masters degree.

One of the other midwives, a CNM (certified nurse-midwife) in the valley, encouraged me to go back to school. I went to the same school as she did and she precepted me and she was a big part of why I became a midwife. So, I knew it but I had to come back to it.

CC: As you noted, when you reopened in June, things picked up quickly.

HW: I think its kind of the perfect time for it because people are ready to focus on being well and prevention and just looking at their health versus throwing a medication at a symptom. So its a perfect time in that way but also because of COVID, people dont want to sit in a waiting room with a bunch of sick people.

CC: Anything else youd like to add?

HW: I would go back to your first question about what my office is and ... if I only see women and I do only see women, but just so people know, I see women for almost everything.

Im kind of a primary care provider. Not only do I do the gynecology piece of it but I do weight loss and PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome) and thyroid and I do hormone replacement therapy, so its for a wide range of health care.

Clohessy is managing editor of the Lewiston Tribune. He may be contacted at cclohessy@lmtribune.com or (208) 848-2251.

Title: Advanced practice registered nurse, certified nurse midwife; owner and provider at Thrive Womens Health Center.

Family: Partner, Mark; children, Aspen, 19, nursing school in Hawaii, and Quinn, 16, sophomore at Clarkston High School.

Education: Bachelor of Science in nursing, Lewis-Clark State College; masters in nursing, Frontier Nursing University, Kentucky.

Work history: Registered nurse, labor and delivery, 19 years; owner/provider at Thrive for 11 months (opened Nov. 18, 2019).

Hobbies/interests: Travel.

Other: I did a medical mission to Kenya and also went to New York City at the peak of COVID there to work as a nurse.

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Serving the medical needs of women | Northwest | lmtribune.com - Lewiston Morning Tribune

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