By Kendra Folh, Senior Project Manager Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital
September 16, 2020
At the age of 17, during a trip to Nova Scotia where she learned her great-grandmother was a midwife for the women living on the island, Kendra Folh made the decision to go to nursing school and work in the maternal health field. She has worked with moms-to-be and new moms in a traditional hospital setting as well as at a birth center. Today, she works as a Senior Project Manager at Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital in quality and safety.
It’s Personal: Pregnancy Complications
A mother of four children, Kendra experienced severe complications during her fourth pregnancy and became a severe maternal morbidity statistic, turning her professional experience into a personal one.
Nine years ago, she worked as a nurse on the Maternal Fetal Specialty Care unit floor, with a focus on women in the critical care unit and taking care of high-risk moms who had serious complications due to labor and delivery. Caring for moms who have experienced trauma is her passion.
Twenty-seven weeks and three days into her fourth pregnancy, Kendra experienced shortness of breath. She told her physician, “I don’t feel well, something is not right.”
She was diagnosed with peripartum cardiomyopathy and a placental abruption and experienced bleeding. She was quickly placed on bedrest at the hospital.
At twenty-eight weeks and zero days, Kendra had a Cesarean section and delivered a 2.5 pound baby. “Action Jackson” spent 59 days in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU).
Because Kendra knew all of the nurses from her professional role, she was able to advocate for herself and her baby to spend time with him during those long days while she was on maternal leave as well as during the night when she went back to work at five weeks postpartum.
During this time, her husband and grandmother cared for their three young children at home, illustrating that having a baby is a team effort.
Kendra recognizes now, it was hard being a mom to a NICU baby, and she experienced guilt. Back then, NICU support groups did not exist. For two years, she experienced significant depression. What she knows now was postpartum depression; however, it went undiagnosed.
When she went back to work, Kendra had a life changing and career changing realization. “We have to do better for our women. What can we do for our women who need support? As a society, we don’t support our moms. We have to fix that.”
Perinatal Safer Culture
Kendra took on a role in maternal quality improvement within the hospital, with the goal of, “How do we change our system and our processes to better align with the needs of women.”
She worked with the March of Dimes and the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston in creating The Safer Culture Roadmap, a free, online toolkit that helps health care leaders build a culture within their organization that promotes patient safety, particularly within their perinatal programs. The roadmap takes leaders through a step-by-step through the process of evaluating, building and sustaining an organizational culture that promotes safety, which translates into positive health benefits for moms and babies.
Organizations can use this roadmap to guide individuals’ groups’, and leaders’ efforts to improve Safer Culture by understanding assessing, measuring, and improving all of the components required for an effective patient Safer Culture.
Women Deserve Better Quality Care
When asked what women should know prior to giving birth, Kendra says to give up all expectations and to educate themselves on who their provider is and invest in that relationship.
She says, “every day, women are making decisions for their families, yet they do not have the right information to make decisions about and for their pregnancy. Women should research their physician and other providers, the hospital and the quality data outcomes, to determine where is the safest place to have your baby.”
Kendra is working to improve maternal health in Houston and Harris County every day because she knows women deserve better care and experiences in the hospital setting.