Richmond is fortunate to have many passionate advocates working to improve the maternal/infant health ecosystem in ways both visible and invisible. As a new year begins, we’re excited to rekindle our Five Questions feature, in which we highlight local champions and shine a light on the many contributions that are moving our community forward.
Got someone you’d like to nominate to be featured in this column? Send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll follow up!
Valerie Coleman, RN, MSN, IBCLC, FACCE
What drew you to the field you’re in?
I have been in maternal child health for forty-four years. I started on the postpartum and newborn floor, moved to the NICU and became an infant transport nurse, and earned my Masters degree as a maternal child clinical nurse specialist in North Carolina, before moving to Virginia where I became certified in childbirth education and lactation. What drew me to the field was the true opportunity to make a difference in the journey for new parents. They are so vulnerable and eager to make the very best beginning for their child, and helping to build their confidence is a gift.
What part of your daily work inspires you the most?
“Every day, a new discovery” is a motto for VCU Health, and I find when I am open to life long learning I do discover something new every day! A professional aspiration of mine is to read a journal article or text at least 15 minutes each day. Over a 45 year career, that’s a lot of learning! But what inspires me is being able to put to practice what I have learned and to see the genuine responses! Helping parents connect with their inner wisdom, appreciating birth as a normal body process, and making confident and informed decisions throughout pregnancy, birth and early parenting is uplifting.
How can RVA keep moving forward to become a model community for childbearing families?
RVA is well suited to be a model community because I truly believe there is a respect for all the integral pieces and an effort is being made to connect resources. VCU Health has a well-established model for collaborative care where all disciplines are at the table, and learn from each other’s role to create a plan of care with the best health outcomes as the goal. I believe RVA has the same components. Everyone has something to contribute of value. Keeping the best interests of all the community at heart is key, with a focus on inclusiveness.
If you could share one piece of wisdom with childbearing families or professionals who serve them, what would it be?
It would be to become educated on healthy birth practices, which include:
- Let labor begin on its own
- Walk move around and change positions during labor
- Bring a loved one friend or doula for continuous support
- Avoid interventions that aren’t medically necessary
- Avoid giving birth on your back and follow your body’s urges to push
- And keep your baby with you, it’s best for you, your baby and breastfeeding.
Tell us about one of your favorite accomplishments.
There are so many little things that have brought me pleasure in this role. I think the most major accomplishment is leading the health system to achieve the Baby Friendly Hospital designation, an international recognition of best practices for mothers and infants. But I would have to say at the top of the list is the relationships I have been able to develop through the years with kindred spirits who seek the same goal of improving health outcomes for mothers and babies!
Valerie Coleman, RN, MSN, IBCLC, FACCE, is the Program Director of Family Life Education, Women’s Health, Community Outreach, and Lactation Services at VCU Health Systems. She earned a Master of Science in Nursing from Duke University and has been a nurse for 45 years. Valerie is an Internationally Board Certified Lactation Consultant, a Certified Childbirth Educator, and a Fellow in the American College of Childbirth Educators. She was the team leader at VCUHS for the Best Fed Beginnings Learning Collaborative, a national initiative to improve outcomes for mothers and babies and for the Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative. Valerie served on the Mayor’s Breastfeeding Commission in Richmond, VA and is currently active with the Virginia Breastfeeding Advisory Committee, and the Virginia Breastfeeding Coalition. She is a graduate of the Nurse Leadership Academy and the Grace E. Harris Leadership Institute.