Devotion to women’s health drives passion for teaching

Meet Jenna Shaw-BattistaJenna Shaw-Battista combines a devotion to women’s health and a passion for teaching to prepare new nurses through the Master’s Entry Program in Nursing.

Jenna Shaw-Battista’s desire to become a nurse midwife dates back to when she was only 12 years old. While babysitting for the daughter of a midwife, she listened in on meetings of the Yolo County Association of Midwives mesmerized by the members’ allegiance to women and commitment to community health. Shaw-Battista developed a similar devotion to women’s health and a passion for teaching which brought her to the Betty Irene Moore School of Nursing at UC Davis in April 2016.

“The midwifery model of care endorses a person-centered experience,” explained Shaw-Battista, associate clinical professor and director for the Master’s Entry Program in Nursing. “Midwives meet people where they are, work toward their self-identified health care goals without judgment and develop a therapeutic alliance, rather than a hierarchical relationship.”

Shaw-Battista studied medical sociology and midwifery as an undergraduate at The Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington. After graduating and traveling internationally, she realized she wanted to pursue the larger scope of practice that nursing brings, so she enrolled in a master’s entry program at UCSF.

“Nursing’s holistic focus attracted me ― looking at the whole person rather than reducing them to a specific body part or illness,” Shaw-Battista recalled. “More than anything, I wanted to provide evidence-based primary care and work with women throughout their lifespan, understanding their health within the context of their values, family, history, daily lives and communities. Both nursing and midwifery emphasize health promotion and support for physiological processes, including pregnancy and childbirth when research demonstrates individual and public health outcomes are optimized with judicious ― rather than routine ― intervention.”

As a nurse-midwife and women’s health nurse practitioner in Davis, California, Shaw-Battista precepted graduate nursing students in community and acute care settings. Witnessing the personal and professional growth of those students prompted her to expand her influence.

“I recognized my impact on individual students, families and public health could be greater as an educator and researcher,” Shaw-Battista said. “I received a Betty Irene Moore Fellowship and pursued my doctoral degree at UCSF.” During this time Shaw-Battista served as a clinical instructor and preceptor for prelicensure and graduate nursing students.

Upon earning her Doctor of Philosophy degree, Shaw-Battista served as assistant clinical professor and assistant director of UCSF’s Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner and Certified Nurse-Midwife dual specialty program for three years before becoming director. During this time her research focus centered on factors that hinder or facilitate physiological birth, with an aim to improve perinatal outcomes and equity. Areas of inquiry include interprofessional collaborative practice and education, as well as specific maternity care practices, such as labor and birth in water. While she had achieved her goals, her love of community-based health care and the desire to innovate in education motivated her to welcome a new challenge.

“When I graduated from nurse-practitioner and midwifery school in 2001, I was voted ‘most likely to think outside the box’ and ‘fiercest patient advocate,’” Shaw-Battista recollected. “I knew what alternative education looked like from my unconventional undergraduate program and route to midwifery practice, and that a new program being built from the ground up would be able to incorporate best practices in teaching and learning in ways that help participants synthesize different ideas and perspectives, rather than silo them. UC Davis offered that opportunity.”

Shaw-Battista welcomes the first class of master’s-entry students in June 2016 with a shared understanding of their desire to make a difference in health care and incredible excitement to ‘midwife’ them into the nursing profession after 18 months of graduate study at the School of Nursing.

“Becoming a nurse is often transformative and includes a adopting a new professional identify and self-knowledge as well as new clinical information and skills. Nursing roles are many, varied and aren’t limited to business hours. We are representatives of our profession 24/7 regardless of assigned shifts at work,” Shaw-Battista said. “We don’t leave behind our involvement in health promotion or leadership when the clinic door closes for the day or our shift ends. I see that dedication in the nurses I work with and anticipate it in the students we teach.”