Local Midwife Recognized For Career Helping Others
Debra Arndt, a local midwife, enjoyed a long and eventful career before retiring last June.
Arndt was originally from North Carolina and graduated with an associate degree from a community college there in 1975. She later moved to Osewgo where she began her career in obstetrics, or midwifery.
Midwives are trained professionals who help women during labor, delivery and after the birth of their babies.
Arndt moved to the Jamestown area in 1978 and started her career in maternity at WCA Hospital in 1980. In 2001 she graduated with a bachelor’s degree in nursing from the University at Buffalo and eventually obtained her master’s and Doctor of Nursing Practice from Frontier Nursing University in Kentucky in 2009 and 2018, respectively.
She began working at Lane Women’s Health Group in 2010 after a six month wait to obtain privileges to become the first midwife associated with WCA Hospital. She worked at Lane for 10 years before retiring in June of last year.
Arndt now works part-time in the office as a nurse and said she could maybe see herself eventually practicing as a midwife again.
What drew her to work in nursing in general was her aunt, who worked as a U.S. Air Force trauma flight nurse. Arndt said that her aunt, whose profession saw her travel across the world, would send her gifts from different parts of the world that intrigued and inspired her.
“Her career inspired me,” Arndt said. “I looked up to her.”
After going into nursing, she realized her heart was really in obstetrics, and she followed her desire which blossomed into a long-lasting and rewarding career.
Although Arndt was the medical professional providing guidance to mothers, she also learned a lot from the mothers, too. Throughout her career she learned to trust a mother’s judgment, and that discovery stuck with her.
“My job was to give people options and answer questions,” Arndt said. “But ultimately, I let them make the decision. I made the recommendations, but moms made the decisions.”
A long career like Arndt’s gave her insight to the changing nature of midwifery. When she started in the 1970s, midwives did not have degrees or practice in hospitals. If a mother did want the guidance of a midwife, which was somewhat radical for the era, they administered care in private at the mother’s home.
According to statistics from the American College of Nurse-Midwives, in 2014, Certified Nurse-Midwives were present in 12.1% natural births and 8.3% of total U.S. births.
Even locally the trend can be noticed. Before she became a midwife with then WCA Hospital, that position was not even present. During her career alone she had seen the addition of four midwives at the hospital.
Colleagues of Arndt noticed the impact she had on people in the community.
“Patients loved Deb and always requested her,” said Kris Stimson at Lane Women’s Health Group. “We can’t say enough good things about Deb.”
To honor Arndt’s career, Dr. Robert Daniels recently undertook the task of dedicating a portrait of her to be permanently showcased at UPMC Chautauqua. She was honored to be recognized as the first non-physician to be granted admitting privileges.
Her career was full of difficulties like the sometimes erratic schedule that delivering babies entails and the challenging situation of delivering bad news to a mother. However, Arndt said the rewarding parts of the job made up for the hard parts.
“People always asked me, ‘Doesn’t it get old?'” Arndt said. “The answer was no every time. It was always rewarding to successfully bring a person into the world. Every childbirth was a wonder to me.”