Jul 20, 2015

For over 35 years, Our CHAMPion of the week Karen Bishop has been a Maternal and Child Health (MCH) nurse at North Mississippi Medical Center (NMMC) in Tupelo, MS. She started her career in 1979 in the NICU/nursery, where she saw very few mothers breastfeeding, and little to no support for breastfeeding from the physicians or fellow staff members. In those times at NMMC, Formula companies had ‘free rein’ to peddle their scientifically perfected products. But over the years, Karen realized that some of the practices at her hospital were outdated, and has since fought for numerous changes for the betterment of breastfeeding support. Thanks in part to Karen’s help, many updated practices are now in place: the hospital no longer supplements newborns routinely with water or schedules feedings, and the time babies spend in the nursery has been decreased as the hospital works to implement rooming in. Along with working on these changes and all of her nursing responsibilities, Karen teaches a Breastfeeding Management Class to all employees, which covers the curriculum in support of the Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding. Since 2002, Karen has been certified as an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC)
Karen’s professional and personal experiences as an MCH nurse have influenced her passion in life, which is to show that pregnancy, childbirth, and breastfeeding are natural body processes, not something that has to be considered a medical problem or an issue: “I believe that birthing in a hospital is optimal and that we should make it more normal for all. When we give birthing back to the mother, then breastfeeding can begin immediately after birth, and usually only support is needed.”
Being a member of CHAMPS has enabled Karen to be a better liaison between NMMC and the pregnant/birthing mother/family dyad. “Having CHAMPS come in and be a support team for transition and change has been invaluable. They have provided the extra knowledge and teamwork that we needed to bring about change.” Through support from CHAMPS, Karen and her coworkers have been able to stop policies that were outdated and not supported by ACOG or AAP. In 2012, NMMC started Skin To Skin/Golden Hour immediately after all vaginal deliveries, and with CHAMPS help they are now also giving their Cesarean mothers one complete hour, or until first feeding is accomplished. They are in the process of going to couplet care and are now training all staff for this. Karen is “proud to see the changes that are evolving through efforts made by different entities including CHAMPS.” As CHAMPS continues to grow, Karen would like to see it continue to provide support for change as NMMC continues their efforts to become a mother/baby friendlier hospital.
Karen has one daughter, who she nursed/pumped for over 18 months. Karen went back to work when her daughter was just 8 weeks old, with a single-hand pump that she used while she worked 12 hour shifts. She has done her share of pumping while sitting in closets and in restrooms, and she knows firsthand the obstacles breastfeeding women face every day.
When Karen isn’t working, she spends her time taking care of her grandson (who was nursed for 18 months) and helping to care for her elderly mother and mother-in-law. She loves to cook, and spends much of her free time cooking up recipes that are altered for her grandson, who has anaphylactic allergies to milk, dairy products, and other foods. Karen and her husband share a 35 acre farm with 6 horses, 2 dogs, and 2 cats. In her younger days, she enjoyed breaking and training horses; now she enjoys traveling, having recently visited Hawaii, Greece and Italy.
Congratulations Karen! For all your amazing work and perseverance in your hospital, your love of working in the hospital setting and teaching breastfeeding to new mother/baby couplets, you are a true CHAMPion!

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