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Claire Donovan, UCAN 2019 Graduate

CU Nursing takes maternal health researcher to the clinical side

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Written by Debra Melani on December 11, 2019

She cannot quite put her finger on why, but Claire Donovan always knew she wanted to help the underserved.

Immersed in community service by her parents as a child, she saw the hidden hunger in her relatively affluent hometown of Boulder. “It was shocking to me,” Donovan said. “That might have planted the seed.”

But it was in a roundabout way that the soon-to-be nursing graduate ended up choosing one of the most giving professions.

Health care sparks an interest

Donovan, who will graduate on Dec. 14 from the University of Colorado College of Nursing’s accelerated program (UCAN), ventured off to Notre Dame University for an undergraduate degree in International Development and French Studies.

As she dove into her undergraduate work, she found herself drawn to the health aspects of her major, rather than the policy, education or government sides. “It was so much more concrete to me. Health just seemed like a no-brainer.”

Donovan went on to spend much of her college and post-college time working in maternal health research, mostly abroad.

It was in Lomé, Togo, in Africa, working on a Fulbright award, that Donovan’s career interest took a slight turn. The project, evaluating iron and folic acid supplementation, involved working with many midwives, other health workers and pregnant women.

“I learned so much, but I also felt like I was on the outside, not understanding the technical aspects of it,” Donovan said. “I got the itch to come at it from the clinical side.” 

Workshops strengthen midwifery appeal

Now, after her year in the UCAN program, Donovan plans on using her new skills as a nurse in some area of maternal health for a while before returning to school (most likely) to become a midwife. 

“I saw how they hold up the healthcare system in so many places, including the United States,” she said of midwives, who are often the sole option for pregnant women in other countries. 

Two professional development workshops CU Nursing offered helped shape her view of midwifery, Donovan said. She first attended a Helping Mothers Survive (HMS) series workshop on eclampsia and pre-eclampsia. The HMS series focuses on providing care in resource-constrained situations. 

Impressed with the training, Donovan applied for a grant for another HMS workshop on campus called “Bleeding after Birth Complete,” and she won it. 

"It applied a series of logical steps to a process I can imagine would be really terrifying."

“There were people from all over the world,” Donovan said, including midwives and physicians. “The midwives, who deal with this kind of thing, led the charge. It was just such a good experience. It applied a series of logical steps to a process I can imagine would be really terrifying,” she said of hemorrhaging, the No. 1 cause of maternal death worldwide.

Goal: help underserved here and abroad

Now certified to train other caregivers, Donovan foresees doing so someday in Third World countries. She highly recommends the workshops, with registration currently underway for an eclampsia-focused HMS workshop on Dec. 16 and 17. 

Donovan said her CU Nursing experience affirmed her choice of moving into the clinical side and opened her eyes to opportunities for her to help the underserved in her own country. Through her community health rotation, Donovan provides support for refugee and immigrant families in areas bordering the Aurora campus. 

“I have learned so much more about underserved populations here. Hopefully, it will kind of guide my career,” she said. “Ideally, I will do both: work in resource-constrained areas outside of the U.S. and right here, in our own neighborhoods.”

 What:  Helping Mothers Survive (HMS) Pre-eclampsia/Eclampsia
 When:  8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Dec. 16 and 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Dec. 17
 Where:  Strauss Library Tower Room Anschutz Medical Campus
   Register Here


Topics: Students