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Dr. Sharon Walker-Watkins is one of the first OBGYN hospitalists at IU Health West. Often the first time she meets expectant moms is when they are ready to welcome their newborn into the world.
When new mom Raquel Faires was recently admitted to IU Health West she met her delivery doctor for the first time. Dr. Sharon Walker-Watkins is an OBGYN hospitalist who works 24-hour shifts bringing new babies into the world. She doesn’t maintain a practice outside the hospital; her focus is inside the hospital – specifically labor and delivery.
“It’s comforting just knowing there’s someone I can ask questions,” said Faires. “To me it makes no difference that I didn’t see her throughout my pregnancy.”
And just as Faires feels at ease with the practitioner who will coach her through the delivery of her son, Dr. Walker-Watkins is also relaxed in her role. In fact, just days before she met Faires, Dr. Walker-Watkins was at the bedside of one of her three daughters as her first grandchild entered the world. The little girl was named “Sekai” meaning laughter.
Dr. Walker-Watkins is already thinking about her grandma name, “Grand Sam.” Sam is what most people call Dr. Walker-Watkins. When her daughter was in labor, Dr. Walker-Watkins did what comes naturally - she talked to the tending physician about her experience and stayed on top of the progress every step of the way.
“It’s like being a chef or a car mechanic. I could totally see what was happening and the doctor already knew I was an OBGYN and respected that and kept me involved,” said Dr. Walker-Watkins. “I always wondered what it would be like being on the other side – with family. I was supportive of her but also supportive as a medical professional. My daughter trusts me – that I would make the right decision – but I would want someone objective to make the final decision for her care.”
That trust is something that Dr. Walker-Watkins knows well. It has come with experience. It has come with reputation and built over time.
She meets patients for the first time when they come to the hospital to deliver their babies. It’s her job to provide 24-hour hospital coverage for those moms. It’s a role that gives primary care physicians work life balance.
“They can leave at 5 p.m. enjoy dinner with their families and know that their patients are cared for if they go into labor in the middle of the night. We cover their practice over night so they can come in refreshed and recharged the next day,” said Walker-Watkins. For patients like Faires, the practice of hospitalists is becoming widely accepted because most practices have multiple physicians. Any one of those practitioners could be on call at any given time for labor and delivery
“There’s always a laborist in the hospital so if there’s ever an emergency or event happening fast we are readily available to care for the patient. And there’s always a doctor available to work alongside the nurses,” said Dr. Walker-Watkins.
This month the IU Health West OBGYN hospitalist program marks it’s second year of practice.
For Dr. Walker-Watkins, one of the founding hospitalists, the around-the-clock care is a continuation of her career. For more than 20 years she maintained a private practice in OBGYN.
A native of Michigan, she completed her undergraduate degree at the University of Michigan and attended Howard University for medical school. Working seven days a month Dr. Walker-Watkins enjoys the flexibility of her role and knowing that she is making a difference in the lives of her patients.
“Whenever I go out with my daughters we run into people who say, ‘you delivered my baby,’ or ‘you delivered my daughter’s baby.’” It’s rewarding to know I was part of that,” said Dr. Walker-Watkins. “Whether it’s their first child or their third, it’s so satisfying to know that each experience is unique to every mother.”
More about Dr. Walker-Watkins
-- By T.J. Banes, Associate Senior Journalist at IU Health. Reach Banes via email at T.J. Banes or on Twitter @tjbanes.