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2008 Menopause Practitioner of the Year

Sally Payette, RN
Ottawa, ON, Canada

Sally J. Payette, RN, is the first recipient of the “NAMS Menopause Practitioner of the Year” award. Ms. Payette is a member of the staff at the Shirley E. Greenberg Women’s Health Centre at The Ottawa Hospital in Ontario, Canada, and is the lead nurse for the hospital’s menopause program. She is also responsible for development and coordination of nursing clinics and acts as a mentor and role model for other nurses. Ms. Payette was selected to receive this prestigious award by an independent NAMS Awards Committee. This award was presented at the 2008 NAMS Annual Meeting in Orlando, Florida.

Now we’d like you to learn more about her through a recent interview.

What first attracted you to become a nurse, and can you tell us a little about your career in nursing?

I cannot remember a time when I did not want to be a nurse. My sister was very ill as a child and I loved to visit her in the hospital. I wanted to be just like the nurses she had—professional and caring.

Following graduation from nursing school in 1973, I moved to Montreal, Quebec, Canada, and worked on a private medical-surgical floor for 2 years. My nursing career has provided me with experiences in the intensive care unit, obstetrics, gynecology-oncology, emergency room, reproductive endocrinology and infertility, and women’s health. Every area I worked in became very special to me, and I always worked to be the best possible nurse in each.

When I began working at The Ottawa Hospital, I was very fortunate to have Dr. Elaine Jolly as a mentor in reproductive endocrinology and infertility. Looking back on my career, I can honestly say I would repeat it in a heartbeat.

How and when did you become involved with NAMS?

In 1989, the focus of the clinic where I worked changed from infertility to menopause. This change coincided with the foundation of The North American Menopause Society (NAMS). I attended my first annual meeting in 1994 and became a member in 1995. I have regularly attended the NAMS Annual Meetings since that time.

In November 1995, I attended a workshop in Cleveland, Ohio, on “How to Establish a Menopause Clinic” given by Dr. Wulf Utian, which assisted me in the development of the menopause program at The Ottawa Hospital.

I’ve tried to contribute to the Mission of NAMS by serving on its Consumer Education Committee (2004-2005 and 2005-2006) and Poster Judging Panel (2004 and 2006).

How has your NAMS membership benefited you?

My NAMS membership has provided me with the opportunity to network with the world’s leading experts in the field of menopause. I also think that the Society’s educational materials for both professionals and consumers are the best available.

I’d like to mention a few specific examples of how attending the NAMS Annual Meetings has benefited me and the Shirley E. Greenberg Women’s Health Centre:

  • In 2003, I attended Dr. Miriam Nelson’s lecture on “Exercise in the Menopause Transition and Beyond” for the purpose of learning how to develop a lifestyles program at our center. As a result, in 2005, we became the first Canadian collaborator with the Strong Women Program of Tufts University. I am now Co-Director of our Strong Women Lifestyle Intervention Program, which celebrated its fourth anniversary in September 2008.
  • In 2007, some colleagues and I attended a NAMS Annual Meeting preconference workshop on sexuality. This experience inspired one of our nurses, Chantal Gagné, to acquire the skills to develop a nursing project for the assessment and support of women with sexual health concerns. Ms. Gagné has successfully completed a fellowship in this area, and is now conducting sexual health assessments of patients in her nursing clinics.
  • In 2008, 12 health professionals from our center attended the NAMS meeting in Orlando, Florida. It provides great team building, learning, and networking opportunities. It is always a highlight of our year!

Why is the NAMS certification important to you and your patients?

It was important for me to have a way of demonstrating my expertise in the field of menopause. When NAMS developed the NAMS Menopause Practitioner exam, I became one of the first Canadian nurses to earn my certification—in 2003.

Being certified by NAMS has confirmed my skills and knowledge necessary to practice at an expert level in a rapidly changing field of health care. I feel empowered with increased autonomy, accountability, and job satisfaction.

In a survey of 250 patients at our center, 95% indicated the importance of the nurses being certified as NAMS Menopause Practitioners. One patient said, “It was wonderful to speak with someone with such great knowledge concerning my health issues.”

Can you tell us a little about your hospital’s Menopause Clinic?

Each of our registered nurses runs a weekly clinic for comprehensive menopause assessments and follow-ups. These clinics use specific evidence-based clinic guidelines and medical directives for baseline investigations, such as bone density exams, mammograms, and ultrasounds. Each patient is assigned her own primary nurse.
Our clinic follows the guidelines from the Menopause Practice: A Clinician’s Guide with medical directives for baseline investigations, such as bone density exams, lab, mammograms, and ultrasounds.

In 1997, I co-developed an educational menopause program for the public and health professionals. These presentations are now offered in both French and English and are extremely popular in the Ottawa area.

Do you use NAMS educational materials?

Yes, I do. Materials I use include: Menopause Practice: A Clinician’s Guide, the NAMS Web site, Menopause Flashes e-newsletter, the Menopause Guidebook, and the Early Menopause Guidebook.

How do you feel about winning the Menopause Practitioner of the Year Award?

I feel very honored and humbled by receiving the NAMS award, particularly the very first one. Being the recipient of such a prestigious award validates and acknowledges my lifelong dedication to learning and to women’s health.

Do you encourage other healthcare providers to study for the NAMS exam?

Through encouragement and mentorship, we have the largest number of NAMS Menopause Practitioners in Canada at The Ottawa Hospital. Our goal is for all nurses in the Menopause Clinic to attend the NAMS Annual Meetings. I have facilitated protected time and funding for them to attend.

In the development and coordination of nursing clinics, I try to act as a mentor and role model for the other nurses. And, I have played a pivotal role in the development of an advanced role for nurses in women’s health.

The NAMS Menopause Practitioner certification has now been instituted as a preferred qualification for nursing practice at our hospital, recognizing that clinical practice is evidence based and nurses need to maintain their knowledge and expertise to fulfill that core value.

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