Focusing on the Front Lines - Meredith Bailey ’07
In acknowledgment of the International Year of the Nurse and Midwife, Collegium is highlighting alumni who, in their own unique ways, embody what it means to be a “Fisher Nurse.” In this installment, meet Meredith Bailey ’07
For six years following her graduation, Meredith Bailey ’07 worked in the Connecticut Children’s Medical Center emergency room in Hartford. The work was tough, both physically and mentally, as she treated children facing traumatic injuries, abuse and neglect, and other emergency medical conditions. In that environment, coworkers become family as they deal with the demands of the job.
The experience gave her insight into the lack of mental health counseling available to frontline workers, and she knew she wanted to be part of the solution. Bailey returned to school to earn a master’s in nursing from Yale University, and certification as a psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner. She became one of the first psychiatric mental health nurse practitioners to work at the inpatient psychiatric unit at Yale New Haven Hospital, while simultaneously working at a private outpatient practice, mainly treating teenagers and young adults. Then, in June 2016, the Pulse Nightclub shooting in Orlando, Florida, shook the LGBTQ+ community—and shook Bailey personally.
“I felt really strongly that I wasn’t serving the queer community to the best of my ability,” she said. “I hadn’t been ‘out’ as a provider and didn’t feel I could accomplish what I wanted working under the constraints of an inpatient unit.”
That September, Bailey opened her own private practice. Today, more than half of her clients identify within the queer community.
“I love working with teenagers, especially. I am honest, direct, and have a sense of humor. That works well with them,” she said. “I’m able to access them in ways other people aren’t. Some kids I started treating when they were 17 and identified as straight have come out as queer or transgender, and have told me I am the first person they came out to. It’s an honor and privilege to be that trusted person.”
Many of Bailey’s transgender patients are going through reassignment hormone therapy. Even today, there are barriers to these patients receiving medications, surgeries, and other aspects of transgender health care. Bailey’s mission is to help her patients work through those obstacles to receive the treatment they need.
“I have clients who will travel over an hour to see me,” she said, “because they know I have gone to bat for them and I don’t rest until they get the care that they need.”
Opening her own practice also allowed Bailey to fulfill her original mission of providing mental health counseling to nurses and frontline workers.
“I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve had new nurses share the same story: There’s not enough training or not enough staffing,” she said. “It’s validating for them to have another nurse sit across from them and say, ‘You’re right. Now let’s problem-solve around it.’”
With COVID-19 placing an intense amount of pressure on health care workers, Bailey is seeing an uptick in new patients. She quickly transitioned to telehealth, and is prioritizing health care workers. “We’re taking between 20 to 30 referrals a week, and we’re trying to see everyone within five days,” she said.
“I love nursing, and my goal is to be able to work with nurses in a way that is authentic and supportive.”