Recognising endometriosis advocates: Nancy Petersen

Nancy Petersen is one of the most recognised endometriosis advocates of our time, having spent decades engaged in personal and professional efforts to connect women to better care. She is also a woman who has experienced endometriosis herself.

Nancy Petersen, RN

Nancy Petersen RN-retired, began her nursing career in 1962 at the Good Samaritan Hospital & Medical Center in Portland (OR), USA, where she quickly rose through the ranks from charge nurse to clinical supervisor, including in neurosurgery and the open heart post-op units.

When intractable, chronic back and leg pain ended her time at Good Sam, she was hired to manage and turn around a specialty diabetes clinic in Portland.

There she developed a joint practice model for doctors and nurses to expand the role of the nurse while freeing up physician time to care for the most seriously ill; a model she later presented in Dallas (TX), USA, at the 1973 Annual Meeting of the American Society of Internal Medicine as an invited keynote speaker. This novel work was widely covered in the medical press and went on to become part of the model for advanced practice for nurses.

She went on in her career to work in ICU and NICU as house supervisor, primarily in Neurology/Neurosurgery through 1985.

Getting involved in endometriosis

One evening in 1985, Nancy attended a lecture by David Redwine MD, whose emerging research was being presented to women interested in endometriosis. It dawned on her that this was a game changer, and that hysterectomies would not be necessary in the majority of patients, as they typically were then.

At the time, she was co-chairing the Research & Development Programme at St Charles Center in Bend (OR), USA, and brought Dr Redwine’s research to them, with the recommendation that they develop the country’s first programme to support women who might choose to come for treatment once they understood the impact. The Endometriosis Excision Treatment Program at St Charles Medical Center was born, and Nancy began an intensive education series of newsletters and speaking engagements across the US and Canada. Under her guidance as Founding Director, the programme received recognition by the American College of Physicians as an innovation and significant advance in medical management of patient care.

Making a difference for women with endometriosis

As a result, the patient base quickly became international and the programme won several awards for excellence and innovation in endometriosis care, and similar laparoscopic excision programmes began emerging across the USA. Nancy continued to oversee the endometriosis programme at St Charles through 1996, while managing their Medical Division as Leader/Manager.

While working with women and girls in the endometriosis community, she came to realise her own back and leg pain for the past twenty-six years might be endometriosis related. As a result, twenty-two years after her hysterectomy, Nancy underwent excision of her endometriosis in 1989. Dramatic, complete relief of pain followed.

Nancy’s major achievements in moving the field of endometriosis forward

Nancy has accomplished many major milestones throughout her career, not only on behalf of her own medical patients and by universally expanding the role of nurses, but for women and girls with endometriosis globally through advocacy of complete removal of endometriosis

Notable achievements include, but are not limited to:

  • Keynote speaker, American Society of Internal Medicine, 1974
  • Keynote speaker, Blue Cross of Iowa, 1974
  • Member, Board of Directors of the National Association of Women’s Health Professionals, 1986-1994
  • President, National Association of Women’s Health Professionals, 1990 – 1992
  • Served on the local university Nursing Program Advisory Board, 1985-1995
  • Co-Chaired the Research & Development Committee at St. Charles Medical Center, 1985-1996

Nancy is an accomplished speaker and presenter. Her works have included:

  • When Women’s Pain is Ignored
    NAWHP Focus Newsletter; summer 1996
  • Hospital Builds Center of Excellence on Endometriosis
    Innovations, 1993; APCE Publications
  • Psycho-social Issues for Women with Endometriosis
    Women s Health Forum Newsletter; May 1993
  • When We Don’t Know the Answer, Let’s Not Blame the Patient
    Focus Newsletter; NAWHP; November 1988
  • Endometriosis: Obtaining Relief via “Near-contact” Laparoscopy
    The Preoperative Care of the Endometriosis Patient
    Association of Operating Room Nurses Journal; AORN; September 1988
  • Endometriosis of the Bowel
    US-Canadian Endometriosis Association Newsletter; May 1988
  • Endometriosis Reconsidered
    Medical Self Care; May-June 1987
  • Innovations in Nursing
    Nursing 1974
  • New Horizons in the Treatment of Endometriosis
    NAWHP/CDC, Joint Conference, Atlanta, Georgia, October 1994
  • Endometriosis: Unprecedented Success Rate
    National Association of Directors Women’s Health Programs
    Annual Convention; Chicago, Illinois; 1988, 1989, 1990, 1994
  • Endometriosis Reconsidered
    Endometriosis Association Chapters; 1988, 1989, 1990, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1995
  • Endometriosis Alliance of Washington, DC; 1989, 1991
  • Canadian Endometriosis Society Chapters; 1988, 1989, 1990, 1992, 1993, 1994
  • Endometriosis Presentation; Reproductive Health 1989 Conference
    Seattle, Washington, April 1989
  • Chronic Pain Management
    The Riverside; Bend, Oregon 1987
  • The Expanded Role of the Nurse, Keynote Speaker
    Annual Meeting of American Society of Internal Medicine; Dallas, Texas 1973
  • Problem-Oriented Medical Records
    Iowa Hospital Association; Des Moines, Iowa 1972

Where is Nancy Petersen now?

Nancy formally retired due to health issues in 1996, but to this day she continues to mentor countless women with endometriosis and volunteers her time to a multitude of endometriosis causes.

She serves as a Senior Advisor to the Endometriosis Research Center, wherein a Nursing Scholarship has been established in her honour; was a prominent programme leader in America Online’s Endometriosis Health Community till the programme’s closure in the late 1990s; and has established “Nancy’s Nook”, a Facebook resource for disease education, discussion, and support.

Nancy continues to tirelessly educate lay, media, and professional audiences on the “modern concepts of endometriosis,” and has helped improve the quality of life for countless women all over the world through her outreach and education efforts.

See also

→ Nancy’s nook on Facebook
How to find a specialist
→ The UNHysterectomy

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