LUBBOCK, Texas (KJTV) - If you’re a woman in Lubbock, you may have experienced what many others have, waiting months for a check-up at the gynecologist.
Stacy Leatherwood, a family nurse practitioner at Covenant Health, has 17 years of previous experience in women’s health. She says nationwide, there’s a shortage of about 8,000 gynecologists and that number is expected to rise to 22,000 in the next 20 years. Here in Lubbock, the rapid growth exacerbates that shortage.
“It shouldn’t be this hard to get help for something that can be so important to a young woman’s future,” Lubbock mom, Zoey Delashaw said.
After noticing a problem with her IUD, Delashaw knew she needed to go to the doctor, and soon. She made 23 phone calls in one day trying to set up an appointment.
“I probably cried on the phone for 10 of them. I felt so defeated all day long. Everyone just kept telling me no, sending me to another place, call this place, call this place,” Delashaw said.
Leatherwood says the number of women 18 and up in the United States has increased by 22,000 within the past few years. Residency programs for OBGYNs have only increased by 200.
“And I know when you’re calling offices, just trying to set up a regular annual women’s exam, no extending circumstances, there is possibilities of about 8 months to a year that they’re on a waitlist,” Leatherwood said.
She’s encouraging women to make an appointment with a nurse practitioner, since their schedules are usually more open.
“So, we never want women to wait for preventative healthcare. Nurse practitioners are definitely trained to be able to do all of these exams. We really take care of patients well and can push them to that next level of care when needed,” Leatherwood said.
Delashaw has an appointment set up in July, but until then, she says it’s a waiting game she doesn’t want to play.
“I have a daughter. I want to have more kids. Me and my fiancé are getting married soon. We want to give her more siblings and it shouldn’t be so hard,” Leatherwood said.
Despite a popular expectation for a boom of “quarantine babies,” Leatherwood says the rate of babies being born has remained steady. She says another factor of the shortage is the rush of people making up for appointments they missed during COVID-19.
Covenant just hired a new OBGYN and nurse practitioner this year, and another OBGYN will join the staff in 2022.