Haley Becker says she developed her passion for women’s health back during her college days, and when she stepped out in search of a place to start her career in nursing, she didn’t have to look too far.
Becker, a hometown product and recent Georgia College graduate of the family nurse practitioner cohort program, decided to remain in Milledgeville and make local women’s health care a focus of her career. She will soon join Milledgeville OBGYN Associates, P.C. and will work alongside Dr. Charles Brown, M.D. and Katie Webster, FNP-C to ensure area women have the best gynecological care possible.
Although recently certified as a nurse practitioner, Becker has worked for nine years in labor and delivery at Navicent Health Baldwin hospital. She was an ever-present feature in the nursery and delivery room, with her calm but assertive demeanor, assisting with births and caring for newborns.
Becker was born at what is now Navicent, previously the Oconee Regional Medical Center, to parents Johnny and Bunnie Simons and was delivered by the late Dr. Sam Goodrich, who was a lifelong partner in the same practice that she has now joined. She is a graduate of John Milledge Academy where she was a student-athlete playing softball, basketball and running track. She graduated from Georgia Southern University (GSU) in 2009 with a degree in nursing.
“I love the community because it’s small but not too small,” she said, describing her hometown. “It’s small enough to where you can form close relationships, and I made a lot of great friends at JMA growing up.”
Becker was like most young people who grow up in a small town; she wanted to get away the first chance she got, and that was through attending first Valdosta State University and then GSU. After graduation with a bachelor of nursing degree, she moved back home and applied for a position at Navicent Health Baldwin in labor and delivery.
“I was very lucky to get a position right after graduating from nursing school in my desired field, which was labor and delivery. I loved being in labor and delivery and working with the moms and having to use critical thinking in difficult situations. You might think it is always a joyful place to be — in the delivery room — but things don’t always go as planned and you have to be ready to handle it and support the mother and baby during the most critical time of birth and aftercare,” she said.
She said she has always had a passion for women’s health and was driven to that area of health care while in college. She said the overall state of health care for women, including the lack of local providers, is what drove her to go back to school to become a nurse practitioner.
According to the Georgia Department of Health, as well as studies conducted by the Annie E. Casey Foundation and Amnesty International, Georgia ranks highest in the nation in maternal deaths. Becker said she believes there are many factors surging the mortality rate upward for women during and after giving birth, including lack of proper medical care during pregnancy, the culture of poor eating habits in the south, and certainly, the lack of access to adequate medical care.
Currently, there is a growing crisis in rural Georgia’s healthcare system — a lack of physicians, mainly in specialized fields, willing to practice in the most underserved areas of the state. According to a report conducted by the Georgia Board for Physician Workforce in 2010, OBGYN practices were nonexistent in 79 rural counties.
“There used to be multiple delivery providers in our town, but now there are only two. In Milledgeville, we, on average deliver 800 births, and that may not seem like a lot, but for the limited providers available, it is a rather large number,” she observed. “Working in that area and witnessing the need for additional health care providers was the driving force for me to return to school.”
While at Navicent, Becker worked with Brown, Webster and Dr. Suzanne Palmer, who recently retired from her practice to become the group’s chief financial officer. Palmer was instrumental in encouraging Becker to return to school to seek the nurse practitioner certification.
“I have so much respect for Dr. Brown, Dr. Palmer, and Katie, and I consider it a privilege to be working in the same practice as them,” she said. “My life, from birth to career, has indeed come full circle.”
In addition to her career, Becker has a full life filled with family, friends and interests. She met her husband, Taylor, a Georgia College graduate, when she moved back home from GSU. He is an avid fisherman, so the couple purchased a home on Lake Sinclair where they live with their beloved pooch Barkley. She enjoys running, including half-marathons, when time allows.
She is eager to give credit to her husband, parents, and sisters Jamie Caraway and Lindsey Garretson, for supporting her journey into healthcare.
“My parents have supported me in every way possible in life, especially financially and emotionally, when obtaining my degrees. I could not have done it without them and my husband during the stressful periods that always comes while in school. They have been my biggest cheerleaders, and I’m so grateful.”