Empowering women, providing care

BIG RAPIDS — Planned Parenthood of Western and Northern Michigan in Big Rapids is saying goodbye to its first nurse practitioner while welcoming a new nurse to continue the care and services offered by the facility.

Hersey native Sherry Wood-Stieg retired on Thursday after almost 35 years in the position. She began her career at the Planned Parenthood Association of Kent County in 1979 as the Mecosta County branch coordinator and was one of the first nurse practitioners in the Big Rapids area in 1982. She served as Planned Parenthood’s regional coordinator for Mecosta, Lake, Newaygo and Oceana counties, and then served as manager of PPWNM in 2007. In 2010, she returned to the nurse practitioner position to assist patients.

PPWNM serves the regional area and offers services including general health care, reproductive health care, pregnancy testing, STD testing and treatment, sex education, HIV screening, birth control, and more. The facility assists both men and women, who can remain anonymous. Almost all forms of health insurance is accepted and the staff sees people of all ages.

Wood-Stieg said she has many memories throughout her time with PPWNM, but helping improve the lives of women has been her favorite part of the job.

“I’ve seen teen moms who have grown and developed into wonderful mothers after others have said they would fail,” Wood-Stieg said. “I loved seeing the growth in the individuals I’ve served over the years.”

She has mixed emotions about leaving, noting she will miss both the PPWNM staff, who have become like family, and the patients.

“I hope over the years I’ve built a good reputation for nurse practitioners in this area,” Wood-Stieg added. “A number of our patients have returned to see me once they found out I was retiring.”

Now, she plans on spending a lot of time with her grandchildren, traveling and enjoying a golf membership. She also will continue to serve on the Osceola County 4-H board and be an active part of the 4-H community.

Following in her footsteps is Big Rapids native Sherrie Vaughn, who began working her way up within Planned Parenthood in the 1980’s and decided to go back to school to receive her bachelor’s of science in nursing degree at Ferris State University. Following graduation, she knew she wanted to return to Planned Parenthood and stay local.

“I have a passion for women’s health care,” Vaughn said. “I want women to be the best they can be.”

Not only does she provide that care, but she makes a point to speak positively, encourage patients and become interested in their current lives and futures. It’s fulfilling to know she can help inspire women to do more, she added.

Wood-Stieg said Vaughn is perfect for the position.

“When Sherrie interviewed, she had a spark,” she said. “She had the same motivation I had when I started.”

Vaughn has the professionalism, dedication, confidentiality, respect, principals and empathy needed as a nurse practitioner in the facility, she added.

Vaughn said she would like to spread the word about PPWNM and the services offered so those in need of care know where it is available.

“I want to get Planned Parenthood more into the public here, and I want people to know there is an anonymous place to go to get professional health care from women who understand,” she added.