Baby-Friendly USA is pleased to welcome Casey Bland, RN, MSN, as the newest member of its Board of Directors.
Casey is currently serving as the Provider Quality Coordinator for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Mississippi (BCBSMS). In this role, she is the primary lead for BCBSMS’s Maternity Quality Model.
As part of this statewide initiative, Casey collaborates with hospitals and providers across Mississippi to help implement evidence-based best practices in maternal and infant health with a goal of improving health outcomes.
This role is especially critical in Mississippi where 91 percent of all hospitals in the state that deliver babies are actively working toward achieving or maintaining Baby-Friendly designation – and breastfeeding rates have increased significantly from 49 percent in 2015 to 65 percent in 2018.
Prior to joining BCBSMS, Casey served in several progressive leadership roles at Rush Foundation Hospital in Meridian, Mississippi. During her tenure there from 2009 – 2018, Casey had management responsibilities for Medical Surgical services, Neonatal Intensive Care, and Women’s Care specialty areas. Most recently, she served as Director of Nursing Services before she transitioned to BCBSMS.
A native of Jackson, Mississippi, Casey holds a Bachelor of Nursing degree from the University of Alabama at Birmingham, and a Master of Science in Nursing with an emphasis on Nursing Administration from the University of Southern Mississippi.
“We are thrilled to have Casey join the BFUSA Board,” said Theresa Landau, MS, RDN, CDN, CLC, BFUSA’s Board Chair. “Mississippi has made great strides on the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative over the past few years. Casey brings a unique and important perspective to our Board as a key leader in that state and as a former nurse leader in a Mississippi hospital. We look forward to her many contributions to BFUSA.”
We sat down with Casey to hear about her work at BCBSMS, her excitement about joining the BFUSA Board, and her thoughts about the future of Baby-Friendly in Mississippi. Here are her comments:
What do you find most exciting about your work?
I think it’s an exciting time to be doing this work because maternal and infant care have now become highlighted on a national scale. So much focus is being placed on how we can make improvements in that area. National data shows pregnancy-related complications and maternal mortality rates have declined or plateaued in other developed countries, but those rates have continued to rise in the United States. Obviously, that is not what we want to see. We have some of the most expensive healthcare in the world, yet better outcomes don’t align with that. And so, there has really been a call to action from lots of different arenas – payers, hospital organizations, and at the community level – to make an impact.
The national Blue Cross/Blue Shield Association is committed to decreasing severe maternal morbidity, which are unexpected complications, across the board. It’s a lofty goal, but it is great to see this national organization focused on improving maternal outcomes and reducing the racial disparities that have become so evident in maternal health. As someone who started out as a bedside nurse, it’s nice to see programs specifically focused on improving or driving outcomes on a national scale and on a larger statewide scale.
How did your previous roles as a bedside nurse and then a nurse leader prepare you for your current position?
My role at BCBSMS is to drive the Maternal Quality Model forward by partnering and collaborating with our Network providers and hospital teams. My background in the hospital setting has definitely helped me form those relationships. I love the fact that I do get to work with teams all across the state. What you find is that there are not many unique challenges. Everyone is pretty much having some of the same struggles and uphill battles. I think being in the hospital setting, understanding the world they live in, the many hats you have to wear – especially when you’re in a type of leadership/management role in nursing – that really helped me develop a rapport and credibility with our hospital teams and providers.
I’ve been in the nursing profession over 20 years. I always say my first love is mother baby care. When I look back, that’s the type of nursing that I’ve enjoyed the most. So, it really was a full-circle moment to have that be my primary focus at BCBSMS where I can make impact across the state. Now through the BFUSA Board, I can have an even greater impact across the country.
Do you miss direct patient care?
I’m often asked that question. No, I don’t miss it. I think that was a chapter and a season and now this is a new chapter where I can have an impact in a different way. This work has been very enjoyable.
What is the Maternal Quality Model and how does Baby-Friendly fit in?
The BCBSMS Maternity Quality Model is a statewide quality-improvement initiative in collaboration with BCBSMS Network Hospitals that engages hospitals and care teams to reduce maternal and infant harm and death through evidence-based, best practices. A key component of the Maternity Quality Model is the Baby-Friendly Hospital Designation whose foundation is the Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding. Supporting hospital teams implement these best practices to attain Baby-Friendly Designation helps to ensure we achieve and sustain improved health outcomes.
Why is this work important to you personally?
It’s well documented that breastfeeding correlates to better outcomes – improved outcomes for mom and improved outcomes for baby. When we talk about improving the health of Mississippi, it only makes sense to start with answering the question of how do we have a healthy baby from the beginning. And part of that healthy start is breastfeeding. It’s worthy work.