Oct 072013
 
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ECU nurse-midwifery students take direction from program director Dr. Becky Bagley, standing at right, in a lab in the College of Nursing. Photo by Cliff Hollis, ECU News Services.

Think again if the word “midwife” conjures up thoughts of home birth and hippies. In fact, 95 percent of births attended by midwives happen in a hospital system and the rest are divided about equally between birthing centers and home.

ECU’s College of Nursing has been educating certified nurse-midwives for more than 20 years, graduating its first class in 1992. ECU offers the only nurse-midwifery education program in North Carolina and one of only 39 across the United States.

The college is recognizing its faculty, staff and students in celebration of National Midwifery Week Oct. 6-12.

ECU has graduated 160 students from the master’s degree concentration, and 32 are enrolled now, said Dr. Becky Bagley, director of nurse-midwifery. To practice, graduates must pass the national board exam through the American Midwifery Certification Board. ECU has had an overall pass rate of 98 percent on the exam since the program began, Bagley said.

In North Carolina, certified nurse-midwives also must obtain approval to practice from the Midwifery Joint Committee of the N.C. Board of Nursing.

More than 250 certified nurse-midwives were registered in North Carolina in November 2012, according to the state nursing board.

Across the country, more than 50 percent of certified nurse-midwives work in a physicians’ practice or list a hospital as their primary employer. They also work in public health centers, the military, birthing centers and home birth services. In 2011, the most recent data available, 12 percent of all vaginal births were attended by a certified nurse-midwife.

While known for obstetrical care, midwives also provide primary care including annual physical exams, family planning, preventive health screening, health promotion and patient education.

They are trained to provide care for newborns through their first 28 days of life. “This training allows the certified nurse midwife to empower the new parents and help prepare them for life with a new baby,” Bagley said.

Midwifery means “with woman” and certified nurse-midwives are “with women” from puberty through menopause. “The care provided by a certified nurse-midwife is one of a partnership with the woman,” Bagley said. “They are an advocate for women and families to eliminate health disparities and increase access to evidence-based, quality care.”

ECU’s program is accredited by the Accreditation Commission for Midwifery Education. For more information, visit http://www.nursing2.ecu.edu/NurseMidwifery/.

 
 
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Oct 012013
 

Each day in North Carolina, accidental falls account for 531 emergency room visits, 69 hospitalizations and two to three deaths. As you may imagine, nearly 90 percent of these falls involve the elderly. Causes include taking more than four prescriptions and accompanying side effects, physical deconditioning, poor balance, dehydration and failure to properly adjust someone’s home to the changing needs that come with age.

But, for Dr. Jane Painter-Patton, professor of occupational therapy who leads ECU’s Fall Risk Assessment Clinic, there is a seemingly counterintuitive cause that she pays particular attention to. According to Painter-Patton, seniors who have anxiety about the possibility of a fall are actually more likely to experience one.

It is a vicious cycle.

“When people are more afraid of falling, they are more sedentary,” says Painter-Patton. “But we know that weakens their muscles and makes falls much more likely when they do get up to walk around. We try to address that with our patients and make sure that they know that the best way to prevent falls is actually safely increasing activity.”

Questions about anxiety and depression are part of the screening process at the clinic, which has been operating on ECU’s campus for more than five years. Painter-Patton and her team, which includes a geriatrician, geriatric pharmacist, occupational therapist, physical therapist, social worker, and nurses send patients home with a set of recommendations to improve both their mental and physical health. But, she says, old habits die hard.

“You’ve got someone who is 80-years-old and has never really exercised; it’s hard to get them to start,” she said. “But we start with simple range of motion activities (like Tai Chi) to get them moving, which we know improves their mood.”

So, while accidental falls remain a concern for the elderly, ECU is helping seniors realize that a proactive approach is the surest way to reduce risks. 

Other fall prevention strategies used by ECU’s occupational therapy department include incorporating Matter of Balance, an evidence-based fear of falling education program; the American Arthritis Tai Chi program and Free for Falls educational program for those with multiple sclerosis; and volunteer opportunities for ECU occupational and physical therapy students to assist with Eastern N.C. Falls Prevention Coalition activities. For example, ECU students helped screen almost 300 older adults for their risk of falls at the annual Falls Prevention Exposition held at the Greenville Convention Center during National Falls Prevention Week.