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/.