Frontier Nursing University’s mission is built on nearly 80 years of experience in graduate nursing and midwifery education. Our unique history helps to define who we are today and guide who we will be in the future. A deep appreciation of where we started is one of the many bonds we share in the FNU community.
The Birthplace of Midwifery and Family Nursing in America
The Frontier Graduate School of Midwifery was started in 1939 by the Frontier Nursing Service (FNS) as a part of its demonstration project in the care of the mother and child in rural areas of Kentucky. When FNS began using nurse-midwives in the United States in 1925, it was able to secure a qualified staff in only two ways, by sending American nurses to Great Britain for graduate training or by enlisting British nurses already qualified as midwives. In the early years, the FNS offered scholarships to American nurses to go to Great Britain for training in nurse-midwifery, and recruited British nurse-midwives.
From the beginning, Mary Breckinridge viewed nurse-midwifery as central to health care. When World War II started in 1939, a number of the British members of the FNS staff wished to return to their homes. Under war conditions, it was not possible to continue to send American nurses to Great Britain. The FNS immediately put into operation its plan for a graduate school of nurse-midwifery. The Frontier Graduate School of Midwifery enrolled its first class November 1, 1939. Frontier Nursing University has been in continuous operation since that time.
Community-based Education Allows Nurses to Remain in Home Communities
As the number of births decreased in Leslie County during the 1980s it became difficult to support a traditional midwifery program. In 1989, the nurse-midwifery program was transferred to the University of New Mexico. That class graduated on October 27, 1991, under the flag of the Frontier School of Midwifery and Family Nursing (FSMFN). During this time, the Community-based Nurse-midwifery Education Program (CNEP) began as a pilot project funded by the PEW Foundation. The development of the CNEP was originally a cooperative effort of the Maternity Center Association (MCA), the National Association of Childbearing Centers (NACC), Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing, Case Western Reserve University (FPBSON/CWRU) and the Frontier Nursing Service (FNS).
The goal was to enable nurses to remain in their communities while obtaining graduate education as nurse-midwives and ultimately increase the number of practicing nurse-midwives working in underserved areas. The pilot project was very successful. In 1990, the FSMFN recognized that the CNEP model of education matched its own goals and mission. The president of the school and the board of directors voted to adopt the CNEP as its nurse-midwifery education program in 1991. CNEP has since graduated thousands of nurse-midwives.
In the early days of the Frontier Nursing Service, the nurse-midwives rode their horses to the homes of local women to assist them in labor and birth. The horses could easily navigate the mountains and streams. The saddlebags were equipped with the materials used by the midwives.
Just as today, children would often ask from where babies come. Since new babies usually arrived after a visit from a nurse-midwife, the children were politely told that the nurse-midwives brought them in their saddlebags. And so this picture was taken.
Since then, this story has been passed on. In Leslie County, Kentucky (home of Frontier Nursing University), parents don't have to use the stork or cabbage patch lore. Children know where babies REALLY come from... midwives’ saddlebags!
Frontier Introduces Family Nursing Education
In the late 1960s, the Frontier Nursing Service recognized that as health care options became more complex, a broader based education was necessary for nurses to provide comprehensive primary care to all family members. At this time, the FSMFN developed the first certificate program to prepare family nurse practitioners. In 1970, the name of the Frontier Graduate School of Midwifery was changed to the Frontier School of Midwifery and Family Nursing (FSMFN) to reflect the addition of the FNP program. The last class to graduate from the combined family nurse-midwifery program was in August of 1990.
The Community-based Family Nurse Practitioner (CFNP) education program was re-established in 1999 using the CNEP distance education model. With the acceptance of CFNP class 1 in 1999, the FSMFN came full circle in its mission to educate nurses to provide primary care that is comprehensive, safe and culturally sensitive. In 2003 FSMFN began offering an MSN in the specialties of nurse-midwifery and family nurse practitioner, and a certificate in the women’s health care nurse practitioner specialty. In 2005, FSMFN added the Women’s Health Care Nurse Practitioner track to the MSN options and added a post-graduate certificate for all three tracks.
Frontier Adds Doctor of Nursing Practice & Changes Name
In October 2004, members of the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) endorsed the Position Statement on the Practice Doctorate in Nursing which called for moving the level of preparation necessary for advanced nursing practice roles from the master's degree to the doctorate level by the year 2015. FSMFN moved forward with plans to include the addition of a Doctor of Nursing Practice in the program offerings in 2007. The first class of DNP students enrolled in October 2008. The introduction of the DNP ensured that FSMFN would remain a leading institution in advanced practice nursing education and offer quality programs at all levels to nurse-midwives and nurse practitioners throughout the country.
On July 1, 2011, the Frontier School of Midwifery and Family Nursing officially changed its name to Frontier Nursing University to better reflect its status as a graduate school of nursing.
FNU Addresses Current Health Care Needs in Rural & Underserved Populations
In July 2016, Frontier Nursing University (FNU) announced a new online program for nurse-midwives and nurse practitioners seeking a post-graduate certificate in psychiatric-mental health nursing. The inaugural class started January 2017. In 2018, the Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner specialty track will expand to registered nurses seeking a Masters of Nursing Science in Nursing (MSN).