A strong network of Frontier Nursing University (FNU) students, graduates and preceptors are spearheading a maternity revolution in the United States through their work at birth centers.
Birth centers (BCs) are health care facilities for childbirth where care is provided in the midwifery and wellness model. BCs are not hospitals, but rather freestanding entities integrated into the health care system and guided by principles of prevention, sensitivity, safety, appropriate medical intervention and cost-effectiveness.
The network of FNU students, graduates and preceptors working in BCs are supported through the Strong Start Initiative for Mothers and Newborns.
The American Association of Birth Centers (AABC) created Strong Start in order to support mothers throughout their pregnancies and postpartum. In it, each participant receives the direction and support she needs during her pregnancy to feel safe, secure and prepared to meet her healthy new baby.
According to a November 2018 report by the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), women who received prenatal care in Strong Start BCs had better birth outcomes and lower costs relative to similar Medicaid beneficiaries not enrolled in Strong Start.
“In particular, rates of preterm birth, low birth weight, and cesarean section were lower among birth center participants, and costs were more than $2,000 lower per mother-infant pair during birth and the following year,” the report stated. “These promising birth center results may be useful to state Medicaid programs seeking to improve the health outcomes of their covered populations.”
The findings are evidence that BC maternity care has a larger potential impact on the reduction of preterm birth risk than any other recent medical or public health intervention, a sentiment that FNU closely echoes with its own holistic birth care values.
El Rio Birth & Women’s Health Center in Tucson, Ariz. has brought eight FNU CNM alumni onto staff. El Rio, situated on the U.S.-Mexico border, serves a varied and sometimes vulnerable population.
Director of Midwifery Services, Greta Gill, CNM, MSN, says El Rio’s community-based care model is what attracts so many like-minded FNU alumni.
“We are all mindful of the original mission of the Frontier Nursing Service,” she said. “We carry forth the tradition of compassionate and excellent care for the most vulnerable among us. Our outcomes are excellent and our patients love their care.”
El Rio nurse-midwife and FNU course faculty, Diana Jolles, CNM, PhD is responsible for creating opportunities for even more students and preceptors from the FNU community to participate in the care model at El Rio.
“FNU alumni are united by a shared vision and create community around that sisterhood,” said Greta. “Only another midwife can relate to the lifestyle, intense passion and huge fulfillment we get from this work.”
El Rio is just one of the 182 BCs participating in the Strong Start Initiative around the country.
“The Strong Start data has been affirming,” said Greta. “We now hope to see it drive decision-making at the health care policy level. Every woman deserves a midwife, and we want to expand access to our model of care.”
While the Strong Start Initiative has ended, the research shows that midwifery led care is important to the welfare of mothers across the nation. FNU encourages students to learn more about public healthcare models similar to the Strong Start Initiative through professional organizations such as American Association of Birth Centers or American College of Nurse Midwives.
“FNU students should leverage the network of alumni, preceptors, and graduates who are working in public healthcare models nationwide,” Dr. Jolles said.
As Frontier Nursing University strives to improve maternal health, we support the vast network of alumni, preceptors, graduates and students who are working in birth centers around the country. Together, they are impacting communities by bringing high-quality prenatal, birth and postpartum care to mothers and families. To learn more about the birth center model or find a birth center near you, visit BirthCenters.org.