In 2019, the Executive Board of the World Health Organization (WHO) proposed that the year 2020 be designated the “Year of the Nurse and the Midwife” in honor of the 200th anniversary of Florence Nightingale’s birth. The proposal was approved by the World Health Assembly.
In addition to the significance of Florence Nightingale’s birthday anniversary, the designation was made to help bring awareness of the importance of nurses and midwives in the health and care of populations across the globe. According to the WHO, the world needs nine million more nurses and midwives if it is to achieve universal health coverage by 2030.
Frontier Nursing University (FNU) is excited to support and participate in this international campaign and to spread awareness of the specific need for more nurses and nurse-midwives in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 700 women die annually in the United States as a result of pregnancy or delivery complications, 67 percent of which were determined to be preventable. More than five million U.S. women live in counties that have no hospital offering obstetric care and no obstetric providers.
The need for nurses and nurse-midwives is also seen beyond the gaps in maternity care. Rural areas are impacted most significantly by the healthcare shortages, with the number of physicians per 10,000 people averaging 33 in urban areas versus just 13 in rural communities. A shortage of psychiatric mental health care providers has resulted in 96 million Americans having to wait longer than a week for mental health treatment and 46 percent of those seeking this care having to drive more than an hour round-trip for treatment.
For 80 years, FNU has been educating and preparing many of these much-needed providers to serve the communities in which they live and work. FNU’s mission is to provide accessible nurse-midwifery and nurse practitioner education to prepare competent, entrepreneurial, ethical, and compassionate leaders in primary care to serve all individuals with an emphasis on women and families in diverse, rural, and underserved populations.
During the first 50 years of its history, FNU was rooted in its birthplace in the rural mountains of southeastern Kentucky. In 1989, FNU launched its distance-learning model, which enabled FNU to expand its reach across the country. Today, 73 percent of FNU’s 2,300 enrolled students live in a Healthcare Provider Shortage Area (HPSA) as defined by the Health Resources and Services Administration.
“Our distance learning model allows students to continue their education in the same communities in which they live and work,” FNU President Dr. Susan Stone, DNSc, CNM, FACNM, FAAN, said, noting that FNU has students and graduates in every state. “Students can remain in their local communities and continue to work while attending classes on a flexible schedule.”
Not only has FNU’s reach expanded significantly but so has its range of programs. FNU offers the master of science in nursing degree, doctor of nursing practice degree and post-graduate certificates with specialties including nurse-midwife, family nurse practitioner, women’s health care nurse practitioner and psychiatric-mental health care nurse practitioner. In 2018, FNU produced approximately 39 percent of the certified nurse-midwifery graduates in the U.S.
Certified nurse-midwives are advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) backed by the American College of Nurse-Midwives. To become a CNM, registered nurses must graduate from a master’s or higher-level nurse-midwifery education program accredited by the Accreditation Commission for Midwifery Education (ACME) and pass the national Certified Nurse-Midwife Examination through the American Midwifery Certification Board. All CNMs must hold state licensure. Certified midwives (CM), by comparison, are not required to have a nursing background.
“One of the important objectives for us this year is to define the role of the certified nurse-midwife and the certified midwife so the public understands the broad scope of services these professionals provide,” Dr. Stone said.
In recognizing the International Year of the Nurse and the Midwife, FNU joins the efforts to raise awareness of healthcare shortages in the U.S. and abroad; demonstrate the need for more nurses and nurse-midwives; educate the public of the value of nurses and nurse-midwives in their communities and advocate for access to quality healthcare for every individual.
“We are very excited to share the message of the International Year of the Nurse and the Midwife,” Dr. Stone said. “Greater awareness of our healthcare disparities and identification of the potential solutions are essential steps in improving the reach and access to healthcare in this country.”
To find out more about FNU’s program offerings, visit Frontier.edu/Degrees.