For decades, Frontier Nursing University has excelled at preparing nurse-midwifery and nurse practitioner students to become ethical, compassionate, innovative, and entrepreneurial leaders. FNU has long understood the vital roles that nurse-midwives and nurse practitioners play in the nation’s healthcare system. To the general public, however, the different terms and titles can be confusing, yet understanding them grows more important as the U.S. combats significant healthcare shortages and crises across the country.
Even before the start of the COVID-19 Pandemic, it was well-known that the U.S. was facing a healthcare provider shortage. This trend was verified in a June 2021 report by the Association of American Medical Colleges, which estimated the U.S. faces a shortage of primary care physicians of between 17,800 and 48,000 and a shortage across the non-primary care specialties of between 21,000 and 77,100 physicians. (Source: https://www.aamc.org/media/54681/download?attachment)
Perhaps even more disconcerting is the maternal mortality crisis. A maternal death is defined by the World Health Organization as “the death of a woman while pregnant or within 42 days of termination of pregnancy, irrespective of the duration and the site of the pregnancy, from any cause related to or aggravated by the pregnancy or its management, but not from accidental or incidental causes.” According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), in 2021, the maternal mortality rate in the United States was 32.9 deaths per 100,000 live births, a dramatic increase from rates of 23.8 in 2020 and 20.1 in 2019. The rate for non-Hispanic Black women is even more alarming, at 69.9 deaths per 100,000 births in 2021. (Source: https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/hestat/maternal-mortality/2021/maternal-mortality-rates-2021.pdf)
Answers to systemic problems are complex and involve multiple components, but data suggests that nurse-midwives could help dramatically to improve the nation’s maternal mortality crisis. The Lancet Series on Midwifery found that midwives are linked to higher rates of physiologic birth and fewer adverse neonatal outcomes. The report noted that approximately 10 percent of U.S. births are attended by nurse-midwives, compared to 50-75 percent in other high-resource countries. (Source: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5821332/#sec004title)
In addition to educating and preparing more nurse-midwives, part of the solution is also an increased awareness of exactly what nurse-midwives do. Taking note of the many myths about nurse-midwives, FNU has made it a strategic priority to be a source of information and education about the vital role of nurse-midwives.
“Nurse-midwives contribute significantly to better care for women and families,” said FNU President Dr. Susan Stone, DNSc, CNM, FACNM, FAAN. “This is why a number of healthcare organizations across the country are embracing collaborative models and adding nurse-midwives to healthcare teams. With their unique skill sets, nurse-midwives help improve quality and decrease costs. They also serve as excellent advocates for patients, which is particularly important as more and more women are seeking out-of-hospital care.”
Certified nurse-midwives (CNMs) are educated in two disciplines: midwifery and nursing. They earn graduate degrees, complete a midwifery education program accredited by the Accreditation Commission for Midwifery Education (ACME), and pass a national certification examination administered by the American Midwifery Certification Board (AMCB).
“An important objective for Frontier Nursing University is to define the role of the certified nurse-midwife so the public understands the broad scope of services these professionals provide,” Dr. Stone said.
FNU’s strategy to educate the public about the difference between nurse-midwives has included sharing informational messages across multiple platforms, including FNU’s publications and communications, including the FNU website, blog, Quarterly Bulletin, e-newsletters, press releases, and myth-busting fact sheets.
Nurse-midwives have a core focus on promoting optimal health, not only caring for the sick but also providing guidance to assist in long-term health. This model of care forms a partnership between nurse and patient with a focus on promoting ongoing health in addition to treating illness. The focus on health maintenance is a core characteristic of the practice of nurse-midwives and nurse practitioners. Midwifery care, as defined by the American College of Nurse-Midwives, includes health promotion, disease prevention, wellness education and counseling, and full-scope primary care services, including maternity care. A 2023 study found that midwifery-led care has many positive effects on improving several key maternal and neonatal outcomes, including fewer emergency Caesarean sections, higher rates of vaginal births, lower rates of episiotomies, and shorter neonatal stays in intensive care units. (Source: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov )
“Nurse-midwives serve as excellent advocates for patients, which is particularly important as more women seek out-of-hospital care,” Dr. Stone said. “Frontier Nursing University’s goal is to educate more certified nurse-midwives so that midwifery care is available to all women who seek it, and to educate the public about the care that these nurse-midwives can provide.”
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