When Mary Breckinridge founded what became Frontier Nursing University more than 75 years ago, her vision was to provide nurse-midwifery care to serve the needs of women and families in rural and underserved areas. A study from the American College of Nurse-Midwives in 2012 found that women receiving midwifery care reported higher levels of patient satisfaction and lower costs due to fewer unnecessary, invasive and expensive interventions.
Nurse-midwives reach more mothers and increase care options for women and families through birth centers. During our second annual Digital Summit in October, held during National Midwifery Week, we heard heartwarming stories from families who chose birth center care and nurse-midwives who provide safe environments for women to have their babies.
According to the American Midwifery Certification Board, there are more than 11,000 certified nurse-midwives and the number of midwife-attended births in the U.S. has more than doubled since 1991. FNU’s goal, and one of the reasons we host the digital summit, is to be a leading educator for the 100,000 nurse-midwives needed as we move forward in reform of our health-care system.
At Frontier, we encourage nurse-midwives to think broadly about the needs of the communities they serve. Mary Breckinridge and pioneers like Kitty Ernst — FNU’s Mary Breckinridge chair of midwifery who recently celebrated her 90th birthday — who have carried her legacy forward have demonstrated that nurse-midwives who care for the family benefit the entire community.
Many nurse-midwives are taking their careers a step further by focusing on evidence-based care, quality improvement and leadership. One example is FNU’s doctor of nursing practice. We developed this degree program to meet the demand for advanced practice nursing leaders in an increasingly complex health-care system. With a DNP education our graduates can directly implement evidence-based practices that lead to improved care in their communities.
FNU DNP graduates shared during the digital summit how their advanced degrees are essential to improving the health care of their communities. We hope that more nurse-midwives and nurse practitioners with a mission and vision for the future will choose to advance their education and clinical leadership.
Additionally, many nurse-midwives are going beyond primary and maternity care to address the mental health of the women they serve. New in 2017, FNU will offer a psychiatric-mental health nurse practitioner program with an option to complete a companion DNP degree. Applications are now being accepted for the 2017 classes.
During the digital summit, I shared my story. As a head nurse in an obstetrical ward, I found my passion for improving the childbirth experience for women. I knew that only through compassionate, humanistic, women-centered care could health outcomes be improved for mothers, babies and families. My journey at FNU started as a nurse-midwifery student in the school’s first distance education class. I later joined the FNU faculty, which led to my current role as president.
I have had the opportunity to advocate for advanced nursing and midwifery education, as well as the care of women throughout their lives in underserved communities around the world.
Nurse-midwives don’t just provide maternity care and attend births. The modern nurse-midwife plays a larger role in women’s health care and the health of the entire family. We hope our stories shared during the summit inspired more nurses to answer the call, whether that’s pursuing a certification in nurse-midwifery, expanding their roles as nurse-midwives or mentoring and precepting to shape the future of midwifery care.
We invite you to learn more about the FNU digital summit and view the 2016 sessions and videos at Frontier.edu/midwiferyweek.
Susan Stone is president of Frontier Nursing University.