Modern Day US Midwifery Education

The premiere of Call the Midwife was eagerly anticipated here in the US and it did not disappoint. Jenny Lee, the main character, is a young nurse who arrives at Nonnatus House to live and learn midwifery from an order of nuns.  While viewers are given few details of her midwifery education, it is clear that there are many differences between the 1950’s UK midwifery education and today’s US Certified Nurse-Midwife (CNM) education.

On the lighter side, today’s US student nurse-midwives usually don’t ride bicycles to their clinical practice sites nor are they required to wear uniforms, unless you count scrub clothes and lab coats.

More seriously, in the US, registered nurses who are being educated to work as Certified Nurse-Midwives (CNMs) have Bachelor’s degrees in Nursing and enroll in graduate nursing programs at accredited universities. We are fortunate to have two graduate midwifery programs in southeastern Michigan–and one is in Detroit: http://nursing.wayne.edu/midwifery. These programs lead to a Master’s or Doctoral degree and include clinical seminars covering the latest evidence-based health care knowledge, the art of midwifery, and hundreds of hours of spent caring for women and newborns under the eyes of watchful, experienced midwifery clinicians—some of whom are nuns but far fewer than in the earlier days of US midwifery education. Today CNM professors and clinical educators have graduate degrees and academic appointments.

After successfully completing the midwifery academic program and passing the national certification exam, the graduates become CNM clinicians who work collaboratively in the US health care system. It is well known is that CNMs care for women during pregnancy and birth but also provided is gynecological care, care for the normal newborn, and primary care to women throughout the lifespan. Women who receive care from CNMs report high levels of satisfaction with the care they receive.

There are significant differences between US and UK health care systems and midwifery education, yet the spirit of midwifery shines through in midwives from both countries. Watching Jenny as she learns midwifery and matures as a person and a midwife is sure to be a treat—thank you PBS!

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