Care New England is recognizing National Midwifery Week, which runs from September 29 through October 5, 2020. National Midwifery Week was created by the American College of Nurse-Midwives (ACNM) to celebrate and recognize midwives and midwife-led care.
According to Elisabeth Howard, PhD, CNM, FACNM, Associate Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Clinician Educator; Director of Midwifery, Women & Infants Hospital, “In 1975, Mary Dowd Struck, the former Chief Nursing Officer (CNO) of Women and Infants Hospital (1976 - 2006), graduated from Columbia University’s midwifery program and came to Rhode Island, where she was told by the Department of Health that a midwife had not been licensed in RI since 1934, and that they did not have a mechanism in place and no interest in developing one.”
“She began working with the Rhode Island Women’s Health Collective (RIWHC) to make midwifery a viable option for women and families throughout the state. They joined together to conserve a traditional woman-centered birth option and to promote women’s health. The RIWHC was an outgrowth of the Boston Women’s Health Collective which published Our Bodies, Ourselves, in 1978, with the help of the Collective and Governor Garrahy, the mechanism to practice midwifery in Rhode Island was put in place. Women and Infants Hospital then became the first hospital in Rhode Island to credential midwives. Midwives continued to work to pass state legislature measures in 1988 and 1990 expanding the scope of practice and authority of midwives. In 1993, a federal grant enabled the University of Rhode Island to open the first training program for nurse-midwives in the state,” Howard added.
Today, there is a flourishing and growing midwifery community in Rhode Island. At Women and Infants Hospital, there are approximately 27 midwives credentialed to practice, which include full scope practices that provide 24/7 coverage to their clients both in the hospital’s Alternative Birthing Center and the Labor and Delivery Unit, with seamless transition to complex care when needed. An additional practice includes a group of academic midwives who provide care in the Emergency Department, Antepartum Care, Labor, and Mother-Baby Units, working in a team of providers and educating our next generation of physicians. Great strides have been made to make midwifery care available in the last forty years in Rhode Island.
Mary Dowd Struck said, “As one of two licensed midwifes in 1978 I could never have imaged what a vital force midwifery would become in our state. Growth in our numbers, fueled by a first class educational program at URI has provided the women of Rhode Island with the highest quality care. I couldn’t be prouder of the professional midwives who practice in Rhode Island today.”
According the American College of Nurse Midwives (ACNM), midwifery is grounded in evidence-based practice and professional standards, along with a deep understanding of the normal, natural events in a women’s lifespan. They use an approach to women’s health care based on researched evidence and clinical expertise, while also considering a woman’s own values. The ACNM has joined with other national health care organizations to develop and endorse principles for client safety in childbirth. These principles promote care based on scientific knowledge, respectful coordination of care between different members of the health care team, active involvement of clients and their families in care practices, and a commitment to improving the quality of care. Together, these principles help promote the highest standards for quality and safety in maternity care in the United States.
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