Posted by Katy
As an introduction, I will break down the university-based nurse midwifery program that I’m in. The program is intended for students who have completed a bachelors degree in another field and consists of a one year bachelors degree and certification in Nursing, followed by a year and a half masters degree and certification in Nurse Midwifery.
I moved to New York from Berkeley, CA last year specifically for the program. My sister (who is a marvelous doula), dad, and boyfriend all still live in the Bay Area and the rest of my family lives in Colorado, so living this far away is challenging. The program dominates my entire life right now which is overwhelming, but also seems like a good way to get a high volume of knowledge and skills that can be a strong foundation for developing a midwifery practice.
Robbie Davis-Floyd breaks down the pros and cons of university-based midwifery programs quite eloquently, so I’ll draw from some of her thoughts in “Types of Midwifery Training: An Anthropological Overview”. Davis-Floyd explains that university-based education provides an opportunity to become a midwife that is accepted in mainstream society and allows her the opportunity to teach, do research, and engage in politics as well as practice midwifery. A university education involves classes in a wide variety of subjects leading a midwife to be well-rounded in math, science, English, anthropology, etc. The program I am in includes a strong clinical component (classes 2 days a week and clinical 2-3 days a week), which connects the student midwife to a preceptor. The clinical placements are in a wide variety of settings, many of which focus on patients of underserved communities. This program gives attention to the individuality of the students and promotes creative, critical thinking.
Many of the challenges of the program are also articulated by Davis-Floyd. Davis-Floyd explains that experience of birth complications seen by student nurse midwives can contribute to a fear of birth rather than a confidence in the natural process. I am concerned about this happening, but I do not feel that I am in a position at this time to comment on this phenomenon. I hope that any birth complications I see will contribute to my body of knowledge in guiding women and babies through a safe birth, rather than promote fear or mistrust. Davis-Floyd also explains that student nurse midwives can become overly reliant on medical technology because of their training sites. I am also afraid of this happening, but I feel reassured that I am a flexible person and will continue to develop my midwifery practice throughout my life to adjust to what the women I’m serving need and want.
Perhaps the greatest critique of all is that university programs require student midwives to first complete nursing training. I feel that nursing training has taught me a lot about providing care for women and I think that many of the theories taught in nursing school are absolutely applicable to midwifery. However, the realities of nursing are antithetical of much of what my understanding of midwifery is and that difference makes nursing a huge barrier to becoming a nurse midwife.
Over all, I am unsure of what this year will be like, but I plan to take the good with the bad and use this year to begin the journey of becoming a phenomenal midwife.