A nurse-midwifery specialty within the University of Arizona College of Nursing’s Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) program at UArizona Health Sciences received pre-accreditation status from the Accreditation Commission for Midwifery Education, making the specialty available to students who wish to become certified nurse-midwives (CNM).
The need for nurse-midwives is growing as the obstetrics and gynecology (OB-GYN) workforce shrinks. A 2017 report from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists showed nearly 1 in 3 OB-GYN doctors were nearing retirement. At the same time, younger doctors were trending away from general OB-GYN practice in favor of more specialized fields.
Graduates of the DNP nurse-midwifery specialty will be eligible to take the national certification examination administered by the American Midwifery Certification Board. CNMs independently provide care during pregnancy, childbirth and the postpartum period.
Nurse-midwives can also provide primary care to individuals of all gender identities and sexual orientations across the lifespan and address all aspects of reproductive and sexual health, including family planning, contraception, menopausal care and cancer screening. Care may be provided in a variety of settings including patient homes, private practices, community health centers, ambulatory clinics, hospitals and birthing centers.
“It really covers a breadth of clinical needs,” said Erin McMahon, EdD, CNM, FACNM, director of the nurse-midwife program. “My goal is to establish a midwifery program that creates more nurse-midwives and develops a more diverse profession that is representative of the communities that we serve.”
Access to prenatal and obstetric services are decreasing in rural areas due to closures of obstetric units and rural and critical access hospitals. Several of Arizona’s counties have few or no obstetric providers, and nearly half of the women in some rural areas must travel for more than 30 minutes to receive maternity care.
“Our primary goal will be to attract registered nurses from within our Arizona communities to attend our program and stay in their communities to continue to provide care where they are,” Dr. McMahon said.
The hybrid program utilizes a mixture of online didactic coursework, on-campus intensives and clinical placements. Current DNP students can transfer into the specialty, and new applicants for fall 2023 can choose the specialty during the admission process.
The nurse-midwifery specialty has met all requirements to receive accreditation and will be reevaluated for full accreditation once the first cohort has graduated. It was one of three new UArizona Health Sciences programs – the other two are physical therapy and physician assistant – to receive approval from the Arizona Board of Regents earlier this year. The programs aim to create a pipeline of skilled providers that will increase access to care for patients in Arizona’s diverse rural and urban communities.