In Arizona, there are several counties that 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. Nationally, access to prenatal and obstetric services are decreasing in rural areas due to closures of obstetric units and rural and critical access hospitals.
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.
At the University of Arizona Health Sciences, a new nurse-midwifery specialty in the UArizona College of Nursing’s Doctor of Nursing Practice degree program is training nurse-midwives to fill the need for skilled health care providers.
In addition to providing pre- and post-natal care and birthing services, nurse-midwives can provide primary care across the lifespan and address all aspects of reproductive and sexual health, including family planning, contraception, menopausal care and cancer screening. Care can be provided to individuals of all gender identities and sexual orientations 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.”
Graduates of the DNP nurse-midwifery specialty will be eligible to take the national certification examination administered by the American Midwifery Certification Board. The hybrid program utilizes a mixture of online didactic coursework, on-campus intensives and clinical placements.
“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.