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Midwifery program at UIC College of Nursing celebrates 40 years

Monday October 22, 2012
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In October, the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Nursing celebrated the 40th anniversary of its midwifery program. And in November, certified nurse-midwives will be among the hundreds of nurses taking part in UIC’s 15th annual Power of Nursing Leadership event, which UIC says showcases and celebrates "the impact of nurses in shaping quality healthcare to meet the needs of the people of Illinois."

"There has been a definite growth in midwifery," said Carrie Klima, CNM, PhD, interim director of the Nurse Midwifery and Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner programs at the UIC College of Nursing. "And we’d like midwifery to be the model of care for new mothers."

In recent decades, the number of births in the U.S. attended by CNMs has increased steadily. In 2009, the most recent year for which final birth data was available from the National Center for Health Statistics, CNMs attended 313,516 births. That number represents about 11.4% of vaginal births and 7.6% of total births. In 1989, births attended by CNMs accounted for just 3.3% of all births, according to the NCHS.

CNMs trained at UIC have attended many of those births. Since the program’s inception, it has graduated 551 CNMs, who have attended the births of more than 12,000 babies, Klima said.

The program continues to grow, both in size and influence.

In the 1980s, 12 students were in Klima’s class, she said. Today, about 120 students are in the program each year. About three dozen new students are admitted each year, with many other applicants turned away.

"We hope to continue to expand, as the demand for midwifery continues to grow," Klima said.

While UIC-educated CNMs have moved into practice in Illinois and elsewhere, many also have moved into positions in which they can influence policy and public health. Klima said CNMs are concerned with enhancing women’s healthcare and health education, particularly among population segments in which women’s healthcare has lacked.

She said CNMs are relieving more of the burden from obstetricians as CNMs attend an increasing number of healthy live births, allowing the doctors to focus on high-risk pregnancies and other situations that might require a physician.

As such, she said, CNMs also are working to shift perspectives in the U.S. and elsewhere toward pregnancy.

"We want people to not see pregnancy as a disease state," she said.

Jonathan Bilyk is a freelance writer.

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