U of A Observes Week to Raise Awareness about Nurse-Midwifery Practice

Nursing students in this semester's obstetrics clinical rotation with Brennan Straka, far right, include, from left, Emily Feierabend, Gretchen Schloegel, Amanda Kosieja and Katherine Davidson.
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Nursing students in this semester's obstetrics clinical rotation with Brennan Straka, far right, include, from left, Emily Feierabend, Gretchen Schloegel, Amanda Kosieja and Katherine Davidson.

Interest in nurse midwifery is growing among University of Arkansas nursing students, and the school is observing National Midwifery Week starting Sunday through Oct. 6.

Brennan Straka is a certified nurse-midwife who works as a clinical instructor for the Eleanor Mann School of Nursing. The school has other faculty members who are also certified nurse-midwives.

"Arkansas has a small but growing number of certified nurse-midwives practicing at Willow Creek Hospital in Springdale, the Birth Center of Northwest Arkansas in Rogers and the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences in Little Rock," said Straka, who has eight students in her obstetrics clinical rotation this semester. "In my last rotation, two students were interested in becoming nurse-midwives. They are very curious, and it's interesting to see their progression during the semester. There is a natural fear of labor and delivery, and I saw students focus on the negative parts of labor and delivery at the beginning of the rotation. At the end of the rotation, they were leaving excited about being able to support a woman during labor and post-partum."

Straka explained that nurse-midwives support women during pregnancy, labor, delivery, postpartum and beyond. They generally spend more time than physicians with women during prenatal visits and more time during delivery, staying with the woman throughout pushing and after the baby is born.

Research has found that midwife-led care is safe for most women and results in better satisfaction outcomes and lower health-care costs, said Straka, who delivered about 120 babies during her training and as a practicing nurse-midwife.

A recent study by the University of British Columbia found that midwife-friendly laws and regulations in the United States tend to coincide with lower rates of premature births, cesarean deliveries and newborn deaths. The study issued a report card ranking each of the states on the quality of their midwife care. No state is achieving 100 percent integration, with Washington State ranking highest at just over 60 percent. Arkansas received a score just above 30 percent, placing higher than 20 other states where midwifery care is less integrated with the health-care system.

"Nurse-midwives are experts in normal birth, and we know when it is appropriate to transfer a woman to a higher level of care," Straka said. "We are good at helping a woman achieve a vaginal delivery if that's her goal and an un-medicated delivery if that's her desire. Studies show patients who deliver attended by nurse-midwives have higher satisfaction rates. A low-risk woman with a low-risk delivery has just as safe an experience as a woman seen by a physician."

Straka also serves as legislative chair of the Arkansas affiliate of the American College of Nurse-Midwives, although she said the group is not actively working on proposed legislation. Becoming a certified nurse-midwife requires a master's degree and that the candidate take the American Midwifery Certification Board exam. More nurse-midwives also hold doctorates in nursing now than in the past, Straka said.

The Eleanor Mann School of Nursing offers an on-campus Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree, and an R.N. to B.S.N. degree-completion program, a Master of Science in Nursing degree and a Doctor of Nursing Practice, all delivered online through the Global Campus with a clinical component.


Heidi S. Wells, director of communications
College of Education and Health Professions
479-575-3138, heidisw@uark.edu


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