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Federal Grant to Enhance Campus Midwifery Program
Grant focuses on strengthening the educational program for training nurse midwifery, along with recruitment and developing midwives' skills in a diverse population.

April 20, 2006

When folks hear the word "midwives," they may have visions of old-fashioned, at home births where the men were shooed away to get hot water. In fact, that quaint scenario bears no resemblance to today's modern midwives who earn master's degrees and pass a rigorous certification exam in order to practice and deliver babies.

"Ninety-five percent of nurse midwifery deliveries are in a hospital setting," says B.J. Snell, associate professor of nursing and director of the women's health care concentration, which was launched in 2003. "About 10 percent of vaginal births in the United States are attended by midwives" instead of doctors, adds Snell, who was awarded $244,477 as first-year funding of a three-year grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Health Resources and Services Administration to enhance CSUF's midwifery program.

There are two specialties in the women's health care concentration. "One is for those who want to become nurse practitioners, and the other is for nurses who want to become midwives," says Snell, who holds a doctorate in midwifery. She practices at a Laguna Beach health clinic and delivers babies at the South Coast Medical Center. "Both nurse practitioners and nurse midwives in our program work in doctors' offices, clinics and hospitals, and are educated to provide healthcare for women from puberty through menopause. Nurse midwifes have additional training to gain competence to care for women in labor and birth, including delivering babies."

A relatively new profession, the practice of midwifery was established in the U.S. in the 1920s, according to the American College of Nurse-Midwives, the industry's professional association. Today, about 400 midwives are certified annually across the nation. Currently, 15 students are participating in CSUF's midwifery specialty, and Snell expects six new students to enroll in the program each year.

The HRSA grant focuses specifically on strengthening the education program for training within the nurse midwifery component, says Snell. The goals include recruiting and preparing nurses to become nurse midwives and developing their skills in serving a diverse, multi-cultural population. Students also benefit from grant-funded partnerships with hospitals and clinics established by the university throughout Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside and San Bernardino counties wherein CSUF nursing students acquire first-hand experience, says Snell, "which allows them a better understanding of what's expected when they graduate."

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