More Midwives, Better Lives

Helping the tiniest Georgians
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Emory’s home state has the highest maternal mortality rate and the eighth-highest infant mortality rate in the US. Linda McCauley, dean of the Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing, and the dean of nursing at Valdosta State University (VSU) have combined forces to help change this dismal picture.

Many rural counties in central and south Georgia have few or no nurse-midwives. But in states with the highest percentage of nurse-midwives, these practitioners attend one in four births, building obstetric workforce capacity and improving outcomes.

Emory has trained nurse-midwives for almost 40 years, producing 350 graduates who comprise the majority of the 500-plus nurse-midwives now licensed in Georgia. It has the only accredited, on-the-ground nurse-midwifery program in the Southeast and is highly ranked nationally, with many students enrolled in the dual family nurse practitioner and midwifery program.

In fall 2014, VSU established its own seven-semester family nurse practitioner program. Now those graduates can pursue a postgraduate nurse-midwifery certificate through Emory. Enthusiasm for the proposed Rural Georgia Midwifery Education Project led to a $24,600 award from the March of Dimes in 2015 to implement it and an endorsement from the Georgia legislature through the Women’s Health Study Committee. Emory began offering the new postgraduate nurse-midwifery certification program this fall.

The hybrid distance education program will combine classroom instruction, led by Emory faculty who will travel regularly to Valdosta State, and online coursework, enabling VSU students to combine work and study.

“This innovative public-private partnership will expand the number of nurse-midwives in Georgia, increase access to care for women in rural areas with significant disparities of health care, and, most important, improve Georgia’s poor maternal and newborn health outcomes,” says MaryJane Lewitt, coordinator of Emory’s nurse-midwifery program.

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