Nurse-midwifery program returns to UAB

The UAB School of Nursing is relaunching its nurse-midwifery pathway to grow a workforce of nurse-midwives who can improve access to care for underserved women and their infants in Alabama.
Written by: Erica Techo
Media contact: Hannah Echols

MIdwife streamUAB School of Nursing
Photography: Steve Wood
Continuing its mission to address nursing workforce needs and to improve health across all communities, the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Nursing announces the return of the nurse-midwifery specialty track in its Master of Science in nursing program. It is the only nurse-midwifery pathway offered in the state, and one of only a few offered in the Southeastern United States.

UAB will admit its first cohort of students to the nurse-midwifery track in fall 2022. Students will be equipped to manage the obstetrical and gynecological care that make up the reproductive health of women as well as the care of their infants in the first days of their lives.

“This program helps address health care and workforce needs in the state, but the first goal of bringing back this program is to increase the workforce of nurse-midwives in Alabama in order to improve perinatal outcomes,” said Sharon Holley, DNP, associate professor and Nurse-Midwifery Pathway director.

Want to learn more about the nurse-midwifery pathway? Register for the virtual open house on July 28 from 6-7 p.m.

Alabama has one of the highest rates of adverse perinatal outcomes in the country, including low birth weight and preterm birth, according to data from the March of Dimes. Additionally, only one-third of the state is categorized as having adequate access to maternity care. Educating more nurse-midwives and preparing them for practice increases the number of care providers across the state, thereby improving access to and quality of women’s health care and pregnancy care.

The program will grow a workforce of highly educated nurse-midwives who can improve access to care for underserved women of childbearing age and their infants, says Linda Moneyham, Ph.D., professor and senior associate dean for Academic Affairs in the School of Nursing.

“The UAB School of Nursing offers a number of nationally ranked graduate specialties that prepare nurses for advanced practice roles,” Moneyham said. “Nurse-midwifery was always an important missing component. Bringing this program back to UAB and Alabama is an important step toward improving the health of our communities and our region.”

Erica Techo Sharon HolleySharon Holley, DNP, associate professor and Nurse-Midwifery Pathway director.
Photography: Frank Couch
Midwives are commonly associated with pregnancy and childbirth. Holley, a graduate of the first iteration of UAB’s nurse-midwife program, says it is important to remember that midwives are considered primary care providers who can improve women’s access to health care.

“Nurse-midwives have a philosophy of ‘being with women’ — that means we develop a relationship,” Holley said. “We really listen to women. When we look at research, we know that women often don’t feel heard. The evidence shows that, when nurse-midwives are part of the system of health care, not only do outcomes improve, but quality of care and quality of health improve. You also see a reduction in surgical interventions, such as cesarean sections. This is especially true for vulnerable or underserved populations.”

Doreen C. Harper, Ph.D., dean of the School of Nursing and Fay B. Ireland Endowed Chair in Nursing, looks forward to the advances in education, training and care the program will bring to UAB and local communities.

“UAB and the UAB School of Nursing are recognized as health care leaders in the state, and we are excited to be on the forefront of nurse-midwifery education’s return to Alabama,” Harper said. “This marks progress toward improved care and health equity for women and children, not just for our community, but for the state of Alabama as a whole.”