Fall 2021 Newsletter

College of Nursing’s Doctor of Nursing Practice Nurse-Midwifery Program Develops Leaders in the Midwifery Model of Care

A group of students are working with an instructor on a simulation
Written by Debbie Black
Photography by Yosef Kalinko

“Good midwifery is a combination of art, science, experience, and instinct.” -Jennifer Worth from Farewell to the East End: The Last Days of the East End Midwives

Faculty and students in the Seattle University College of Nursing (CON) joined hospitals, nursing colleges, nursing and midwifery associations and other birth-related organizations in celebrating National Midwifery Week October 3–9. Held annually in early fall, this awareness-building week created by the American College of Nurse-Midwives (ACNM), the professional association representing Certified Nurse Midwives and Certified Midwives in the United States, recognizes the hallmarks of midwifery and a philosophy of care that closely aligns with SU’s commitment to educating the whole person--mind, body and spirit. And there’s no better time to focus on the whole person than when bringing a new life into the world!

The College of Nursing educates and trains Certified Nurse Midwives (CNM) through its Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) program. A DNP education prepares nurses not only for advanced clinical practice roles, but also for leadership roles in health care organizations. Certified Nurse Midwifery is one of the five focus areas students choose from when applying to the DNP program. The CNM track’s curriculum, policies and activities reflect the Jesuit ethos inherent in the Midwives Philosophy of Care put forth by the ACNM.

Midwives are holistic in their approach to women’s health and childbirth, considering each patient’s physical, social, emotional, spiritual and cultural needs. This approach differentiates CNMs from most modern gynecologists and obstetricians. The philosophy supports little or no technology in birth, viewing birth as a normal physiological process. Nurse midwives are, however, trained to know which situations may call for the help of an obstetrician during delivery.

“Students in the program are inspired to become Nurse Midwives for various reasons,” says Liz Gabzdyl, DNP, CNM, ARNP, director of the Certified Nurse Midwifery program. “Some have worked as labor and delivery nurses who care for patients only during their time in the hospital for labor and delivery and want the opportunity to be with a patient throughout their entire pregnancy, labor, birth and postpartum, and to make decisions together with the patient and her family. Others may have worked as a doula or had experiences that inspired their desire to care for women. Ultimately, though, I think it’s the non-intervention and just being with women that draws us to midwifery. It’s who we are.”

Emily Bavasi, ’22, a practicing RN currently in her final year of the DNP-CNM program, concurs. “Nurse midwives take care of a whole person whose needs extend beyond the uterus, and not just during pregnancy. We provide continuity of care throughout a patient’s life. Nurse midwives focus on providing education and guidance and gaining consent and participation from those we care for. We empower women to be active decision-makers in their own health care.”

Studies have shown that the midwifery model of care is resulting in positive birth outcomes including decreased intervention rates, fewer births by Cesarean section and fewer episiotomies. While hospitals have protocols that midwives must respect, CNMs act as advocates for their patients’ wishes. Enabling active participation in their own birth experience makes parents feel empowered and that the birth was a positive experience.

Seattle University’s Celebration of National Midwifery Week

College of Nursing faculty commemorated National Midwifery Week this year with the successful completion of the Certified Nurse Midwifery program’s reaccreditation visit by the Accreditation Commission for Midwifery Education (ACME).

According to Gabzdyl, who represented the CNM program throughout the reaccreditation process, “It was a good visit with good feedback from the accreditors. Our responses to the accreditors’ questions and the writing and documentation we provided were all through an equity lens. We included a lot of evidence about how we’re addressing racism in everything we do with students and faculty. So, the successful completion of our reaccreditation visit was our biggest celebration of National Midwifery Week this year.”

“Our students,” she adds, “participated with our local ACNM affiliate in hosting a movie night and silent auction. Proceeds from the auction will benefit a scholarship fund for BIPOC students (Black, Indigenous and People of Color). The movie, called Bringin’ in Da Spirit, is a documentary celebrating women who have committed themselves to holistic health practices despite opposition from practitioners of Western medicine.” The film was followed by a panel discussion.

Just last week, CON faculty were officially notified the Certified Nurse Midwifery program received the maximum 10-year accreditation from ACME.

The Campaign for the Uncommon Good supported continued excellence of undergraduate nursing and DNP training throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. When SU’s Clinical Performance Lab (CPL), an innovative simulated environment where nursing students practice interventions on high-fidelity manikins capable of numerous physiological states and responses including labor and birth, shutdown in 2020, College of Nursing administrators had to scramble to find a virtual replacement for the experiential learning that happens there. They put out a call to donors and were thrilled with their immediate response, receiving a total of $63,000 in donated funds to help purchase the needed technology so students could continue to learn. The transition to virtual simulation happened in just three weeks.

Also during the Campaign, the CPL’s high-fidelity manikin family grew with the gift of an advanced high-fidelity neonatal manikin from two generous Portland-based donors, Jim and Rose Kilpatrick, whose daughter, Katie, graduated from the College of Nursing in 2018. “Baby Nino” blinks, speaks, reacts, creates facial expressions and can produce all the bodily fluids that a human baby does. The miniature manikin also provides immediate physiological feedback, such as irregular breathing, and emotional indicators of comfort or distress, offering students the opportunity to practice and gain confidence in caring for a sick infant.

In addition, Campaign support provided DNP students, including several in the Certified Nurse Midwifery program, with access to education through scholarships.

If you would like to make a gift to the College of Nursing or to learn more about the DNP-CNM program, contact Peggy Fine, Development Director, finep@seattleu.edu