Midwifery is more than catching babies and unpredictable schedules. Midwives of the 21st century are often business entrepreneurs and political and social activists. Midwifery is a lifestyle and an identity. The experience of becoming a midwife looks different for everyone, and the unique nature of one’s path shapes the midwife you will become. Midwifery students will encounter significant personal transformation; some growing pains are to be expected.
Students should prepare for an intensive academic and clinical education, as well as political, social, logistical and personal challenges. Coupled with the regular life events of expanding families, shifting family roles, partnership transitions and financial changes, at some point, midwifery students can find themselves questioning their decision and commitment to continue in midwifery education. MCU encourages students to continually check in with themselves and their families to re-affirm their commitment to midwifery; it is not a commitment that can or should be taken lightly.
MCU supports students through this process with intensive personal and academic advising as well as on-going peer-to-peer interaction. MCU strives to identify and counsel students through the barriers that they face in their journey to becoming a Certified Professional Midwife, and works in conjunction with national professional organizations to address these barriers at all levels.
One reason students choose MCU is the distance education model that is geared to the non-traditional student who does not wish to leave her community for her education. The flexibility of our program(s) and the online learning platform creates challenges in meeting retention and completion rates that may not exist, to the same degree, in a brick and mortar or hybrid program. MCU follows best practices in higher education around retention and completion.
Some of the challenges we have identified and strategies we have implemented to improve retention and completion rates are:
- Challenge: Cost of education can be prohibitive
Solution: MCU’s continued approval to administer federal financial aid and military veteran benefits provides pathways for midwifery education to populations that were previously unable to pay for school out of pocket. MCU has been administering Title IV funds since January 2013 and VA funds since 2011. Retention rates have improved dramatically since this barrier has been removed.
However, students are cautioned against accruing substantial debt for their education. A new midwife does not need the added pressure of paying back large loans because of the decision to borrow large amounts of money for cost of living and tuition.
- Challenge: A distance education model is less conducive to a student feeling engaged in the institution. Students don’t necessarily move through the program as a cohort so the stress points are very individual.
Solution: In 2015 all students were grouped into “houses” of 30-35 students with a “house mother” who provides continuity of care within a small community. This group interaction leads to a more cohesive peer support network. The house mother is available to guide the student through individual stress points while monitoring student academic and clinical progress.
- Challenge: Online learners are challenged to maintain consistent study habits and engage on a steady basis to assure graduation occurs within the programs’ stated time frames.
Solution: MCU’s distance-education course delivery methods are designed to support students ability to stay engaged in the program and maintain momentum and progression. Weekly participation in each course is required either through peer-to- peer bulletin board posts or in on-line lectures and class discussions. Assignments are completed in a synchronous and/or asynchronous manner to help students progress in the class and engage with a community of peers. Through verbal and written feedback, faculty members mentor students as they gain knowledge, skills and behaviors inherent to a Midwife of Excellence ™. Our methods of education consistently prove themselves; for the last three years 100% of MCU graduates have passed the North American Registry of Midwives (NARM) or the Canadian Midwifery Registration Examination (CMRE).
It is apparent that MCU graduates nurture a culture of collaboration as they demonstrate cultural humility, diversity and inclusivity in the ways they choose to practice midwifery and effect global social change. MCU alumni are effecting global social change as midwives or in a related field in the United States, Canada, Hungary, Cambodia and Saudi Arabia. While some of our graduates have small, private practices others are in partnership or group practices. Many have started their own birth centers. In addition, MCU graduates lead state and provincial midwifery organizations and have been key players in creating midwifery legislation.
From 2012-2014, 58 students graduated from MCU with a degree in midwifery. 81% of our graduates are currently working as midwives. The remainder of our graduates are working in a birth-related field in everything from midwifery education to government health care reform.
Because of the autonomous nature of midwifery, Midwives College of Utah does not guarantee employment upon completion of the program. MCU works with students while in the program to identify their midwifery goals by examining the future practice a student desires and creating a business plan to ensure sustainable business practices. Due to MCU’s excellent reputation, we often receive job postings from midwifery practices seeking an MCU graduate. These opportunities are posted on MCU’s social media and in the newsletter “MCU in Review” which is published each semester and sent to all MCU alumni.