Guest Post By: Katie McBeth
Travel nurses come in all shapes, sizes, and specialties. Technology, along with improved education and health standards, has shifted much of what we understand about the body and medicine. But some professions never really change, and truly stand the test of time. The midwife career is one such profession.
Traveling midwives are a small minority of the travel nursing profession, but are no less important than any other traveling group. Although the midwifery profession is often associated with antiquated customs and pre-industrial civilization, they still exist today; and they’re thriving!
In fact, the midwifery profession has picked up steam in recent times, with even celebrities opting for at-home care over a traditional hospital or OB-GYN setting. According to the Atlantic, the number of mothers opting for midwife care has increased steadily: “In 1989, the first year for which data is available, midwives were the lead care providers at just 3 percent of births in the U.S. In 2013, the most recent year for which statistics are available, that number was close to 9 percent.”
Let’s take a minute to look at some of the growing opportunities within the traveling midwife profession. Plus, since February is “International Prenatal Infection Prevention Month” (who knew?), we can highlight the importance of the traveling midwifery profession!
Traveling Where Needed
One of the greatest benefits of being a travel nurse is the ability to provide professional care to those that really need it. Traveling midwives that work with nonprofits or WHO are able to do just that for women anywhere around the world.
For example, in New Orleans — where a majority of the population lives under the poverty line and face insurmountable hurdles to get access to basic health care — midwives partnered with LSU Public Hospital and the March of Dimes teamed up to provide a prenatal care bus to local residents in July 2016. According to the report: “Officials announced that the healthcare equipped vehicle will offer screenings, prenatal and postpartum care, gynecological exams and immunizations to women and children under the age of 2 years old.” The bus visited three districts, including the 9th Ward; an area that was heavily affected by Hurricane Katrina in 2005. It’s through service like this one that expectant mothers can receive the professional help and education they need prior to their delivery day.
But travel midwives don’t just have opportunities within the states.
International travel is also a common option for travel midwives, as reproductive healthcare is increasingly stigmatized or limited around the globe.
WHO is leading the charge for international traveling midwives, and offers internships for graduate students and professionals in the field. WHO understands the gap in care and regulation on an international level, and provide midwives with the opportunity to educate others and help those in desperate need of pre- and postnatal services. With the growing concern over prenatal diseases, such as the rise and spread of the Zika Virus in South America and into North America, licensed and experienced midwives are needed more than ever to provide international relief and education to mothers around the globe.
A Valuable Service
Midwives are valuable, and those that can travel can have an even greater impact on the international community. The CDC released research in 1998 that highlighted the importance of midwifery. The evidence showed that having traveling mid-wives be a part of the birthing process lowered the chances of infant mortality by 19%. The reason behind the success? Midwives spend more time with their patients, can provide essential emotional support, and can offer much-needed advice to these new mothers.
“The differences in birth outcomes between certified nurse-midwife and physician attended births may be explained in part by differences in prenatal, labor, and delivery care practices. Other studies have shown that certified nurse-midwives generally spend more time with patients during prenatal visits and put more emphasis on patient counseling and education, and providing emotional support. Most certified nurse-midwives are with their patients on a one-on-one basis during the entire labor and delivery process providing patient care and emotional support, in contrast with physician’s care which is more often episodic.” (CDC, 1998)
The Atlantic article (mentioned earlier) also highlighted two other studies, from 2011 and 2013, on the nursing midwives’ success rate: “[These studies] found that women whose care was led by a midwife rather than a physician were less likely to receive pain medication in labor, less likely to experience pre-term birth, and less likely to experience a miscarriage before 24 weeks’ gestation.”
Yet traveling mid-wives do much more than help deliver a baby. Many traveling mid-wives are also primary care physicians, offering lifetime care to their female patients. They can perform regular screenings, check-ups, PAPs, and provide contraceptive counseling along with prescription medication. The most unique aspect of traveling mid-wives is their higher level of autonomy to practice outside of a hospital or office setting. They can travel directly to where the patient needs them.
Midwives that can travel nationally or internationally are lucky. They get to share the most important moment with their patients, provide support to women, and are able to see the world while doing it. Their passion for women’s health inspires them to help every woman, no matter what obstacle might be in their way.
If you’re interested in joining the traveling mid-wives movement, the field is projected to continue to grow 30% over the next ten years. If you love babies, mothers, and women’s health, then becoming a travel nurse midwife might be your calling!