U of M midwife program to focus on traditional Indigenous practices

College of Nursing at the University of Manitoba will introduce a bachelor’s degree program in midwifery starting September 2021 with some focus on traditional Indigenous midwifery practices.

College of Nursing Dean Dr. Netha Dyck said one of the goals of the program is to support Indigenous communities in Manitoba through culturally appropriate midwifery services close to home.

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“Our program will incorporate the Indigenous midwifery competencies, as defined by the National Aboriginal Council of Midwives and prepare the graduates to provide maternal and child health services,” she told Winnipeg Sun on Tuesday.

“Organizations such as Norway House Cree Nation Health Centre of Excellence and the National Aboriginal Council of Midwives, along with Indigenous midwives are working collaboratively with us in developing the curriculum,” she said.

Dyck added that because of the need for Indigenous midwives in northern and Indigenous communities, half of the seats are designated for Indigenous students.

“Women from northern and remote Indigenous communities often have to leave their community and travel long distances for childbirth services,” she said.

“Providing these services closer to home addresses the concern regarding the need for women to have to leave the community and be away from their family during this sacred life event,” she added.

Dyck said their hope for the program is to prepare competent graduates to meet the maternal and child health workforce needs.

“Midwives can fill care gaps with their unique model, and offer women care choices across the province. By preparing more midwives for the health care system, women will be able to stay in their home communities to receive full-scope midwifery services,” she said.

Canadian Association of Midwives president Nathalie Pambrun said they want to see their practitioners reflect the diversity of the community and be able to respond to the needs of the different communities.

“For me, it is very exciting to see an increased inclusion particularly around Indigenous and northern practitioners because we know the north is underserved and that their babies have two to four times higher mortality rate in this country,” she said.

“We all have a responsibility to address that and improve access to health in the community. I think Indigenous midwives are going to be well-positioned to do that and I believe the birth of this program has been long-awaited.”

College of Midwives registrar Janice Erickson said they are extremely pleased that the Bachelor of Midwifery program at the University of Manitoba has been announced.

“Midwives provide quality prenatal, labour and delivery and postnatal care to Manitoba families, and a Manitoba-based program will help to increase the number of families who can access this care,” she said.

“The midwifery program will focus on ensuring more Indigenous midwives can offer maternity care services closer to home, a goal the College of Midwives of Manitoba has always been supportive of.”

Nicole Wong covers northern and Indigenous issues for the Winnipeg Sun under the Local Journalism Initiative, a federally funded program that supports the creation of original civic journalism.

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