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College of Nursing

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Midwife Background Provides Unique Perspective

Dr. Rhonda Johnson has helped over 1,500 women give birth. Johnson is a Clinical Assistant Professor,  an APRN, has her DNP, and is a Certified Nurse Midwife. "Midwifery is about helping a woman embrace her strength regardless of her socioeconomic background," says Johnson. In honor of National Midwifery Week, Johnson shared with us her passion for midwifery, the importance of midwives, and how her midwife background impacts how she works with students. 

What is a Midwife?

Midwifery in the United States as practiced by certified nurse-midwives and certified midwives encompasses a full scope of primary health care services for women from the teen years to menopause and beyond. These services include the independent delivery of primary care, gynecologic and family planning services, preconception care, care during pregnancy, childbirth and the postpartum period, care of the normal newborn during the first 28 days of life, and treatment of male partners for sexually transmitted infections. In partnership with the women and their families, midwives can offer diverse care at home, in a free-standing birth center, in private offices, in community health care systems, and in ambulatory care clinics. 

What are the educational requirements for becoming a Certified Nurse-Midwife/Certified Midwife?

To become a Certified Nurse-Midwife in South Carolina, a graduate degree is required, and all midwifery education programs must be accredited by the Accreditation Commission for Midwifery Education (ACME). Once the midwifery graduate completes the necessary education, they are eligible to take the national examination offered by ACME. South Carolina currently does not offer a license mechanism for the credential of Certified Midwife.  

How do midwives help women? 

The old English definition of midwife is to be "with woman". One of the main reasons an individual chooses a midwife is the partnership that is built between the individual and their family. 

The midwife also aims to avoid or limit intervention during childbirth. Since pregnancy and birth are normal life events, midwives believe that if mom and baby are healthy and low risk, then it is best to let it happen as naturally as possible.

However, if the situation needs intervention, the midwife is trained to recognize this condition and collaborate with or refer the individual to an obstetrician for care.

What is the difference between a doula and a midwife?

Often mistaken for one another, midwives and doulas each have their own role as part of a woman's labor and birth team. A midwife is a health care provider, while a doula is more of a childbirth coach. A doula does not replace your healthcare practitioner but rather can add extra services, such as helping you with techniques to manage pain during labor and even providing support and help during the mother's and baby's early days.

How does your midwifery background impact the way you teach/work with students?

Like the definition of being "with woman", I try to be with my students to help them learn about becoming a caring health care provider. As a midwife, I often adjust my care based on the woman's unique needs and their family. 

I encourage my students to "think outside the box", actively listen to their patients, and approach them as if they were that person in the bed. I also gently remind them that often what they see at face value is not what is really going on. 

Challenge the conventional. Create the exceptional. No Limits.