A few years ago, the American College of Nurse Midwives (ACNM) set forth some strategic goals for practicing midwifery in the United States. One of these goals is that midwives will attend 20% of all U.S. births in 2020.
In order to achieve this objective, and do our part as midwives to help solve the health-care crisis in this country, the actual number of practicing midwives must first increase. One of the ways ACNM hopes to attain this goal is by graduating and certifying 1,000 new midwives per year by 2015. But in 2010, the number of newly-certified midwives was 339.
I considered these statistics as I sat at the graduation of 19 new midwives the other week, one of whom was a student I precepted for two semesters this year. A major barrier to achieving ACNM’s goal is the lack of clinical sites and clinical preceptors available in midwifery education programs.
I had been out of midwifery school only a year before I was asked to precept a student. I did so with enthusiasm, as I love to teach, but also with some angst, as I still felt like a novice midwife myself. What could I really teach a student?
Despite my jitters, I understood that it was my responsibility to help educate this student midwife, just as my insightful preceptors had guided me during my education. I identified my strengths and weaknesses and asked for help from more experienced practice partners when I was uncertain of the best way to guide my student.
I’ve been a preceptor for four students since then, and I’ve found that I truly enjoy working with aspiring midwives. The students have all the latest information and guidelines at their fingertips and are full of challenging questions that keep me on my toes and inspire me to stay current on the latest research.
Being a preceptor can often be a thankless job, with minimal to no compensation from the educational program. It often requires additional energy, time and patience. But students’ enthusiasm for midwifery can be contagious and energizing when I feel burnt out, my zest for my beloved profession having been dimmed by too many sleepless nights or demanding patients.
Students are the future of our profession, and it is our obligation as midwives to usher in the next generation, just as we were guided by those before us. The rewards are well worth it ̶ you just might find your next practice partner or employee along the way.