I attended the 59th Annual Meeting of the American College of Nurse Midwives (ACNM) in Denver, Colorado. It’s been a few years since I last attended this meeting, and I came home with new ideas and a fresh energy that I always get after spending the week with my fellow midwives.

This year, I noticed something new, the meetings were not the same discussions I’d heard before. People were talking about diversity, what it means, how to appreciate it, and most importantly, how to achieve it within our membership and in our leadership.

There was a focus on where midwives, as health-care providers, are heading in the current climate of health disparities, physician shortages, and healthcare reform. We were challenged by the ACNM leadership to step up and make a difference – in our practices, our communities, and in the organization.

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Much of this new energy I felt at the ACNM meeting was a credit to our president, Ginger Breedlove, PhD, CNM, ARNP. She is a leader who wants to know what midwives around the country are experiencing in their everyday work lives. She randomly chooses members to call, discussing their work and accomplishments, as well as their complaints and frustrations.

Breedlove has a pulse on what is happening with midwives “on the street.” She led an informative and helpful session on career burnout, a much-needed acknowledgement of what so many health-care providers are experiencing in their lives and work.

She expressed genuine concern about the emotional and psychological burdens midwives are dealing with, and didn’t just write it off as typical “caregiver fatigue.”

Breedlove didn’t just talk about career burnout, she acted, having formed a task force to research the realities of career burnout among midwives. She promised to come back to next year’s meeting armed with data in order to continue the discussion and move forward to find solutions.

It is my belief that true leadership of an organization starts with awareness of the realities that members face on a daily basis, as opposed to large-scale organizational issues.

With growing need for and numbers of health-care providers, realities like career burnout, salary disparities, and lack of autonomy are some of the truest and biggest threats to the future of healthcare in the United States. The ACNM’s annual conference addressed these realities.

Robyn Carlisle, MSN, CNM, WHNP, works as a full-scope midwife at University Doctors and Kennedy University Hospital in Sewell, N.J.