Wednesday, June 27, 2012

What We're Seeking: Standards for Education

"What We're Seeking" is a bi-weekly series that expands upon Safer Midwifery for Michigan's statement of purpose.  This week's post examines the need for consistent, high standards in the education of all midwives.   

Think about your profession. Are you a plumber? A teacher? A lawyer? Consider the range of qualities among your colleagues.

If you are going to hire a lawyer, do you want to hire a mediocre lawyer who was trained at a questionable school?  A teacher who earned her degree online, but has little experience with children?  Do you want the least qualified economist to make policy for the country? No . . . you want the best person you can find.

That is why there has to be a bar, a high bar by which all members of a given profession must be measured as a minimum standard of education.  In the case of emergency/specialized care, there has to be a significant amount of intensive clinical training and consistently current educational standards to ensure these professionals are adequately prepared when lives are at stake. 

With no standards for education, the danger is that there is no bar.  This is precisely the case for midwives in MI today.  There is a vast spectrum in the training of midwives that spans those that have no formal education whatsoever (literally learning through mail order and watching you tube videos) to those who have advance practice nursing degrees...and everything in between.  Not only is it nearly impossible to sort the mediocre from the highly qualified, it's down right dangerous to consider that the person calling herself "midwife" could lack the essential skills necessary to keep women and babies safe during birth.  Hiring a competent midwife is confounding to the consumer when there is no minimum standard for the education, training, and skills she possesses.   

When we hired a midwife we made too many dangerous assumptions, one being that anyone who called herself a midwife was educated and competent, a trained expert in birth.  While this might be true for some Michigan midwives, it certainly is NOT true for all of them.  How can consumers know with certainty that who they are hiring has at least had sound educational training behind them when there are no standards for how midwives earn their title or even standards for how they practice?  

Further complicating things is the fact that the qualities that seem so important to those hiring midwives actually end up being those that matter the least.  Many women want their midwife to be warm, friendly, personable, compassionate - and most are.  Well, those things matter if you are a Kindergarten teacher, or if you work at a coffee shop. But when you board your plane, do you peek into the cockpit and think, "Wow, I hope he is friendly!" No. You look at the pilot and think to yourself, "I hope he knows how to fly this plane and keep all of us safe."  

Do pregnant women deserve nurturing and compassion?  Sure, but not at the sacrifice of safety and the utmost competence.  These are women and babies we're talking about here, life and potentially deadly events.  How can MI allow anyone to call herself a midwife with no standards for education or training?    

Safer Midwifery for Michigan is advocating for clearly defined, higher standards for the education of ALL midwives. 

No comments:

Post a Comment