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September 16, 1997

UW School of Nursing names new head of Nurse-Midwifery Program

The University of Washington School of Nursing has named Aileen MacLaren the director of its Graduate Nurse-Midwifery Education Program. A faculty member since 1994, MacLaren has a master’s degree in nursing from the University of Miami and is completing a doctorate at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Hygiene and Public Health. A certified nurse-midwife since 1981, she is the author or editor of five books on maternity care, as well as journal articles and book chapters on a variety of women’s health topics.
“Aileen MacLaren brings outstanding expertise to the position,” said Dr. Sue T. Hegyvary, dean of the UW School of Nursing. “This program was established because of very important unmet needs in the state, and she will give excellent leadership toward addressing those needs.”

The UW School of Nursing launched a graduate program in nurse-midwifery in response to the Washington State Legislature’s acknowledgement of a shortage of maternity care providers, especially in rural and underserved areas of the state. An earlier survey identified 21 of Washington’s 39 counties as “maternity distressed” because too few women were receiving adequate prenatal care. Implementation of the nurse-midwifery program was begun in the 1993-94 academic year.

The only in-state graduate program in nurse-midwifery, the two-year UW program admits up to 10 graduate students a year, leading to a master of nursing degree and the opportunity to take national certification exams through the American College of Nurse-Midwives. (Another program in the state offers non-nurses the opportunity to become licensed midwives, who normally do not practice in hospital settings.)

The UW program has graduated 20 students. Incoming students include four nurses with experience in obstetrics and/or women’s health, from Olympia, Seattle, Hawaii and Arizona. Current second-year students recently completed summer quarter clinical practicums, delivering babies in hospital-based practices in rural and urban areas in the Northwest.

“We are able to offer our students a wealth of educational experiences,” said MacLaren, “because nurse-midwives from the community generously donate their expertise and clinical sites so our students can apply their knowledge and learn the art and science of midwifery.”

A recent study conducted in the UW Department of Family Medicine and published in the American Journal of Public Health showed that low-risk patients in Washington state who choose nurse midwives for their obstetrical care have fewer Caesarean sections, receive less anesthesia, have a lower rate of episiotomy and incur less expense, compared to similar women who choose physicians for their care.

Nurse-midwives attend the majority of births in many countries, including Britain; in Washington state, midwives attended about 7 percent of births in 1995, the most recent year for which figures are available.

Nurse-midwives provide comprehensive primary care for women in areas beyond reproductive health, including contraception, menopause and adolescent health.

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