Admissions at US Midwifery Programs

FEBRUARY 2013 Enews Articles


Admissions at US Midwifery Programs
by Susi Delaney

In January AME reached out to direct-entry midwifery programs in the U.S. to learn more about their admissions and acceptance policies and processes. The scope of these programs varied greatly, ranging from programs that only offer workshops to midwifery apprentices to correspondence programs, distance-education models, MEAC-accredited programs, non-accredited programs, and colleges and universities with midwifery departments, but all support students training to become non-certified or Certified Professional Midwives. We asked each of these programs about admissions or acceptance policies and processes. Sixteen programs responded to the survey (thank you again to those who participated in the survey – this is an excellent response rate!). The survey responses were informative and can be utilized to improve admissions processes across midwifery programs.

Characteristics of Survey Respondents
The Application Essay
The Use of References
Assessing Prior Experience
Top Qualities in Midwifery Student Candidates
Interviewing Applicants
Diversity in Midwifery Education

Susi Delaney, MA, CPM is the Administrative Director of AME and a faculty member at Birthwise Midwifery School. She maintains a home birth midwifery practice, Red Tent Midwifery, in southern Maine, where she resides with her family on a blossoming homestead.


CHARACTERISTICS OF SURVEY RESPONDENTS

AME supports all models of midwifery education, so the information provided here is not intended to show preference to any one form of education, but may be reflective of survey respondents.

We contacted all programs that had an identifiable presence on the internet. Programs were identified based on their membership in AME, listing on the MEAC website, or listing on the NARM website. Only programs that had functioning websites were contacted. Of 28 programs contacted, 16 responded to the survey for a response rate of 57%.

PROGRAM CHARACTERISTICS

Accreditation # Respondents
MEAC-Accredited 5
State-Recognized, but not MEAC-Accredited 9
Non-Accredited 2
Program Options
Online Classes 3
On-Site Classes 9
On-Site Clinical Practicum 5
Correspondence Courses 4
Combination On-Site & Distance Program 6
Workshops 2
Other 3
NOTE: 8 programs offered more than one program type, and 4 of these offered 3 or more program types.
# of Applicants Accepted Yearly
1-10 4
11-20 3
21-30 4
31-40 3
>40 2

THE APPLICATION ESSAY

The majority of programs (9 out of 16) do not require applicants to submit an essay with their application. These included MEAC-accredited programs, state-recognized programs, and non-accredited/ non-recognized programs. Seven programs do require an application essay.

The most common question that applicants must answer is, “Why do you want to be a midwife?” Programs reported that they use the essay to assess a candidate’s interest and understanding of midwifery, their passion for midwifery or for serving women, and their philosophy of birth.

“The essay helps us to see why the person is pursuing this career, if it’s something that they are doing because they have a passion for it or because of the rate of pay or something else.” – International Institute for Health Care Professionals, Inc.

Several programs stated that they use the essay to ensure that the student has adequate resources and skills for completing their midwifery education (financial plan, family support, ability to communicate effectively). Two programs specifically stated that they require an essay in order to help applicants clarify for themselves their interest in midwifery and to develop a plan for completing their education.

“We use the essays to gain information and to initiate discussion between the applicant and significant others regarding several issues. We believe that this helps the applicant to identify strengths and potential problem areas… (M)ost midwifery students drop out of midwifery programs because of issues that they did not identify prior to entering the program.” – Nizhoni Institute of Midwifery

“Our purpose for the essay is for the student to clarify in HER mind why she is enrolling.” – Association of Texas Midwives Midwifery Training Program

The essay can also serve as a tool to prepare incoming students for midwifery education.

“It allows us to best prepare a student for the expectations and course work required.” – WomanCraft Midwifery Education Program</p>

Programs can use the information an applicant provides in the essay to better understand and meet their needs as a student, and to help them achieve success within the program.


THE USE OF REFERENCES

The majority of programs (9 out of 16) do not require applicants to provide references. Of the 7 programs that do require references, 6 of these require letters of recommendation and 3 utilize a standardized reference form (two require both).

Several programs did not feel that references were helpful for screening appropriate candidates. Many stated, however, that references helped to reveal an applicant’s characteristics or to corroborate information an applicant had provided in their application.

Two programs also noted that references can help identify areas to focus on improvement.

“Obtaining multiple references can help to identify areas in which the prospective applicant may need assistance.” – Nizhoni Institute of Midwifery

References are also used to assess an applicant’s prior experience (with other schools, professionally, or birth-related experience).

“Reference letters from midwives are the most helpful at providing a sense of the applicant’s prior experience and skill level, as well as professional abilities.” – Birthwise Midwifery School


ASSESSING PRIOR EXPERIENCE

The majority of programs (13 out of 16) stated that they assess an applicant’s prior academic achievements. They do so by reviewing transcripts from high school and/or college. Transcripts are used in several ways: as proof of completion of prerequisites, such as college-level anatomy & physiology; to enable students to receive a waiver for similar courses that they have completed or to award a student with advanced standing; or, to help program administrators evaluate the applicant’s capability for academic success.

Only one school reported that it requires a minimum GPA on college transcripts.

Ten of the 16 programs reported that they assess an applicant’s previous midwifery-related experience. Finding out about a candidate’s prior midwifery-related experience serves several purposes: Prior experience can be used to advance a student in the program. It helps the program know what to expect from the incoming student. According to Commonsense Childbirth School of Midwifery, it “lets us know whether she is totally ‘green’ or has some idea about what she is getting into.” One school gives preference to scholarship applicants who have prior related experience. For students with limited experience, the program can suggest ways the incoming student can become more familiar with the midwifery profession.

While the majority of programs do inquire about an applicant’s previous midwifery-related experience, few require experience in order to be admitted to the program. Programs are more concerned about ensuring that incoming students are knowledgeable about midwifery as a profession and have realistic expectations.

“Our program is structured in a way to meet the needs of a student who has had no birth or midwifery experience. More than anything we want them to have a clear understanding of direct entry midwifery.” – Bastyr University, Master of Science in Midwifery Program


TOP QUALITIES IN MIDWIFERY STUDENT CANDIDATES

When asked “what are the 3 most important qualities that you look for in an applicant,” 10 programs responded. Several others reported that they offer open enrollment and accept all applicants.

The qualities that respondents stated most often were:
Commitment to midwifery (4)
Strong calling / passion (4)
Good interpersonal / communication skills (4)
Integrity (3)
Self-confidence (2)
Maturity (2)
Realistic plans for completing education (2)

Other qualities that programs seek included:
Professionalism
Dependability
Compatible philosophy
Humility
Life-long learner
Clear identification of personal strengths
Previous academic performance
Practical sensibility
Familiarity with their own emotional terrain
Ability to think
Strong work ethic
Servant-leadership

“(The) applicant embodies a servant-leadership approach to her calling: The servant leader serves the people she leads. In midwifery care this means that midwives as servant leaders look after the needs of their clients, helping them to reach their full potential as women giving birth. This type of leadership rejects the self-serving, domineering style of leadership, and instead encourages us to think harder about how to respect, value and motivate the women and families in their care.” – Midwest Maternal Child Institute

Programs assess for these qualities primarily through interviews and application essays. One respondent stated that they use references to assess an applicant’s qualities, and another reported that they can assess for these qualities when an applicant completes a pre-requisite Perinatal Educator workshop on-site.


INTERVIEWING APPLICANTS

Ten programs report that they interview applicants to the program. Of these, 8 conduct in-person interviews, with three of those requiring in-person interviews. Five offer telephone interviews, and 4 offer interviews using online videoconferencing (eg, Skype).

Several programs noted that the interview provides an opportunity to ensure that the student is familiar with the program requirements and to follow up on any concerns that were identified during the rest of the admissions process.

Following are interview questions that programs stated are particularly beneficial.
Why do you want to be a midwife? What has brought you to midwifery?
Why, specifically, do you want to become a direct-entry midwife?
Why do you want to attend our program?
What do you know about the process of becoming a CPM?
How do you handle stress?
What are your financial plans to complete your midwifery program?
Do you plan to work while going to school?
What are your commitments outside of this program? How will you balance those commitments while participating in the program?
Describe your family obligations and support. How do those that are close to you feel about your commitment to become a midwife?
Describe the demands of being on-call.
What is your experience with diversity?
How do you plan to succeed in the program?
Describe your idea of apprenticeship. What is your role as a student? What is the preceptor’s role?
What is your learning style?
What is your availability for academic study and for clinical work?
How is your health?
How will your education help you reach your goal for becoming a midwife?
Where do you see yourself working after completing the program?
Why should you be selected for this program?
If you were not accepted at this time, what would you do?
Have you made connections with local midwives in your area?
What other birth-related work have you done?
Are you read to start your midwifery education now? If not now, when?

Open-ended questions encourage thoughtful and expressive responses. Given the opportunity to be heard, a surprisingly personal and revealing conversation not only informs us, but helps the applicant self-evaluate her/his readiness.” – National Midwifery Institute


DIVERSITY IN MIDWIFERY EDUCATION

Thirteen programs responded to the following question: “What do you do (if anything) to increase the diversity of your students? This refers to any type of diversity – ethnic, religious, gender, political, etc.” Responses varied greatly, reflecting the variety of midwifery programs in the U.S.

Five programs stated that they do not make any effort to increase student diversity. Two of those programs noted that they achieve diversity without any specific planning.

Three programs specifically mentioned that they offer scholarships to assist students from specific groups – applicants of color, those from developing countries, applicants who represent an underserved group, and those who lack the financial resources to complete their midwifery education.

“Mercy In Action has a scholarship program to help meet the need for midwives of color, or women from a developing country who plan to go back to their country of origin to work in underserved areas. We offer a variety of scholarships for women who desire to train in midwifery but lack access to the resources needed to make their dream a reality.” – Mercy In Action

Three programs noted that they market, advertise, or recruit in a variety of places to cultivate diversity in their program.

“We look for opportunities within the community, at midwifery conferences, etc. to market the program to all students and trust that diversity will take form as a result of doing so. So far, we feel that this approach has been successful, as we have students of various ethnicities, religious backgrounds, and both genders enrolled in our program.” – Nizhoni Institute of Midwifery

Programs also reported that they offer specific courses, support services, and resources to assist all students. Open enrollment is also used as a tool to encourage diversity.

“Via Vita advocates for diversity among midwives, including offering a module on Cultural Diversity for Health Care Providers.” – Via Vita

“We encourage diverse populations by our open enrollment, support services, and resources.” – Southwest Wisconsin Technical College

One program incorporated a commitment to supporting diverse students in its mission statement.

“Part of our mission statement is: To provide affordability, structure and a format that allows women from diverse backgrounds, ages, family status and financial status a route to study midwifery. We offer payment plans, allow nursing babies and toddlers in class and offer scholarships to low income women with a strong passion for studying midwifery. We also promote our program as one that welcomes diversity.” – WomanCraft Midwifery Education Program

One program focuses specifically on providing education to a specific religious group to cultivate midwives who can serve similar communities.

“Why should we try to be all things to all people? This is unashamedly a Christian course and meets the needs of a small part of the midwife population. It purposefully does not strive to train everyone.” – Dar La Luz Midwifery Studies

Through these responses, we can see that midwifery programs define diversity in a variety of ways – based on ethnicity, background, age, financial status, geographical location, family status, religious affiliation. Programs are striving to meet the needs of potential students through open enrollment, scholarships or other financial support, expanded marketing, location in urban areas, support services, and providing philosophically-compatible education.

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