School of Nursing enters into clinical, academic partnership with the Atlanta Birth Center

Woodruff Health Sciences Center | Sept. 30, 2016

Story image

Students at the Emory University Nell Hodgson School of Nursing will gain experience in the birth process outside of the hospital setting through a new academic and clinical partnership with Atlanta Birth Center. Rooted in the midwifery model of care, the community-led Atlanta Birth Center is the only freestanding birth center in Atlanta and one of only 300 such centers nationwide. 

"We want students to experience what the birth process looks like in a wide range of midwifery models of care and settings – from labor and delivery units, obstetrical practices and health departments to urban and rural communities," said Assistant Dean for MSN Education Carolyn Clevenger.

In addition to serving as preceptor role models and teachers, Atlanta Birth Center midwives will assume an active role in the School of Nursing's Nurse Midwifery program and dual specialties, assisting in case conferences and simulations in the Wesley Woods Graduate Simulation, as well as other educational and advisory activities.

As the nation faces severe shortages in women's health providers, the partnership between Emory and Atlanta Birth Center provides future midwives an important clinical training site and access to a team of experienced nurse-midwife mentors. According to the American College of Nurse-Midwives (ACNM), nearly half the counties in the United States don't have a single obstetrician/gynecologist and 56 percent are without a nurse midwife.

The midwifery birth center model aims to offer healthy women a fundamentally different approach to pregnancy and childbirth. Emphasizing nurturing, hands-on care before, during, and after birth, the model is guided by each women's unique needs and desires. Center midwives develop trusting relationships with families that result in confident, supported labor and birth where medical intervention is a necessary exception – not the norm. The model centers around supporting the body's natural biological processes for birth.

"Our goal is to be a sanctuary that nurtures the lives of women and their families and create a community where birth is embraced as the most fundamental part of a conscious and connected human experience" said Atlanta Birth Center Executive Director Anjli Hinman, CNM, FNP, MPH.

While medical advances have enabled lifesaving interventions when complications arise, they come with increased risk and have often contributed to poorer health outcomes. The State of Georgia has the highest maternal mortality rate in the nation. Rates of cesarean section, pre-term births, low-birth weight infants, and infant mortality are also among the nation's worst.

Hinman, an alumna of the Emory School of Nursing, co-founded Atlanta Birth Center with renowned Atlanta midwife Margaret Strickhouser of Intown Midwifery and obstetrician and perinatologist Dr. Bradford Bootstaylor. Located in the historic Baltimore Block building across the street from Emory University Hospital-Midtown, Atlanta Birth Center provides a comfortable home-like environment and a range of supportive care services, such as psychology, nutrition, naturopathic medicine, acupuncture, and massage therapy to enhance women's wellness before, during and after pregnancy, labor and birth. Dr. Clevenger said that the midwifery birth center model offers more choices for women who desire more control over their health-care decision making.

"In the information age, women are savvy health care consumers and they know what they are looking for in a birth experience," said Dr. Clevenger. "The midwifery birth center model offers an alternative birth experience for women who may feel a loss of control within large health systems that specialize in acute care illness and injury."

The majority of families discover the Atlanta Birth Center through research on their birthing options or through the recommendations of women who have already given birth at the center. Currently attending about 10 births a month, Hinman hopes to gradually grow the practice over the next few years while maintaining the one-on-one, personal interaction with patients. "We're not looking to get so big that we lose what is so special about the client-midwife relationship," said Hinman.

Beyond clinical and academic training, Dr. Clevenger said the relationship with Atlanta Birth Center also offers an inspiring career success story for the next generation of nurse midwives.

"If students have more exposure to the midwifery model, gold standard of care, we might see more birth center models," said Clevenger.  "It's very powerful to see an alumna who has come through the program and has founded this successful program.