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Department of Communications/
News Bureau
22 Davis Hall, 10 Lippitt Road, Kingston, RI 0288
Phone: 401-874-2116 Fax: 401-874-7872

Federal government, Pawtucket hospital recognize URI Graduate Program in Nurse-Midwifery as leader
URI program rewarded for expanding care to underserved women

KINGSTON, R.I. -- February 28, 2000 --The University of Rhode Island has been awarded an $825,149 federal grant to expand its Graduate Program in Nurse-Midwifery so greater numbers of poor and uninsured women will have access to certified nurse-midwives for their primary obstetrical and gynecological care.

The three-year grant awarded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services allows URI to add the University of Vermont as a new education outreach site using long-distance technology. It will also bolster the efforts of the new URI Center for Nurse-Midwifery at Memorial Hospital of Rhode Island, in Pawtucket, R.I., to provide more health care options to poor and uninsured women in Northern Rhode Island.

The expansion to UVM offers for the first time a venue for Vermont residents to be educated as master's degree-prepared nurse-midwives. The UVM students will receive their graduate degrees from Vermont and do their clinical work there, but they will take their midwifery courses through URI using distance learning technology. They will earn their nurse-midwife certificates from URI.

Dr. Holly Powell Kennedy, URI assistant professor of nursing and director of the nurse-midwifery program, said only six schools in the country received federal funding for their nurse-midwifery programs in this past cycle.

URI's 48-credit master's program in nurse-midwifery offered through the College of Nursing, the only one at a public University in New England, was funded initially by the federal government through a $684,537 grant in 1993. The mandate was to serve women who had no access to primary health care. In 1997, it was awarded a $825,000 grant to continue the work.

With the new grant, URI will collaborate with UVM's School of Nursing to meet a growing need for primary care for rural Vermont women. Vermont is the most rural state in New England, with more people living in communities of fewer than 2,500 than any other state.

"We received the funding because we were able to make a cogent argument about what has been done over the past six years, and what still needs to be done," said Dr. Margaret M. McGrath, URI nursing professor and the author of the grant proposal.

Currently there are 20 students enrolled in the URI program. The new grant will allow URI to markedly increase total enrollment by spring admission of 2002.

"We've shown the federal government the importance of nurse-midwifery education, and now it sees the importance of serving rural Vermont," McGrath said. "We've also done much to serve women in Rhode Island, but we wanted to do even more to help the underserved here. The government sees our commitment in the establishment of The URI Center for Nurse-Midwifery at Memorial Hospital of Rhode Island."

McGrath said in the arena of health care reform, nurse-midwives are recognized as cost effective providers of high-quality care, and that nursing programs have been urged to combine resources to produce a cadre of qualified primary care providers in the 21st century.

Patricia Winstead-Fry, professor and interim dean of the School of Nursing at the University of Vermont, said the new collaboration will allow UVM to keep its commitment to offer nursing education within an hour's drive from anywhere in the state.

"As I get to know the programs at URI, I can see the excellence, so why not collaborate to offer these programs at two outstanding schools?" Winstead-Fry said. "It's such a good opportunity for us, because we just can't afford to fund a program like this. Midwifery programs are very small, very clinical, very expensive, and so this collaboration is helpful to both institutions."

In Northern Rhode Island, women now have a new option for health care thanks to the teamwork of Memorial and URI's Nurse-Midwifery Program.

Kennedy, a certified nurse-midwife herself and director of the new center, states "this is an unusual and innovative program in women's health care. We have been fortunate in Rhode Island to have an exceptional group of nurse-midwives who attend approximately 9 percent of births in the state."

Kennedy credits the success of the nurse-midwifery program to the midwives throughout the state who have consistently supported the URI College of Nursing. Many have served as clinical mentors and teachers.

"What has not been available is a way for the URI nurse-midwifery faculty to form their own clinical practice," she added.

Dr. Patrick Nugent, the chief of obstetrics at Memorial Hospital, believes that midwifery care is a great addition stating, "We have many women with special needs in this community who will be well served by continuity of care, which is a central focus of midwifery philosophy."

He also had strong praise for Kennedy's role in the effort. "She picked a great team of midwives and we are looking forward to this partnership in caring for women".

"This unique collaboration can only enhance the quality of care for women at Memorial Hospital," states Shelley MacDonald, R.N., and senior vice president for operations at Memorial Hospital.

This partnership has enabled the URI program to attract several new faculty members. Dr. Judith Mercer, of Pawtuxet, a fellow in the American College of Nurse-Midwives, and former director of the nurse-midwifery education program at Georgetown University will be leading the research efforts. Debra Erickson-Owens, of North Kingstown, a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel, was last assigned as chief of obstetrics at the Air Force Academy, Colorado and served as the nurse-midwifery consultant to the U.S. Air Force Surgeon General. Kathleen Pringle, of Acushnet, Mass, is a well-respected nurse-midwife in private practice and the chair of the Rhode Island Chapter of the American College of Nurse-Midwives.

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For Further Information: Dave Lavallee 401-874-2116


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