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
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
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
"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.
For Further Information: Dave Lavallee 401-874-2116