Three MRU alumnae supporting the journey into parenthood

Celebrating the International Year of the Nurse and Midwife


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Alumna Tiffany Harrison performing a clinic checkup for baby Autumn, with help from big sister Jaelyn


Alumna Jessica Swain recalls falling to her knees with joy when she received notification that she had been accepted to Mount Royal’s highly competitive Bachelor of Midwifery program.

“When I first saw that Mount Royal was offering this new program, I had a big eureka moment – I knew that this was what I was meant to do.”

Midwives have been assisting with childbirth for centuries, but midwifery services only became publicly funded in Alberta in 2009. Two years later in 2011, Mount Royal launched Alberta’s only Bachelor of Midwifery.  Alumnae Tiffany Harrison and Stephanie Martens were in the program’s first graduating class in 2015.

“I have always been fascinated by babies and the birthing process, even as a young child,” as Harrison explains what drew her to the program. “And this was even more so after my own motherhood journey.”

For Martens, her introduction to midwifery came from observing a friend practicing at a clinic in the Philippines. “It’s amazing to reflect ... that in under 10 years I went from knowing nothing about midwifery to graduating and practicing.”

Midwives typically begin working with their clients at eight to ten weeks gestation and serve as primary caregivers through to the early post-partum period. 

Swain, who completed the program in 2016, points out that midwifery is “a very special level of family-centered, personalized care that achieves amazing outcomes. The process really honours pregnant and birthing people, and creates a foundation for healthy families.”

Martens agrees. “To be there in that vulnerable moment when a family welcomes a newborn into their life is amazing. The moment that always gets me is when the baby is placed on the mom’s chest. Oftentimes there are tears – from mom, dad, baby, siblings and midwife.”

In addition to the continuity of care given to expectant mothers, midwifery brings substantial cost savings to the health-care system by allowing doctors and obstetricians to focus on high-risk pregnancies. Martens explains, “Using a midwife can save the province between $800 to $1,300 per birth.”


 

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Four Directions Midwives, from left to right: Jessica Swain RM (alumna), Toby Douglas RM, Hope (Atuat) McLennan RM (alumna), Danielle McCreary RM (alumna)


Meeting increased need in response to COVID-19

Like the rest of the health-care field, midwifery has had to revisit policies and processes related to patient care in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Harrison describes some of these adjustments.

“Routines have completely changed – there are new measures in place to protect ourselves and clients. Dads and siblings can no longer attend visits. It’s stressful, and a scary time for expectant moms. There is a loss of the standard excitement that typically surrounds new births, (such as) baby showers, friend and family visitors, prenatal classes.”

Similarly to final-year students from MRU’s Bachelor of Nursing program, midwifery students have been fast-tracked in order to help support the health-care system during the global health crisis.

MRU Associate Professor Susan Jacoby estimates Alberta Health Services’ midwife waiting list includes 700-plus expectant mothers, and this number has increased due to COVID-19 as parents look to home birth arrangements in favour of hospital deliveries.  

Despite the heavy demand, only twelve students per year are admitted into the midwifery program at MRU - places are limited by the number of currently registered midwives in Alberta who can carry out the required preceptor role for the students.

Nevertheless, MRU alumnae are working hard to expand their services to more Albertans. Swain recently partnered with three other midwives - including MRU alum Danielle McCreary and Hope (Atuat) McLennan - to launch Four Directions Midwives, a practice focused at providing care to Indigenous women in Calgary, Tsuut’ina, Morley, Eden Valley and Siksika. 

And as a member of the program’s first graduating class, Harrison has enjoyed watching the program grow and evolve over the past five years.

“I loved my time at Mount Royal. It’s a place that is still near and dear to my heart.”

2020 is the International Year of the Nurse and Midwife as proclaimed by the World Health Organization to recognize the contributions these health care professionals make to the world. We’re proud to celebrate the 56 alumni from MRU’s Bachelor of Midwifery program.