Tonya Nicholson, DNP, CNM, WHNP-BC, CNE, FACNM
Part advocate and part healthcare provider, nurse-midwives play a critical role in the lives of their patients and the communities they serve.
Specializing in women’s reproductive health and childbirth, nurse-midwives work closely with their patients — listening to their wants and needs, offering advice and recommendations, and providing the care that’s best for mother and child.
“It’s the best job on the planet,” said Tonya Nicholson, DNP, CNM, WHNP-BC, CNE, FACNM, chair of Frontier Nursing University’s Department of Midwifery and Women’s Health. “What an honor and a privilege, and also a great responsibility, to be with women and with families as they’re growing.”
Holistic health professionals
While nurse-midwives are mostly known for the care they provide women during pregnancy and birth, they offer care for women throughout their lives.
“Nurse-midwives actually care across the lifespan,” said Nicholson, who has worked as a nurse-midwife in Dublin, Georgia, for more than 20 years. “Basically from the onset of adolescence for a young girl to the rest of a woman’s life, so prenatal care, care for birth, gynecologic care, menopausal care, etc.”
Because they are there before, during, and after pregnancy, nurse-midwives often develop close bonds with their patients. That bond, Nicholson says, makes it easier to get patients to follow health recommendations, which in turn has a major impact on public health.
“Healthcare decisions for our family are often made by the woman, so if she has had a positive birth experience, then she’s very likely to remain within a health system,” she said. “And then her good health decisions will impact her family, so if she starts eating better, so will her family. Then those good decisions kind of roll out into the community.”
The right place
Nurse-midwives will sometimes come to their patients’ homes to offer their services, and even enable them to perform a home birth. However, where nurse-midwives practice has changed over the past few decades.
“I would estimate that the percentage of midwives practicing in hospital settings for birth has increased over what it was 30 years ago,” Nicholson said. “There are more women giving birth in hospitals, and so I want to be where they are.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has changed this preference for a lot of women. Those who may have previously chosen to give birth in a hospital are now opting for a home birth, which Nicholson views as a positive change.
“The hospital is a place for sick people,” she said, “and birthing people are not sick people.”
The pandemic has also caused nurse-midwives to offer many of their services via telehealth, and it’s increased their opportunities to promote public health and safety.“Our role has definitely expanded to include discussions about public health and the pandemic in general, and how to protect yourself and protect your family,” Nicholson said.