Midwives Become Partners in Empowered Healthcare

On the International Day of the Midwife, Jefferson students, faculty and alumni reflect on the profession during the pandemic.
Collage of Midwifery students
Students Emily McGahey, Jillian De Moya and Anacelis Flecha celebrate International Day of the Midwife.

The 21st-century midwife is an expert in physiologic birth and front-line primary care with a focus on reproductive and sexual healthcare, wellness and disease prevention. Working in offices, hospitals, birth centers, homes, universities, research and policy, midwives partner with clients for empowered healthcare.

“I’m proud to work at Jefferson,” says Dr. Dana Perlman, director of the Midwifery and Women’s Health programs. “From undergraduate health sciences with a minor in women’s health, to our collaboration with the accelerated BSN + MS in midwifery, to the first professional doctorate in midwifery in the U.S., we’re excited about the future across Jefferson.”

The World Health Organization has declared 2020 the Year of the Nurse and Midwife, and May 5 marks the International Day of the Midwife. The Nexus asked Jefferson midwifery students, faculty and alumni to reflect on their career path, especially in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Midwifery faculty member at her computer
Professor Tracey Rippon working at home (with her dog) during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Tracey Rippon, Assistant Professor of Midwifery:
“As I work through these uncertain times—typically with a puppy on my lap—I’m optimistic about the opportunity we have to make changes to our course delivery that maximize our use of technology. In a distance program, it’s essential to have an interactive online platform, and I truly believe this pandemic has been a catalyst. It’s often easy to go with the most comfortable path and stay with what’s known. However, doing this can mean missing new and better ways. With the cancellation of our on-campus skills weeks that our program relies on for fundamental skills acquisition, we were forced to reconsider what’s possible online. I truly believe that this exercise will enhance our program in the future.

“By creating a Canvas course for the on-campus skills demonstration, we can use modules with videos, audio, interactive case studies, discussions and live online sessions to deliver content through multiple modalities. With past on-campus sessions, our students primarily learned by in-person lectures and skill demonstration. Now, the students will have a course that guides them through a truly reflective process and offers many alternate ways of learning. Students can spend as much time as needed to master and revisit content, videos or recorded lectures to reinforce learning. This equates to an individualized approach.”

It’s more important than ever to consider how innovative midwifery-led birth settings can safely alleviate the burden of COVID on our hospital resources. —Dr. Wendy Gordon

Emily McGahey, Jefferson Doctoral Student:
“I’ve been a practicing midwife for nine years at a freestanding birth center in Pittsburgh. I decided to pursue my doctorate in midwifery to enhance my leadership skills. Little did I know, I would be using all the midwifery leadership skills I’ve gained during a pandemic. I’m currently the acting clinical director of our birth center, which has changed quite a bit over the last month or so.

“We quickly moved to telehealth to keep our clients safely socially distancing and rapidly sourced appropriate personal protective equipment to keep our staff and clients safe from potential illness. We also have made difficult decisions about support people in visits and during labor, while constantly ensuring we’re valuing individuals’ safety, autonomy and personal needs during this crucial life process. I’m grateful for the profession of midwifery, which has shown strength and leadership during this global crisis.”

Zoom screenshot of midwife faculty
The University's midwifery faculty members regularly meet over Zoom.

Brigitte Rhody-Garrison, Jefferson Alumna:
“I currently work at Community Midwives, a small practice in Penn Yan, N.Y., that I established with my certified nurse-midwife partners to meet the needs of a large rural community. We’ve adjusted to the new COVID-19 concerns by closing our prenatal clinic temporarily and doing mostly home visits for prenatal and postpartum care using a modified schedule. Sometimes, we use phone calls instead of visits because most clients don’t have computer access for telemedicine. (We have a large Mennonite population.) Some have dopplers and blood pressure cuffs to report their vitals.

COVID-19 has added a large volume of new requests for home birth. We have to turn down five to 10 women daily, and we’re completely booked through November. This highlights the need to expand maternity care options for safe, evidence-based, out-of-hospital birth in New York.


Jillian De Moya, Jefferson Student:
“As a single working mom and student nurse-midwife, I’m trying to facilitate the normal and beautiful aspects of birth for the women I serve and remain focused on my studies. This is a challenging time in uncharted territory, but we will find a way and finish strong.”

I’m grateful for the profession of midwifery, which has shown strength and leadership during this global crisis. —Emily McGahey

Megan Johncox, Jefferson Student:
“I’m diving headfirst into community organizing efforts by working with local birth workers to create alternative birth spaces for women who don’t feel comfortable birthing in the hospital right now. I also have created online study sessions open to students from any midwifery program.

“I’m finishing up a one-year term as the student representative to the American College of Nurse-Midwives Board of Directors, developing new skills as a clinical trial nurse, and being gentle with myself as I practice the art of being patient.”


Alumna Dr. Wendy Gordon, committee member for the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, which produced the recent report “Birth Settings in America Outcomes, Quality, Access and Choice”:
“Little did we anticipate the sudden and urgent need for scaling up birth centers when the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted the care of pregnant people across the country. Considering the impact of COVID-19 on healthy-birthing people, it’s more important than ever to consider how innovative midwifery-led birth settings can safely alleviate the burden of COVID on our hospital resources. Birthing at home or in a freestanding birth center with a well-trained midwife is a safe option for most people with low-risk, healthy pregnancies.”


Anacelis Flecha, Jefferson Student:
“To me, being a midwife means unity. It’s being with women as a beacon of empowerment and a partner in their health.”

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