What are Nurse Midwives anyway? A lot more than you know

February 5th, 2020
A pregnant woman talks with a care provider in this photo.
Certified nurse midwives care for women throughout their lives and view the various events in a woman’s life – from pregnancy and birth, to menopause – as normal occurrences. Photo by Getty Images.

“We provide full-scope women’s care,” said Liz Kilmer-Sterling, a certified nurse midwife with UCHealth Women’s Care Clinics in Craig and Steamboat. “We help with birth control, menopause symptoms, some primary care, well-women visits, pap smears – all of those things that are consistent with women’s health.”

Below, Kilmer-Sterling outlines things to know about nurse midwives.

What are nurse midwives’ philosophy of care?

Nurse midwives care for women throughout their lives and view the various events in a woman’s life – from pregnancy and birth, to menopause – as normal occurrences. “We strive to empower, educate, provide care and intervene using technology and tools when necessary,” Kilmer-Sterling said.

Nurse midwives are often very hands-on with patients, spending a lot of time on education.

They can also assist during the entire labor and delivery process. “Sometimes that means just being with women during labor as support,” Kilmer-Sterling said. “We help with positioning, counter pressure and other hands-on support for families during their birth experiences.”

When it comes to sharing information about pregnancy and delivery, Kilmer-Sterling likes to start early.

“I want to make sure our families have the tools they need to be successful, whatever that looks like to them, such as whether they want to attempt an unmedicated birth,” Kilmer-Sterling said. “As early as that 12-week time frame, I start asking, ‘What do you do that helps you relax?’ or ‘What helps you get through stressful or painful situations?’ I encourage them to start investigating that early, so they can begin developing a plan and start practicing those techniques.”

How do nurse midwives work with OB/GYNs?

In two words: very closely.

This is a photo of Liz Kilmer-Sterling.
Liz Kilmer-Sterling is a certified nurse midwife with UCHealth Women’s Care Clinics in Craig and Steamboat. Photo by UCHealth.

“We have a collaborative practice with our physicians so we can bounce things off of them and share patient care updates with them,” Kilmer-Sterling said. “And if a situation develops that becomes too high risk or out of our scope of practice, we either co-manage care or, at times, need to completely turn care over to the physician. Our goal is a seamless transfer of care if something comes up.”

Kilmer-Sterling has sometimes been asked by OB/GYNs to come ‘work her magic’ in the delivery room.

“It’s a two-way street. We have a high respect for our OB/GYN colleagues, and I know they develop a very high respect for us,” Kilmer-Sterling said. “Ultimately, we’re all there to help women and their families through this process, to have a safe, happy and healthy outcome for moms and babies.”

What are common myths about nurse midwives?

“One of the biggest myths is that we won’t allow women to have pain medicine,” Kilmer-Sterling said. “Rather, we support each woman’s individual decision about whether to use pain medicine in labor.”

People also may not realize the amount of education required of a certified nurse midwife. There is a nursing degree and a master’s degree in nursing, followed by nurse midwifery training. This extensive training is broad and not limited to obstetrics.

And sometimes, people expect nurse midwives to only deliver in the home setting. While Kilmer-Sterling, like 80% of certified nurse midwives, provides care in the hospital, she does work to make that setting as comfortable and relaxing as possible.

“I try to create a home-like environment, and because we’re in the hospital, I have the ability to provide additional interventions that are not always available in the home setting,” Kilmer Sterling said.

What is a nurse midwife’s focus?

“We want to make sure women are well informed about their health and body, so they can be a partner in their care and make informed decisions,” Kilmer-Sterling said. “It’s very women-centered and family-centered. I always welcome women to come in and have a chat if they’d like to learn more.”

 

This story first appeared in the Steamboat Pilot & Today on Feb. 3, 2020.

About the author

Susan Cunningham lives in the Colorado Rocky Mountains with her husband and two daughters. She enjoys science nearly as much as writing: she’s traveled to the bottom of the ocean via submarine to observe life at hydrothermal vents, camped out on an island of birds to study tern behavior, and now spends time in an office writing and analyzing data. She blogs about writing and science at susancunninghambooks.com.