TO: Open Letter to the ACNM Board of Directors and Executive Director
FROM: Geradine Simkins, CNM, MSN, MANA Board President
RE: ACNM Opposition to Federal Recognition for the CPM
DATE: July 17, 2009
I am a CNM and a member of the ACNM and I say very emphatically-not in my name! I do not support your recent decision to publicly and aggressively oppose the efforts of a broad-based coalition of six national midwifery and consumer organizations seeking federal recognition of the Certified Professional midwife. Your position, to me, is indefensible.
Lack of Evidence
For an organization of professionals that values evidence, I find it inexcusable that you have chosen an action that the evidence does not support.
* There is no evidence to support your claim that the majority of CPMs are not properly qualified to practice.
* There is no evidence to support the position that CPMs in general have poorer outcomes than CNMs or CMs.
* There is no evidence to support the position that CPMs trained though apprenticeship and evaluated for certification through the Portfolio Evaluation Process (PEP) of NARM have different outcomes than CPMs trained in MEAC-accredited schools.
* And there is no evidence to support the notion that a midwife with a Master’s Degree has better outcomes than one without that level of higher education.
The evidence we do have on the CPM credential indicates that the midwives holding this credential are performing well, have good outcomes, and are saving money in maternity care costs. The growing number of women choosing CPMs suggests that women value the care provided by CPMs. If future research should demonstrate the PEP process is unsafe or not cost-effective, then that would be the time to reassess and restructure the process.
We, as midwives, have values that underpin our professional practice. We cherish and honor those values. You have stated that your board made its decision because ACNM strongly values formal standardized education, and opposes federal recognition of CPMs who have not gone through an accredited program. I can accept that you strongly value standardized education. However, I strongly value multiple routes of midwifery education for a variety of reasons.
There is something important, powerful and valuable in a training process in which the student midwife or apprentice is educated in a one-on-one relationship with a preceptor and her clients in the community, as opposed to the tertiary setting where student midwives do not follow women throughout the childbearing year, and may never experience continuity of care or individualized care. In addition, by preserving multiple routes of entry into the profession, we are able to educate more midwives. We need more midwives! If health care reforms were to produce an adoption of the midwifery model of care as the gold standard this year, we could not possible supply “a midwife for every mother.”
Impact of Taking a Stand
By publicly and actively opposing federal recognition of CPMs as Medicaid providers, in addition to taking a stand about formal education, you are also taking a stand (willingly or inadvertently) for decreased access to midwifery care, for diminished choice for women to choose their maternity care providers and place of birth, and for restricted access to the profession. Is it worth it to sacrifice several things you value, just so you can take a stand for one thing you value? Is it possible for you as an organization to value something, but also realize that it is not the only valid way? Is it possible for you to respect the diversity of pathways to midwifery that the CPM represents? Standing aside on a potentially divisive issue does not require the ACNM to sacrifice any of its standards. It simply requires the ACNM to respect the standards of another part of the profession of midwifery.
It is disingenuous of ACNM to state in its Special Alert to ACNM Members on July 15, 2009, “ACNM’s decision to oppose this initiative followed unsuccessful attempts by ACNM and MAMA Campaign leaders to reach a compromise that both organizations could support…” There was no formal process or interaction, no negotiations, and no attempt at collaboration between ACNM leaders and MAMA Campaign leaders. There was one phone conversation in which the ACNM representative stated there was only one concession they would accept: federal recognition only for gradates of MEAC-accredited programs; this is not a compromise. The MAMA Campaign, of course, is promoting all CPMs to receive federal recognition as Medicaid providers, not just some CPMs.
Furthermore, it is disingenuous to suggest the World Health Organization (WHO) document sets a standard that has been embraced around the world. In fact, the WHO developed global standards for midwifery education without the input of the International Confederation of Midwives (ICM), an international partner of the WHO. The majority of members of the task force that developed the standards were not even midwives. There was not widespread input regarding the document nor targeted input by midwives. In response to this oversight, the ICM passed a resolution at the June 2008 Council meeting in Glasgow Scotland (I was there!) to develop global midwifery standards. A task force has since been convened and all member organizations (which includes MANA and ACNM) will be able to give input to the standards developed by the ICM. Generally, when the ICM develops a document that might supplant an existing WHO document (as was the case in the international definition of a midwife), the ICM document is eventually incorporated by the larger international community. This will be a long process and any new document will not be ratified by ICM until the next Council meeting in 2011.
Lack of Vision
What offends me most-as a CNM, an ACNM member, a member of the MANA/ACNM Liaison Committee, and the President of the Midwives Alliance-is the lack of vision this decision represents.
Why not embrace diversity and support innovation? Why not bring the turf wars to an end? Why not unite under the banner of midwifery and the values that we share in common? Why not set aside our differences and recognize that we are all midwives? Why not recognize that the work we do is more important than the credentials we hold? Why not support one another within the profession, because diversity is our strength not our weakness?
What We Do Matters
The healthcare debate has been in progress in Washington DC for over a decade, but never before has the possibility of real change been as promising as it is now. Now is the time when we may have a real opportunity to effect unprecedented changes in maternal and child health care that will have long-lasting affects for mothers, infants, families and communities. Women deserve high quality maternity care, affordable care, and equal access to care. Women deserve options in maternity care providers and in their place of birth. Vulnerable and underserved women deserve to have disparities in health care outcomes eliminated, and they deserve to have barriers removed that limit services, providers and reimbursement for maternity care.
Expanding the pool of qualified Medicaid providers to include CPMs will help address the plight of so many women around the country who receive poor quality maternity care or do not have access to care at all. We need to lower the cesarean rate and increase VBACs. We need to lower infant and maternal mortality and morbidity rates in the U.S. We need to offer women the opportunity to believe in their bodies again and to give birth powerfully and in their own time. We need to welcome babies gently into the world. We need to give the experiences of pregnancy and birth back to families. We need to support women to breastfeed and help shelter the process of maternal-infant bonding. These are the real issues. These are the things we deeply value. Midwives are the solution that can address each of these vital issues. All midwives and midwifery organizations united, together, working toward these common goals, could produce these kinds of improvements in maternity care. We do not have to think together; but we must pull together!
I repeat to you-not in my name. As an ACNM member, I will not comply with your requested action; I will actively oppose it and encourage others to do join me in doing so. Your position on CPMs does not represent what I value, what I hope for, and what I work untold hours to achieve. I have written this letter at the urging of the fourteen members of the MANA Board of Directors. Seven of the Board members are CPMs, four are CNMs, one is a CPM/CNM, one is a CM, and one is a DEM. They represent a true cross-section of the midwives in practice in this nation. We stand for diversity, tolerance, and unity among midwives and within the profession of midwifery. We advocate and work for a midwife for every mother, in every village, city, tribe, and community in this country and across the globe.
Geradine Simkins-CNM, MSN, President
MANA Board of Directors
Maria Iorillo-CPM, 1st Vice President
Christy Tashjian-CPM, 2nd Vice President
Angy Nixon-CNM, MSN, Secretary
Audra Phillips-CPM, Treasurer
Pam Dyer Stewart-CPM, Region 1
Regina Willette-CM, Region 2
Tamara Taitt-DEM, PhDc Region 3
Sherry DeVries-CPM, CNM Region 4
Elizabeth Moore-CPM, Region 5
Colleen Donovan-Batson-CNM, Region 6