This week is National Midwifery Week and National PA Week
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – This week, WVU Healthcare is celebrating its nurse midwives and physician assistants (PAs). The first week in October is both National Midwifery Week and National Physician Assistant Week.
Certified nurse midwives are advanced practice registered nurses who have completed graduate-level training in midwifery and have passed a national certification exam. Nurse midwives are best known for attending births, but they are independent practitioners who can provide annual exams, prescriptions for medication, basic nutrition counseling, parenting education, patient education, and reproductive health visits.
Physician assistants are nationally certified and state licensed advanced practice professionals with graduate-level medical training. PAs are joint practitioners who practice medicine on a healthcare team in conjunction with an attending physician and other healthcare providers. PAs can examine patients, diagnose injuries and illnesses, provide treatment, and prescribe medication.
WVU Healthcare employs about 80 PAs and six nurse midwives, who will be honored this week with a small gift.
“As a land-grant institution, one of the primary responsibilities of WVU Healthcare is to provide excellent medical care to West Virginia citizens,” Janice Shipe-Spotloe, P.A.-C., M.S., WVU Healthcare director of advanced practice professionals, said. “Advanced practice professionals, such as physician assistants and nurse midwives, especially in underserved areas, are paramount to the patient-centered medical teams that allow for that excellent care.”
Stacey Archer, R.N., C.N.M., director of midwifery services, became a nurse midwife to care for women not just through labor and delivery but throughout their lives. Archer provides care to women before they conceive, throughout pregnancy, labor and delivery, and through their reproductive years and into later stages of life. This continuity of care is what drew her to midwifery.
“It’s about relationship building and about families,” Archer said. “Helping someone grow their family is incredible. Being the first person to place your hands on a newborn’s head is amazing, too. And people trust me with that. It’s just an incredible experience.”
Archer hopes that attention from National Midwifery Week will also attract new nurses to the field of midwifery.
“One of my goals is to mentor more people into the field,” Archer said. “There’s a demand for what we do. I think National Midwifery Week will help bring midwifery to the forefront.”
Travis Randolph, P.A.-C, started his medical career as an athletic trainer but wanted to have a greater role in helping patients. He became a PA for the opportunity to evaluate patients, treat them, and help them get better.
“One of the things I like the best is being able to educate patients. As advanced practice providers, we sometimes have the opportunity to spend more time with the patients than the physicians may be able to. That opportunity to spend time, educate, and answer their questions is something that I enjoy,” Randolph said.
For Randolph, National PA Week is a chance to educate people about what PAs do. PAs can function in key roles in treating patients in the emergency room and urgent care, seeing patients in outpatient clinics, and assisting surgeons.
“We want people to understand that advanced practice providers, including PAs, nurse practitioners, and nurse midwives, can all provide great quality care. The more we can get that word out there, the less apprehension a patient has about seeing a PA because they understand who they’re getting care from. I think that’s huge,” Randolph said.
Both careers have their roots in Appalachian history. The first midwives in the United States brought maternity care by horseback to isolated families in the Appalachian Mountains in the 1920s. Dr. Hu Crim Meyers, a native West Virginian and an undergraduate alumnus of WVU, led one of the first PA programs in the nation at Alderson Broaddus College.