Florida is racing towards a severe shortage of qualified nurses and medical caregivers – a shortage that if left unchecked – will greatly reduce the quality of and access to medical care. This is especially true for women where there is a nationwide shortage of obstetricians and gynecologists.
These doctors provide needed care for women and expectant mothers and the shortage is in both metropolitan and rural areas. An effective way to help address the shortage of these health care professionals is to provide advanced master’s degree level training to nurses in the area of women’s health and midwifery.
Nurses with this master’s degree level advanced training, work under the supervision of and in collaboration with obstetrical and gynecological physicians and patients. They are highly trained and experienced nurses that often provide care for lower risk patients at the direction of OB/GYN physicians.
This collaborative approach provides additional access to needed care and allows OB/GYN’s to focus additional attention to patients with more complicated pregnancies.
Furthermore, the expertise offered by nurse practitioners in women’s health and midwifery reduces the number of unnecessarily extreme or expensive medical procedures such as C-sections, lowers overall healthcare costs, increases vaginal-delivery rates and increases breastfeeding rates. All of this leads to healthier mothers and babies.
Most importantly increasing the number of master’s level specialized nurse practitioners creates opportunities to save more infants from untimely death at or near their first birthday sparing families a lifetime of heart wrenching grief as Florida ranks third-to-last in the country for its infant mortality rate, which stands at 6.1 deaths for every 1,000 live births, according to the CDC.
Part of the contributing factors for this [high infant-mortality rate] is counties lacking obstetrical providers, and this shortage continues to increase in rural areas. We must bridge the gap between the decreased supply of OB/GYN’s and the increasing demand for women’s healthcare services to save the lives of expectant women and their babies.
Nationally, there are only 36 nurse practitioner degree programs concentrating in women’s health and midwifery, and with the closure of a similar degree program at the University of Florida, the state has even less accessibility to this great opportunity to improve women’s health care.
With the University of Florida graduating the final wave of these highly trained nurses, Florida universities and colleges have yet to fill the void. This is especially troubling because Florida has recently been ranked as one of the worst states to have a baby and ranks third from last in the country for infant mortality.
Florida lawmakers recognized this vital statewide need for more nursing professionals in this area, and included funding in the recently passed state budget to start a post-graduate nurse practitioner degree program in women’s health and midwifery at Keiser University.
This program will equip nurses with advanced training to provide for the specific healthcare needs of women and address the urgent statewide need for pre- and post-natal care.
The program is being developed at Keiser University – with 21 campuses across Florida – and the University estimates it could graduate up to 150 master’s degree level nurse practitioners specializing in women’s health and midwifery over three years via a curriculum modeled after prestigious women’s health programs at Duke and Vanderbilt.
KU is a leader in the education and training of nurses, ranking #6 nationally and #2 in Florida in the production of nursing graduates.
Investing in degree programs that produce master’s level nurse practitioners specializing in women’s health and midwifery is the most promising way to address the nursing shortage and high infant- and maternal-mortality rates.
Certified nurse midwives can spend more time supporting pregnant patients and educating them about less invasive labor-and-delivery techniques and pre- and post-natal care.
Our state lawmakers are wise to recognize and address the high infant mortality rate and risk to expectant moms across our state with the shortage of qualified women’s health care providers.
Governor DeSantis will continue to serve Florida’s citizens by approving the much needed funding for this post-graduate degree program in women’s health and midwifery.
Dr. Bruce Zafran, M.D., F.A.C.O.G has been in clinical practice for over twenty years. He is the founder and president of Royal Palm OB/GYN; a single specialty group for women’s healthcare.Dr. Zafran is a Fellow of the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology.
Dr. Hala Bunni, M.D., F.A.C.O.G enjoys providing a broad spectrum of obstetrical and gynecologic care and is trained in a variety of obstetric and gynecologic surgical procedures, focusing on laparoscopy.