Colleen Donovan-Batson, Director of Health Policy and Advocacy
Way on way back when, I repaired helicopters for the US Army. It was the 1970s, and next to the hangar I worked in was the Medevac hangar, where the lifesaving Huey helicopters lived. If you're of a certain age, you know what a Huey is, and with them lived the Medevac nurses that made them lifesaving. I'd look at those nurses and think, who would ever want to be a nurse?
Fast forward several years, and I'd just given birth to my first child, in a military hospital. Shortly after Sean's birth, the call to midwifery started in my ear. I didn't even know any midwives, but soon enough I was assisting an experienced Los Angeles midwife, who was the cousin of a dear childhood friend. I'd barely moved into the oil-pouring phase of apprenticeship when a birth convinced me that the path to midwifery for me was via nursing.
It wasn't the birth that was the issue, as the care given was exemplary. It was the response and threats made when we transported a baby with a condition not compatible with life. The reception the family received was so hostile I will never forget it, and afterward I helped the midwife pack her equipment to take to the home of a friend. She expected to be raided by the police. This was the early 80s, well before licensure in CA, and with a husband and a child, I wanted to be legal. That incident led me onto a new path, a path to midwifery school via nursing school.
I completed my BSN at California State University Sacramento, gave birth to Andrew and Caitlin along the way, and went to work in L&D in a large county hospital in CA. There I convinced the county to expand the existing midwifery practice to full scope and precept me in the clinic, as well as fund my training at the first distance midwifery program, Education Program Associates/San Jose State University. I later developed this into a county wide educational track for nurses to follow in my footsteps and train as nurse practitioners/midwives. In recent years, I completed my Masters degree in Midwifery at the Midwifery Institute at Philadelphia University.
Even though I decided to take the nurse path, I've always been involved in unity for midwives. I was an active member of both California Association of Midwives and California Nurse Midwives Association, working as a liaison to the boards of both during the licensed midwife practice act legislation in the 1990s, and lobbied extensively for both CNM and LM legislative efforts.
It's to this end that I feel so strongly about my role as Director of Health Policy and Advocacy, and the place of the Midwives Alliance in global midwifery. MANA began as a place of unity for all midwives and continues to hold that space today. While the MANA leadership is just as diverse now as in the early days, the membership has also grown and changed a great deal. The great majority of us are now certified or licensed in one form or another. This is the direction midwives tell us they want to go; to be recognized in their jurisdiction, able to order tests as needed, obtain and administer life saving medications, and bill for their services. We are working on your behalf in a variety of settings to help you reach your goals.
The Division of Health Policy and Advocacy
Our Division of Health Policy and Advocacy aims to make a difference in the world of maternity healthcare, working with you at the regional, national and international level. If you have a question or comment, or an idea for a collaboration or partnership, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Some of our current collaborative work includes:
The US MERA collaboration is one of our priorities as we advocate for licensure of direct entry midwives in all fifty states, via a variety of training and education pathways. If you are not familiar with US MERA, read more about the inception and history here, and watch this blog for the report of our latest proceedings, soon to come. MANA is spearheading an EquityTaskForce within the US MERA coalition led by member and Access and Equity Committee advisor Indra Lusero, JD, MA, director of The Elephant Circle.
Working with legal organizations protecting a women's human rights; the right to birth at home, have a vaginal birth after a cesarean or avoid court ordered treatments or forced surgeries. These include Birth Rights Bar Association,whose aim is to develop a national network of lawyers who can provide legal resources to both families and midwives experiencing rights violations and National Advocates for Pregnant Women (NAPW), who fight for the personhood rights of pregnant women.
We participate in the Coalition for Quality Maternity Care (CQMC), most recently providing input into The Joint Commission's Perinatal Care Certification, as well as signing on in support of a variety of pieces of maternal newborn child health legislation.
Our longstanding membership in the International Confederation of Midwives (ICM) is crucial to remaining active in the maternity care world. We hope many of our members will join us at the next Triennial meeting in Toronto in 2017; in fact, we hope you will consider submitting an abstract to speak and represent the US at what is sure to be an exciting meeting. If you haven't been to an ICM Triennial Congress, start planning now. It is so exciting to be in the presence of thousands of other midwives from all around the world! Watch for info here as we get closer to 2017.
Additional plans for the Division of Healthy Policy and Advocacy include being available for testimony, providing policy letters for state organizations, and developing definitive policy statements and position papers.
We need you at the Midwives Alliance. Please become a member and tell us what you need and what you think. Share your ideas about policy and advocacy with me here. I look forward to hearing from you, and seeing you in person at MANA 2015!
About the author
Colleen is a midwife and nurse practitioner living rurally in the mountains of far northeast WA. After years of hospital, community health center, and birth center practice, she now lives and breathes all things MANA, with a small home birth practice on the side. Colleen also tries to find time to travel to visit her children and grandchildren in far away locations.