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Baylor Nursing, First In The Nation

June 16, 2010

Cesarean sections have reached the highest rate ever in the United States -- nearly one in three births -- and critics say physicians perform them too often, needlessly exposing mothers and babies to major-surgery risks.

With a goal of eliminating unnecessary procedures, leading nursing schools -- including Baylor University's Louise Herrington School of Nursing -- are offering a new educational program so that students can progress directly from a bachelor's degree in nursing to a doctorate in nurse-midwifery. The Doctor in Nursing Practice degree (DNP) requires a project applicable to clinical practice rather than a research dissertation.

The first nurses in the country to finish the program received their degrees May 14 from the Louise Herrington School of Nursing, according to the Accreditation Commission for Midwifery Education.

"Doctors are experts in diagnosis and treatment of illness -- but birth is not a sickness," said Dr. Mary Ann Faucher, associate professor of nursing and program coordinator of the nurse-midwifery program at the Dallas-based nursing school.

"We trust birthing; we trust women's bodies," she said. "The best practice is when midwives collaborate with an obstetrician if there are complications."

Only eight nursing schools in the country offer the DNP in nurse-wifery program, with Baylor's nursing school the only Texas nursing school to offer it, according to the accreditation commission.

Nurse-midwifery focuses on births without unnecessary procedures, and studies show births attended by nurse-midwives have fewer health risks for mothers and babies.

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