McMaster University’s Midwifery Education Program (MEP) is launching Canada’s first Master of Science (MSc) degree for midwives to build both scholarship and leadership in the profession.
Registration for the MSc program is now open, and its first students will begin classes in July, said Liz Darling, assistant dean of the midwifery program.
The MSc program will accept up to 24 students for its first year, including eight full-time and 16 part-time learners. The program is planned to increase over time, to an intake of 10 full-time and 20 part-time students each year.
The MSc classes will be offered primarily through online group learning, with some opportunities for in-person instruction. With only two mandatory week-long in-person residencies requiring travel to Hamilton, the degree is accessible to students across the globe.
Darling said the MSc was designed in response to a global call for midwives to play an increased leadership role in health-care organizations and systems.
“Ultimately it comes back to the benefit that midwifery brings to the people whom we care for,” said Darling.
“Midwives in Canada provide excellent care during pregnancy, childbirth, and the postpartum period. They provide care to people on their own terms and help them feel respected and empowered. However, midwifery care remains unavailable to many Canadians and midwives in Canada have untapped potential to increase access to sexual and reproductive health care for people who struggle to access that care,” she said.
“Our key motivation in creating this program is to graduate midwifery leaders who can increase the impact of the profession in health systems, and to expand the capacity of the midwifery profession to improve access to high quality sexual and reproductive health care, particularly for underserved groups.”
The MSc provides students with the option to complete the program part-time while continuing to work and without relocating. While the thesis-based degree must be completed full-time, the course-based option may be completed on either a full or part-time basis. The degree will be completed in two years by full-time students and three years by those studying part-time.
The core courses in the program focus on leadership, social justice and system change, and research and evaluation.
Darling said the MSc’s elective courses will allow students to develop advanced clinical skills or expertise in a focused area of interest. Optional clinical and leadership placements will also offer learners experience to support their professional development.
Graduates will be prepared for roles including clinical and professional leaders, educators, researchers and clinicians with specialized advanced clinical skills.
“The major strength of Canadian midwifery is that the profession is regulated in a way that allows us to be autonomous primary care providers,” said Darling.
“Our care model is client-centred and supports choice of birthplace and continuity of care. The model of midwifery care in Canada is well respected internationally.”
Darling said that the participation of international students in the MSc program will enrich the experiences of all students and will enable the exchange of ideas and best practices from a variety of contexts.
“McMaster is the only place where international students can earn a Canadian MSc in midwifery,” said Darling.
The undergraduate midwifery program at McMaster gained formal accreditation from the Canadian Association for Midwifery Education in 2020 and was the first Canadian midwifery program to be so recognized.
“We are really excited to be embarking on another first for midwifery education in Canada, and for what this means for the profession moving forward,” said Darling.
“The new master’s degree is an exciting opportunity for midwives to develop as professionals and to contribute to improving health care for the people we serve.”