When the Bachelor of Health Sciences degrees in midwifery are conferred at McMaster University today, there will be 12 special graduates from Manitoba.

The class of midwifery students had completed their first year of training at the University of Manitoba when their program was discontinued, and McMaster and the University of Manitoba formed a partnership enabling the students to take the McMaster program while remaining in Manitoba.

Today, the Manitoba cohort of 12 will cross the stage along with 27 McMaster midwifery students at the McMaster convocation being held at FirstOntario Place. One additional Manitoba student will finish the program next year.

"We were happy to step up and help these students complete their education," said Liz Darling, assistant dean of McMaster's midwifery program and associate professor in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at McMaster.

"There's a genuine commitment to building a strong, well-educated profession of midwives across Canada and increasing access to midwifery care, so that's why everyone wanted to make this work."

Faculty members from McMaster and the University of Manitoba worked closely together to allow the students to complete their courses while staying in Manitoba. Students were offered a modified fall term in their second year to make up the courses required by the Ontario Midwifery Education Program.

Classes and tutorials were done through a combination of online distance learning and hands-on learning taught by both McMaster and University of Manitoba faculty members. Some McMaster faculty members also made their way to Winnipeg for in-class teaching sessions. Students also travelled to Hamilton twice in their third year for one-week periods of intensive education.

Darling credits Patty McNiven, associate professor in the Department of Family Medicine on faculty in McMaster's midwifery program, for playing a central role in preceptor training to allow the midwifery students to conduct their clinical placements in Manitoba. She said the midwives of Manitoba were outstanding partners in making this a reality. 

"It was very important to us that Manitoba midwives were trained to be preceptors so they could supervise clinical placements," said Darling. "Patty did a lot of work on that, and went to Manitoba several times to deliver preceptor workshops.

"There was really great support from the midwives of Manitoba and they were very keen to support making this education happen in Manitoba."

Darling said Kellie Thiessen, associate professor in the College of Nursing at the University of Manitoba, and Kris Robinson, a registered midwife and clinical placement coordinator in Manitoba, were essential in both teaching and facilitating third-year clinical placements in locations across Manitoba.  

"We knew it was easier for the students to stay in Manitoba for their education, especially since many of them were mature students and have families," said Darling. "Rather than have to relocate their families and move away from support networks, we wanted them to be able to stay at home.

"Also, specific to health profession education, we also know people are much more likely to serve their community if they are able to remain in their community when they do their training."

Darling and McNiven travelled to Winnipeg earlier this month for a special graduation celebration with students and their families, faculty members and preceptors.

Darling noted that at the event there was a strong sense of appreciation towards McMaster's role in ensuring the midwifery students completed their education.

"It took a lot of commitment and work by our team at McMaster to create an opportunity so these students didn't miss any time in their training," said Darling.

"I also think this outcome showed the tremendous dedication of the students. Completing an undergraduate degree in midwifery is challenging enough, but this group of students faced challenges that went above that and they should be proud of this accomplishment.

"They integrated very well into the tutorials and clinical placements, and are on par with students who completed the entire program in Ontario. This is a strong, competent cohort of midwives."

"We were delighted to partner with McMaster University to facilitate this year's bachelor of midwifery graduates to continue their studies in their chosen health profession," said Netha Dyck, dean, College of Nursing, Rady Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Manitoba. "We appreciated the collaboration between our faculty members, universities and midwifery association to work together for our students' success."

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