A New Pathway For Internationally-Educated Midwives

Midwives who trained and practiced outside Canada will soon have a new opportunity to provide their services to women in British Columbia, thanks to a new program in UBC’s Faculty of Medicine.

The program, to be funded by the Government of British Columbia, will offer internationally-educated midwives a streamlined pathway to licensure in B.C. A pilot will begin in April with four students, with full enrolment beginning in January 2016 with eight students a year. Applicants will be individually assessed, and the program will be tailored for each student, recognizing midwifery qualifications and experience gained abroad.

Until now, the only recognized training for midwives in B.C. was UBC’s four-year bachelor’s degree program, which admits 20 students each year.

“This will be much more cost-effective than an attempt to take those  individuals who are already qualified and asking them to start all over again,” said Advanced Education Minister Andrew Wilkinson, who announced funding for the program at UBC’s Life Sciences Centre Jan. 14. “This is faster, cheaper, and arguably much better.”

Minister of Advanced Education Andrew Wilkinson announcing funding to train internationally-educated midwives at UBC. Photo credit: Brian Kladko

Minister of Advanced Education Andrew Wilkinson announces funding to train internationally-educated midwives at UBC. Photo credit: Brian Kladko

The Province is providing $680,000 for the new program, covering start-up, planning and annual operating costs. This follows the Province’s move to double enrolment in the four-year bachelor’s degree program in 2012.

“This funding reflects government’s commitment to midwives and the work they do to support families in managing pregnancies, deliveries and postpartum care,” said Health Minister Terry Lake. “Today’s announcement will also help ensure patients have access to the care they need and choice in accessing the type of care provider that works best for them.”

This program revives a similar one that was funded by the federal government. A graduate of that federal program, Mitra Latifian, had worked in Iran as a midwife for 14 years, and had attended over 1,500 deliveries. Now, thanks to the supplementary training she received here, she is working as a Vancouver midwife.

“One of the most gratifying parts of this stage of my career is my ability to provide extra comfort and reassurance to other Iranian women who are now living here,” Latifian said at the announcement. “And even if a client hails from some land other than Iran, my background demonstrates to other women that being an immigrant does not mean being an outsider – there are opportunities for all of us. If I can play such an important role, there is nothing stopping them from doing the same.”

To be eligible for the new program, applicants must have a degree or equivalent in midwifery, must have attended at least 60 births over a 5-year period in a jurisdiction where midwifery is regulated; the applicant must have been the principal midwife in at least 40 of those births.

Mitra Latifian, an Iranian immigrant now working as a Vancouver midwife, speaks at the Jan. 14 announcement of a new training program for other internationally-educated midwives. Photo credit: Brian Kladko

Mitra Latifian, who began her midwifery career in Iran and now works in Vancouver, speaks at the announcement of a new training program for other internationally-educated midwives. Photo credit: Brian Kladko

All students will take a 3-month online course, followed by six weeks of intensive, in-person skills instruction and assessment. Then students will do a 3-month to 1-year practicum that will be tailored to gaps identified in the assessment process. Upon successful completion of the program, students will be eligible to take the Canadian Midwifery Registration Examination to gain a license from the College of Midwives of British Columbia.

“This program, combined with the doubling of enrolment in our four-year bachelor’s program, will help UBC fill the province’s growing needs for qualified midwives by providing an additional pathway to licensure,” said Michelle Butler, Director of the UBC midwifery program. “This pathway also will help diversify the profession, bringing in individuals with cultural backgrounds that reflect B.C.’s immigrant and second-generation communities.”

There are 260 registered midwives in B.C., offering primary maternity care to healthy pregnant women and their newborn babies from early pregnancy, through labour and birth, until about six weeks postpartum. Midwifery services, which are fully covered under the B.C. Medical Services plan, are available in every region of the province. In 2013-14, midwives assisted in more than 8,600 or 18% of births in British Columbia.

“Enabling internationally educated midwives to practice in B.C. will help meet the growing demand for midwifery services,” said Ganga Jolicoeur, executive director of the Midwives Association of British Columbia. “This new program will provide women and families with greater choice and access to quality maternity-care services in urban and rural communities throughout B.C.”