Mayo in La Crosse uses certified nurse-midwives to assist in OB shortage

LA CROSSE, Wi. (WEAU)-- Fewer doctors are pursuing careers in Obstetrics, according to Mayo Clinic Health Systems.

They estimate there will be a shortage of 6,000 to 8,000 OBs this year.

As a result, Mayo in La Crosse has created a collaborative care model with certified nurse-midwives.

"We will stay in-house all the time, take care of triaging all of the patients," said Theresa Hagen, a certified nurse-midwife. "Seeing all of the low-risk to moderately high-risk patients, delivering them, rounding on them, anything we could do to help our OB colleagues out."

There are seven midwives a part of the program with at least one always at the hospital.

Having a midwife on-hand can help with quick deliveries and emergency situations that can follow after a birth.

There are differences between a certified nurse-midwife and a doctor.

"We can't do C-sections," Hagen said. "We don't do some high-risk procedures like forceps or vacuum, but we can give pain medication. We can suture, so there are quite a few things we can do that are similar to the doctors."

Each patient is informed of the care model and choose whether or not to use it.

Mayo says that all of the midwives that partake in the care model are registered nurses and that they've received plenty of training and education.

"They all are RN's who have gone on to their Master's Degree," Hagen said. "So, they've gone on and they actually have two more years of experience and extensive training just in OB and gynecology."

Since its inception in 2014, the model has been successful, resulting in shorter hospital stays for patients and less admissions to the ICU.

"[We've had an] increase in our vaginal births after Cesarean and we have decreased our C-section rates," Hagen said.

Midwives say there can be a lot of misconceptions when it comes to their position.

"Patients will say to me, 'you don't want me to have an epidural,' or 'you don't like pain medication' which isn't true at all," Hagen said. "In our practice here, all seven midwives firmly believe that your birth plan and your birth is about you."

Mayo believes that other hospitals could be successful in adopting this model as well.