The Heart of Midwifery: Mary’s Dream Alive in Kentucky

“If these United States can be called a body, then Kentucky can be called It’s heart”-Jesse Stuart

I think that Jesse Stuart would agree that Kentucky is the heart of Midwifery as well.  Every aspiring nurse- midwifery student learns the story of how Mary Breckinridge founded the Frontier Nursing Service to meet the needs of the families in Leslie County.  In order to serve the entire population, Mrs. Breckinridge brought to Kentucky the concept of a professional who was trained in both nursing and midwifery.  Because of the vast geographical area, Mrs. Breckinridge set up a decentralized model of care consisting of a central hospital and several outposts/nursing clinics, with the nurse-midwives making their rounds via horseback.  Her goal was to have this care be a model for care world wide.


Mrs. Breckinridge was also the first to document research in the area of nurse-midwifery.  Her results were tabulated by the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company.

The study shows conclusively what has in fact been shown before, that the type of service rendered by the Frontier Nurses safeguards the life of mother and babe. If such service were available to the women of the country generally, there would be a saving of 10,000 mothers’ lives per year in the United States, there would be 30,000 less still births and 30,000 more children alive at the end of the first month of life. The study demonstrates that the first need today is to train a large body of nurse-midwives, competent to carry out the routines that have been established both in the Frontier Nursing Service and in other places where good obstetrical care is available.

2014 Marks the 75th Anniversary of Frontier Nursing University.  Frontier is the longest operating nurse-midwifery program in the U.S. Frontier continues to graduate competent caring nurse- midwives who practice in Kentucky and across the nation.  Celebrations are ongoing. We are proud to have such a great asset in our state. Congratulations FNU!!!

As I reflect on what it means to be a nurse-midwife, I know that although I do not always know what lies ahead, I know that what matters is life.  Moms and babes.  Midwifery matters.   Let’s continue to keep Mary’s dream alive….

National Midwifery Week is happening now October 5-11, 2014!!!

If you would like to find out more about nurse-midwives and how we make a difference in the lives of moms and babes