Sunday, November 4, 2007

This presentation is part of : Cultural Competent Nursing Care
The History of Nurse Midwives and Perinatal Care in the United States Virgin Islands
Tawna Cooksey-James, PhD, RN, College of Nursing, University of Iowa, Iowa City, IA, USA
Learning Objective #1: Understand the history of perinatal care and the changing role of nurse midwives in the United States Virgin Islands.
Learning Objective #2: Appreciate the importance of Virgin Islands' nurse midwives and their contribution to positive perinatal outcomes.

On the islands of St. Thomas and St. John in the United States Virgins Islands, local nurses were sent off-island to be trained as certified nurse midwives (CNMs) from 1917-1934. The establishment of these midwives and the ensuing positive perinatal outcomes began with the purchase of the Virgin Islands by the United States and the focus on public health issues by a U.S. Navy Rear Admiral. From an infant mortality rate (IMR) of 320 in 1917 to 9.0 in 2001, this historical study chronicles the continued strengths amidst changing roles of the islands’ midwives. Data for this study was collected from written documents and oral histories. A critical analysis of the midwifery activities ascertains their direct contribution to improved perinatal outcomes. This research relays stories of the islands’ first midwives in 1917 to midwives in the 1990s and provides a valuable lesson for all practicing nurses on what dedicated nurse midwives with few resources can accomplish. Acknowledgement to Gustave Connell and Patricia Rollo of St. Thomas, USVI, for their valued contribution to this history of nurse midwives. This study was partially funded by the Edward A. Dauer Scholarship Award and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service, Federal Nurse Traineeship Fund as implemented by the University of Miami, School of Nursing, Coral Gables, Florida.