Team Sethifer

My photo
New York, NY, United States
We been settling into our new apartment and life here in Harlem since March. Seth rides his bike down the west side of Manhattan to school, work and volunteering. I take the train to North Central Bronx Hospital for work. My first job as a midwife is so rewarding. Seth applies to DPT schools this fall. We love it here - come visit us, we have room for you!

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Student Activism: Advocacy, Grassroots Lobbying and Professional Networking

[This article was written for The Advocate, a publication of the American College of Nurse Midwives, January 30, 2008]

Ah, the thrill of being a new graduate midwife! Four long and challenging years ago, I began my academic journey into the midwifery profession at the University of Pennsylvania's School of Nursing. Success! Graduation came not a moment too soon, December 15, 2007.

Although I am keenly aware that my education in midwifery has really only just begun, I feel confident in the strength of my preparation as a new graduate. In addition to my exceptional clinical training, I have developed invaluable advocacy skills. These skills will enable me to better work within the systems I will encounter in my professional life, to protect and grow midwifery and to work to improve maternity services wherever I am. It was not always easy to balance the demands of work, home and school with the steep learning curve of grassroots lobbying and activism, but well worth the time invested. In reflecting over the past four years, I am particularly grateful to my fellow activist classmates, faculty, preceptors and mentors for encouraging me to participate in advocacy work while I was in school.

Christy Santoro CPM, Janet Lewis CNM, Katie Riley SNM and I published a mother friendly guide to maternity services in Philadelphia, The Philadelphia Guide to a Healthy Birth with the help of the NYC based organization Choices in Childbirth In turn I helped Friends of the Birth Center in NYC raise funds for their New Space for Women at the premiere of Ricki Lake's film, The Business of Being Born. ACNM Executive Director, Lorrie Kaplan and I were caught by the camera in all the glitz and glam (see photo left). Additionally, I spent my integration semester in Auckland, New Zealand with amazing Kiwi midwives that have further inspired, and helped to turned global, my activist tendencies.

I have also had the honor of being the student representative to the ACNM’s Government Affairs and Political Action Committees – most recently working to secure equitable Medicaid reimbursement legislation in Congress. Heather Bradford CNM, Chair of the Government Affairs Committee has inspired many, like myself, to stretch ourselves beyond what we initially thought possible. Vivian Lowenstein CNM tirelessly encouraged students like myself to participate in Pennsylvania state midwifery lobby days and other events (see photo right with PA Governor Rendell) - I hope to pay her gifts forward someday to future student midwives.

Through coursework and by example, all of the faculty at the University of Pennsylvania, especially Dawn Durain and Kate McHugh, have demonstrated what being “with woman” is really about. Midwifery is not just about being a “baby catcher”; it’s about advocacy, too - fighting for midwifery’s seat at the table in discussions about safe and satisfying birth and health care choices for women and families.

Current students, please consider taking the time to involve your self in advocacy work while in school. And mentors, preceptors and faculty, encourage students to join you in your grassroots activities – share your enthusiasm for midwifery advocacy as well as some of the work!

“Jennifer Jagger’s Top Ten Ways Student Midwives Can Become More Involved in Advocacy, Grassroots Lobbying and Professional Networking”:

1. Take a health policy class – encourage your midwifery program to make advocacy work an integral part of your academic training.

2. Join an ACNM list serve – by topic of interest or region. There are ongoing and lively discussions of the latest issues in home birth, international midwifery, student activities, and more.

3. Join a committee - become a student representative for your school, ACNM or local organization on a committee of interest to you.

4. Volunteer in your community – connect with a doula, maternity care, or other service organization. Organize or attend events in your community to celebrate women, families and midwives: film screenings, festivals, picnics etc.

5. Attend local ACNM chapter and state midwifery organization meetings – get up to date on the issues and meet the midwives in your community.

6. Go to a conference – Planned Parenthood, Midwifery Today, Midwives Alliance of NA, and the ACNM all have annual conferences and offer many advocacy and health policy educational sections.

7. Volunteer or study midwifery in another country – recent students have gone to Trinidad, Haiti, Guatemala, Honduras, Saipan, Indonesia, the Philippines, India, New Zealand, Canada and the Netherlands. Learn about practice models in other countries while offering an extra hand or completing a clinical rotation.

8. Teach “Midwifery 101” to your elected officials – visit their local office, make a call or write a letter letting them know about the impact of midwifery academic programs and clinical practices in their area. Encourage them to contact you in the future if they have questions about women’s health issues or legislation. Attend or organize annual “State Midwifery Lobby Days” at your capital.

9. Work on an advocacy project – produce an informational pamphlet on maternity or women’s health services in your community, make phone calls to midwives in your area asking them to become more involved, lobby your elected officials for support of federal, state and local midwifery friendly legislation.

And #10… Shameless self promotion - take the opportunity everywhere you go to promote the profession of midwifery with a button, bumper sticker, a kind gesture, or just a smile. Spread the good word about who we are and what we do as often as you can! So many people just don’t know enough about us and what we do.