UBC Reports | Vol.
51 | No. 5 |
May 5, 2005
UBC “Births” First Midwifery Class
By Hilary Thomson
Seven UBC students will be picking up a BMW at Spring Congregation,
but they won’t be driving away in a luxury import.
The grads will be getting a Bachelor of Midwifery degree,
the first ever conferred at UBC.
“It’s very exciting to birth our first graduating
class,” says Elaine Carty, director of the program,
which is part of the Faculty of Medicine’s Dept. of
Family Practice. “These are fabulous, motivated students
and are UBC’s first wave of what we know will be a valued
part of maternity care in B.C.”
B.C. is the third province in Canada -- after Ontario and
Quebec -- to offer such a program. About 2,300 births are
attended by midwives in B.C. each year.
Carty, trained as a midwife in the U.S., receives about
100 applications annually for the class, which is currently
funded for a maximum of 10 students. About 80 per cent of
applicants have previous degrees, in both arts and sciences.
The graduating class ranges in age from mid-20s to mid-40s
and includes single and married women, mothers and a grandmother.
Carty describes the program as traditional curriculum mixed
with apprenticeship. In addition to classes, all grads complete
substantial practical placements -- or preceptorships -- in
locations ranging from Cranbrook to Prince George. In their
first nine-week placement in second year, they will attend
8-10 births and will have “caught” (delivered)
at least one baby themselves. Graduates must have attended
a minimum of 60 births to earn their degree.
A midwife -- the term means “with woman” --
works with a mother throughout the pregnancy. Midwives offer
care and education in 45-minute visits, do all the supportive
care at home or hospital up to the birth, deliver the baby,
and visit mother and baby at home at least 4-5 times.
Informed choice is an important principle of midwifery care
and mothers can choose birthing location. B.C.’s 120
registered midwives attend about 70 per cent of deliveries
in hospital and 30 per cent in the home.
After graduation, midwives must complete six months in an
established practice before setting up their own private practice.
Midwifery services are covered under the provincial health
plan and midwives can expect to earn, after deducting business
expenses, approximately $70,000 per annum, similar pay to
“I see midwifery as a perfect opportunity to be a
supportive, positive and helpful influence at a momentous
time in a family’s life,” says Lindsay Brimblecombe,
a 35-year-old grad whose background includes work with a variety
of non-profit groups. “I was delighted to be trained
in B.C. and to have practicums in such a variety of areas.”
Brimblecombe’s placements included Prince George, Campbell
River and Vancouver. Carty was impressed with support shown
by UBC administrators during the launch of the program, which
borrows most of its curriculum from a similar program in Ontario.
Special to the UBC program this year are international placements
in Zambia, Mexico and Pakistan.
In addition, Carty has also worked with health-care colleagues
to create interprofessional opportunities where midwifery,
medical and nursing students can learn together.
“We’re finding a real appetite for interprofessional
work now and doctors are asking for midwives to work with
them -- that wasn’t happening five years ago,”
says Carty, adding that numerous smaller hospital closures
in the last five years have created a greater need for more
maternity care resources in rural and underserved areas.
UBC midwifery grads will soon have the opportunity to provide
maternity care right on campus, with the opening of a new
family practice clinic planned as part of the University Town
For more information on UBC’s midwifery program, visit