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Clinical Case Report - Circumpolar Special Issue: Human health at the ends of the earth

Meeting the needs of Nunavut families: a community-based midwifery education program

Submitted: 29 October 2009
Revised: 4 March 2010
Published: 18 June 2010

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Author(s) : James S, O'Brien B, Bourret K, Kango N, Gafvels K, Paradis-Pastori J.

Susan JamesBeverley O'BrienKirsty BourretNatsiq KangoKerstin GafvelsJudith Paradis-Pastori

Citation: James S, O'Brien B, Bourret K, Kango N, Gafvels K, Paradis-Pastori J.  Meeting the needs of Nunavut families: a community-based midwifery education program. Rural and Remote Health (Internet) 2010; 10: 1355. Available: (Accessed 18 October 2017)


Context:  Pregnant Nunavut women are usually expected to relocate to distant and larger urban centres, often for several weeks, to give birth. A national study revealed that these women are less likely to have necessary information on pregnancy related topics and less satisfied with their maternity experiences. While prenatal and postpartum care can be accessed through nursing stations, opportunities for intrapartum care within Nunavut are limited to the hospital in Iqaluit or the birthing centre in Rankin Inlet.
Issues:  One strategy that may be help ameliorate these regional differences is increasing the integration of midwifery services. Many historical and political factors have contributed to the loss of traditional maternity care among the Inuit of Nunavut. A unique, multi-layered midwifery education program, with a range of exit points from maternity care worker to baccalaureate degree, was implemented by a partnership between the Government of Nunavut and Nunavut Arctic College (NAC). Creative approaches were invoked to develop a program that is both culturally safe and ensures that graduates at midwifery diploma level are eligible to write the Canadian Midwifery Regulatory Exam (CMRE). The loss of traditional midwifery and the very dispersed population created challenges with respect to development of appropriate clinical learning sites where students can learn midwifery from midwives. Because NAC does not grant degrees, a collaborative partnership with Laurentian University is underway to meet the needs of those midwifery students who wish to complete a degree.
Lessons learned:  Midwifery has a bright future in Nunavut. Two students have already passed CMREs on their first attempt. Plans are in place to enrol a class in Cambridge Bay in the fall of 2010. One NAC student is enrolled in courses at Laurentian University and should complete the third year of that program in 2010.

Key words:  integration, midwifery education, Nunavut, traditional midwife.

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