YNM Member Story: JoAnn Niebur, CNM, RN, BSN

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Share your story: What does midwifery mean to you? What would you like to be celebrated in the Year of the Nurse and the Midwife?

For a long time, I had a vision of helping women have safer birth in places where that option does not exist. Through my midwifery school classes and a study abroad program in Nepal, I became aware that women in the Himalayan villages often deliver in a cow shed with no trained assistance, and even if they can get to a hospital the situation is not much better due to understaffing, abuse, and low quality care. I am fortunate to now be doing long-term volunteer work in the Himalayas, and the situations the women there are in have become so much clearer to me. They do manual farm work all day and rarely seek medical care for themselves, needing permission to do so. They are abused, physically and emotionally for having baby girls. Cervical cancer rates are very high with no Pap testing or HPV vaccines. They are truly marginalized. We have opened a birth center and have visited with the one midwifery school in this country.  I have established a link with them and will soon be precepting their students. I was trained in visual inspection of the cervix with acetic acid (VIA), and we are starting to hold cancer testing camps for women. We hope someday to open a surgical center that could provide cesarean backup, since right now the closest cesarean or NICU is 5-8 hours away by a mountain road. My hope for the Year of the Nurse and the Midwife is that I will find resources for these women and that my dream of opening a birth center and training midwives will become a reality.

Tell us about your background: Which midwifery education program did you attend or are currently attending? What are your areas of specialty? Who mentored you along the way in your career? What inspired you to become a midwife?

I have always enjoyed mentoring young women and love that the position of a midwife allows us to work alongside women for a year or more of their lives. I attended the University of Colorado Midwifery Program. I am certified as in Limited Obstetric Ultrasound (which is illegal where I am unfortunately due to female feticide) and have pursued training in lactation and VIA cervical cancer testing. Several women have been instrumental in mentoring me, including Suzanne Carrington, CNM, DNP, of the University of Colorado program for taking us to Nepal, Pam Prag, CNM, MS, MPH, also at CU, Angela Stevens, CNM of the Boulder Birth Center who trained skilled birth attendants in Nepal, and Denise Smith, PhD, CNM, director of the University of Colorado Midwifery program. These ladies have mentored me and inspired me to do what I am doing now. Their words of wisdom and the experiences they allowed me to have led me to this place and help keep me going daily.