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The First Catch: Two Midwives, a Baby, and a Lifelong Friendship

Written by Molly Forman on Dec 17, 2019

Related content: University

There’s no denying that students studying to become midwives hit the books hard. But no matter how good their grades are, one of the most nerve-wracking parts of a nursing program is securing a clinical learning experience.

Fortunately for alumnae Jessica Herrera and Allyson Michels, Georgetown University’s Online Nurse-Midwifery/Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner Program (Nursing@Georgetown)—powered by 2U—boasts a unique dual-certification program and extensive clinical placement assistance.

Jessica and Allyson, representing two different generations of Nursing@Georgetown alumni, have a unique relationship drawn from the program’s network. Jessica went through the program first—and fell in love with the New Mexico-based practice where she completed her clinical learning experiences. She became a full-time employee after graduating, and became a preceptor—or on-the-job supervisor and mentor—for other Georgetown University students shortly thereafter, including Allyson.

While there are many big milestones that take place during a clinical placement, there was one moment in particular that left an indelible mark on Jessica and Allyson: delivering Allyson’s first baby as a student midwife.

Here, they share their powerful story.

Let’s start by reviewing what you do now—and dive into how you got there.

Jessica Herrera (JH): I am currently practicing as a full-time midwife and women’s health nurse practitioner. I have worked at Women’s Medical Associates in New Mexico for the past two and a half years—it’s also where I did my clinicals while attending Georgetown. After I graduated in 2017 and officially joined the practice, I became Allyson’s clinical preceptor.

Allyson Michels (AM): I work at a hospital health-based private practice in Durham, North Carolina. Prior to that, I worked at placement sites across the country while completing my degree at Georgetown—including Jessica’s.

How did you find the Nursing@Georgetown program and decide to pursue it?

AM: I originally found it when I was researching different programs in midwifery in 2015, 2016. Georgetown stood out to me because of the online component and the assistance they provide in finding clinical preceptors—not to mention, it’s a great institution to receive an education from. My experience ended up being absolutely wonderful: the faculty are incredible, and I was able to travel to so many different states for my clinicals—including twice with Jessica in New Mexico.

JH: I knew that I wanted to do midwifery, but I didn’t have a specific school in mind. In the adventure of finding the right school, I came across Georgetown. The dual certification was a draw, and I knew I needed a program with a distance component. The way this program actually delivered the distance learning was unparalleled: it wasn’t just speaking via discussion boards, uploading assignments, and taking tests.

What types of support were available to you throughout the program?

JH: Even though we took classes from home all the way across the country, I got to talk to my professors and student colleagues daily. We learned at a world-renowned school—and our professors wrote the books we used. With the help of my advisors, I was also fortunate enough to find a clinical site where I live. I did all of my clinical semesters at the same location and then became a full-time employee.

What surprised you most about the experience?

AM: I was surprised by how well everything flowed—whether it was taking classes, participating in on-campus intensives, going to clinicals, or reporting to faculty, the program pieced everything together seamlessly. I’m so proud of the education I received, and everything I’m able to apply today in my practice.

JH: Clinicals, for sure. I’ve seen it from all angles. Students don’t always realize they have a whole team standing behind them, but they’re there supporting you to make these placements happen. Now that I’m a preceptor, I can see the clinical advisor I work with is doing so much for these students—it’s astounding.

And how about the actual placements where you worked together—how was that opportunity?

AM: The three of us—myself, Jessica, and another student, Bethany—were instantaneous friends. We worked so well together, sincerely care about each other, and are all still good friends to this day. I had a really great foundation to build my practice on.

JH: At first, I thought, “Oh no, two students at once!?”. But the support they got from their clinical faculty advisors, professors, and so on made a big difference. It’s not common for a preceptor to be familiar with the students’ program, so the fact that I knew what to expect from the students and for them to have a person who’s been there through it was so unique.

I’ve had students from all types of distance platforms and brick and mortar institutions. I can confidently say students from the Nursing@Georgetown program are the best prepared for the clinical site—they’re the cream of the crop, and so receptive to learning.

What were some of the special learning moments you got to share?

AM: I caught my first baby with Jessica. The first birth was guided, so her hands were on top of mine to ease the baby out. It was wonderful being the first hands to touch the baby as we brought it into the world and placed the baby on the mother’s chest. I will never forget seeing that mother’s look of relief and joy when she saw and held her baby for the first time, after working so hard to give one final push.

JH: My special moment is always after my students get their first catch, like Ally described. You always hear about cutting the baby’s cord after they deliver—and it’s kind of the same for my students. When they finish a birth, it’s like a baby midwife is born. My Georgetown students have a “cord”—which is just a bracelet—that I cut after they do their first delivery. So when they deliver a baby, I deliver a baby midwife!

Any final thoughts?

JH: When people think of the rigor of higher education, they’re hesitant about an online learning model. Don’t be afraid of distance learning or let naysayers sway you. Georgetown is a world-renowned school, and the live classes and on-campus intensives for the Nursing@Georgetown program will get you the education you need, and ensure you’re beyond prepared for what’s next.

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