Health Professions Education: Recommendations and Action Steps

1. Align funding for health professions education with national goals for high-quality, high-value maternity care and workforce development.

  • Carry out an independent assessment of the maternity care provider workforce capacity for the coming decade and beyond. Consider demographic trends of childbearing families and work- force needs for primary maternity care to estimate optimal workforce needs. Make policy recommendations to align trends with projected needs. (See the Blueprint section on Workforce Composition and Distribution.)
  • Develop national goals, a funding plan, and payment structures for health professions education based on performance data and desired outcomes and the results of the independent workforce capacity assessment, rather than volume of services.
  • Ensure that health professions education funding is expanded beyond Medicare subsidies for graduate medical education and case payments, to include all cadres of qualified maternity care providers.
  • Seek support from the Health Resources and Services Administration to convene a coalition of representatives of all relevant professional organizations to design and pilot demonstrations of interdisciplinary educational models with equitable systems for funding.

2. Develop a common core curriculum for all maternity care provider disciplines that emphasizes health promotion and disease prevention.

  • Convene a summit of educators, curriculum developers, certification leaders, and accreditation leaders from the various professions that provide maternity care to plan a shared core maternity care curriculum and ways to integrate and coordinate education across disciplines. Learn from Duke University’s process of building a model universal women’s health curriculum across six disciplines (Taleff, Salstrom, & Newton, 2009).
  • Ensure that the common core curriculum includes a foundation in health promotion and disease prevention, cultural sensitivity, skills, and knowledge to foster patient- and family-centered care and support physiologic childbearing, skills for appraisal and uptake of evidence, and a public health focus.
  • Seek congressional funding for curriculum and practicum reform, and innovative maternity professions education demonstrations that focus on physiologic childbearing, providing effective care with least risk of harm.
  • Create crosswalks between national standardized maternity care performance measures and the competencies for all maternity care trainees to improve and harmonize the quality of training across disciplines and to facilitate evaluation of competency in training programs. Coordinate with the accrediting bodies and certification boards for each profession.

3. Ensure that students in each discipline have opportunities to learn from an interdisciplinary teaching team.

  • Develop collaborative programs in all maternity care teaching program settings to allow students of all relevant disciples to observe different practice styles, collaborate, and learn together from faculty that include the full range of maternity caregivers.
  • Replicate and expand innovative interprofessional educational programs for maternity care students from different disciplines, such as those developed by The Collaboration for Maternal and Newborn Health at the University of British Columbia (Saxell, Harris, & Elarar, 2009).
  • Provide financial and other incentives for innovative education programs that demonstrate integrative training and clinical education outside of the acute hospital setting in facilities such as community health centers, public health department clinics, and freestanding birth centers.
  • Require National Health Service Corps Scholarship (NHSC) programs to provide clinical preceptorship rotations to trainees from all maternity care disciplines at their sites.
  • Advocate for state policy makers to require and fund public colleges and universities to develop model evidence-based interdisciplinary maternity care curricula and practicum experiences.
  • Make federal funds available for competitive awards for innovative graduate and residency education in public and private settings.

4. Improve the quality and effectiveness of continuing education in all maternity care professions, and align maintenance of certification with performance measures.

  • Require anesthesia practitioners who provide maternity care to participate in continuing education with content specific to the practice of maternity care.
  • Require a mix of modalities for continuing education, including cognitive and hands-on modalities, such as simulation training, consistent with evolving evidence about effective quality improvement.
  • Require submission of practice data (e.g., through chart review) for continuing education credit.
  • Devise mechanisms for financing continuing education programs to eliminate the risk of conflicts of interest introduced by corporate sponsorship.
  • Begin to develop crosswalks between maintenance of certification, licensure and credentialing, and national standardized maternity care performance measures to facilitate evaluation of competency.
  • Ensure that state licensure and health system credentialing are linked to adequate achievement of practice performance goals through collaboration with state licensure boards, facility-based staff credentialing departments, and organizations such as the National Association Medical Staff Services.

Lead Responsibilities

Improvement of health professions education is collaborative and based on multi-stakeholder efforts and sup- port. Leaders of the bodies that develop curricula, and oversee accreditation and certification for each of the relevant professions each have an important role in carrying out recommendations for improvement.


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Saxell, L., Harris, S., & Elarar, L. (2009). The collaboration for maternal and newborn health: Interprofessional maternity care education for medical, midwifery, and nursing students. Journal of Midwifery and Womens Health, 54, 314–320.

Taleff, J., Salstrom, J., & Newton, E.R. (2009). Journal of Midwifery and Womens Health. Pioneering a universal curriculum: A look at six disciplines involved in women’s health care, 54, 306–313.