Published Nursing Spectrum Magazine 2003
By Carol Lindsay
A man named Pete is not your average midwife. In fact, male midwives make up less than 1% of The American College of Nurse-Midwives' 7,000 members.
Certified nurse-midwife Pete Barnard, RN, BSN,CNM, MS, is used to questions about his uncommon role as a male midwife. He actually spends about half his time explaining who he is, what he does, and why he shouldn't be called a midhusband.
"You have to look at the traditional meaning of the name 'midwife,' and it means 'with woman,'" Barnard says. "So, I am not a midhusband I am a midwife." Barnard also spends time clarifying misperceptions about midwives in general. "People think midwives are the neighbor next door who comes over and delivers the baby. They don't understand that we are highly trained nurses with specialty training and degrees."
Love for L&D
Barnard graduated with a BSN from Fort Hays State University in Hays, KS, in 1985. While doing a clinical rotation in nursing school, he fell in love with labor and delivery. Barnard worked in an ED after graduation, but he knew he wanted to work in labor and delivery. He soon found a job in a hospital that did 500 deliveries a month.
Barnard says the hospital had three separate areas - labor, delivery, and recovery, which he describes as "an assembly line way of doing deliveries." Later, the hospital opened up a birthing center and Barnard was able to see the other half of the way babies should be born.
"[I saw] not just high-risk deliveries and c-sections, but natural childbirth," Barnard says. "In the birthing center you were the labor, delivery, recovery, and newborn nurse. It was so much fun that I started thinking about what kind of careers I could do in that same area and have more responsibility."
Barnard looked west for the right opportunity. "The idea of nurse-midwifery came up, but in Kansas, few people knew what a midwife was," Barnard remembers. "I did some research and discovered that nurse-midwives did just about everything. I started looking into schools across the US and found one in Utah. I thought Utah would be a cool place to deliver babies because they have a high birthrate." Barnard graduated from the University of Utah in 1990 with an MS and has worked in Utah as a midwife ever since. His practice is at OB-GYN Associates in Salt Lake City, and he delivers babies at St. Mark's Hospital.
Personality, Knowledge, and Skill Guide the Way
Although some men are scared to apply for a job in labor and delivery, Barnard had no trouble finding a job and felt very well-accepted. "Nursing has always welcomed men," he says. "How you are accepted working in labor and delivery has a lot to do with personality, how you perceive things, and how you present yourself."
Barnard has solid advice for other men who are nurses: "Some men want to pursue a career in labor and delivery but are scared about liability and how women will perceive them. All nurses should follow their hearts and work where they want in the field. If someone really wants to be a delivery room nurse, [he] should not let being a man stand in [his] way. Let your love for the profession guide you."
Barnard admits there is an occasional disadvantage to not having ovaries in a female-dominated profession. But he says he compensates for being the minority gender in the field with personality, knowledge, and skill. "There is a wide variety of women and they all want different things," he explains. "Some women prefer male providers [while] others prefer women."
Barnard respects a woman's decision to not choose a male midwife because that means she is making a choice. "She is going about her healthcare the right way," he says. "There are so many women who go through healthcare saying, 'I'll take anybody, and they can do whatever they want to me.' That is not a healthy relationship. Women should have choices and do what they want to do. If someone doesn't want me because I'm male that's great, but I still hope they'll meet me first."
Patients who choose Barnard as their healthcare provider do not see his being a male midwife as an issue. "He's just great because he is lots of fun," says Nichole Parish, one of Barnard's patients. "He'll sit and talk and is always willing to answer questions. It doesn't matter how busy he is."