From the

Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane

Deacon Eric Meisfjord, Editor
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302

Sister of Providence receives national honors for 30 years teaching-practicing as a nurse-midwife

the Inland Register

(From the July 5, 2001 edition of the Inland Register)

Providence Sister Marie Emmeline Ladd of Spokane was presented with one of eight national fellowship awards June 2 at the annual convention of the American College of Nurse-Midwives, held in Washington, D.C. Sister Marie Emmeline, who retired in 1995, is one of the pioneer nurse-midwives in Washington State.

The fellowship awards honor outstanding achievements during a career that spans several decades and recognize achievements such as scholarship, clinical excellence and leadership within and beyond the nurse midwifery profession. Fellowship recipients received a plaque, a medal, a summary of their contributions and a photograph published in the Journal of Midwifery and Women’s Health, and the use of the initials, FACNM, after their names.

Sister Marie Emmeline has practiced and taught nurse-midwifery for 30 years in seven different health care services in Santa Fe, New Mexico, New York City, Chicago and in Spokane, Wash., from 1976 until she retired in 1995. Born in Kellogg, Idaho, she entered nurses’ training at Sacred Heart School of Nursing in Spokane, intending to enter the Naval Nurse Corps upon graduation.

Instead, she entered the Sisters of Providence, spending two years in the novitiate in Seattle before completing her nurses’ training at Columbus School of Nursing in Great Falls, Mont., in 1952. She later traveled to Seattle to receive a BSN from Seattle University in 1954, then returned to Great Falls to work on the maternity floor, teach nursing students and serve as night supervisor.

From 1956 to 1958, Sister Marie Emmeline served as director of the School of Nursing at St. Patrick Hospital in Missoula, later returning as director of nursing service and as in-service director.

From 1959 to 1964, she was supervisor of the maternity department at Sacred Heart Hospital in Spokane, where she was one of the first nurses to take a Red Cross class on mother and baby care and to teach those classes to expectant parents. She also was the first in Spokane to teach Lamaze classes to unwed mothers at Booth Memorial Hospital, as well as to nurses from three other Spokane hospitals.

She was drawn to the nurse midwife profession “by the things nurse midwives can do,” Sister Marie Emmeline said, including personalized care and time spent with women in more natural births. In 1964 she enrolled at the Catholic University of America, in Washington, D.C., the first university to be affiliated with a nurse-midwifery educational program in Santa Fe, N.M. She received her nurse-midwifery certificate in 1965 and her MSN in maternal and infant health in 1966.

Nurse midwifery was not legal in Washington State until 1976, so Sister Marie Emmeline was permitted to go east in the early 1970s to teach and practice her profession. She returned to Spokane as its first certified nurse midwife, bringing with her two specialties that she had developed elsewhere — teaching Lamaze classes and doing home births.

“I was employed by two courageous obstetricians to do home births since they were concerned about women at the time having home births without qualified care,” Sister Marie Emmeline recalled. Two years later, she was granted hospital privileges at Sacred Heart and became one of the first certified nurse midwives to be licensed and allowed to write prescriptions in Washington state.

Similar privileges later were extended at Deaconess Hospital and at the Spokane Urban Indian Health Clinic.

In addition, Sister Marie Emmeline was among the founders of the Spokane Family Birth Center, the first out-of-hospital birth center to be licensed in the state. “During those years,” she said, “I was the only nurse-midwife in the state to be doing home births, birth center and hospital births at the same time.”

Sister Marie Emmeline has given numerous presentations on nurse-midwifery at workshops and conferences, as well as on television, and spent two years working in a small clinic for the poor in Alexandria, Egypt. Her last five years of practice were in Othello, Wash., as prenatal coordinator and nurse-midwife to implement the state’s First Steps program for pregnant migrant women and those at high risk.

She has been an active member of the American College of Nurse-Midwives for decades, Sister Marie Emmeline said, and continues to keep abreast of the continuing challenges for the profession. Today, there are 7,000 nurse midwives in every state in the country, but they still struggle with issues like resistance from doctors and availability of malpractice insurance, she said.

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