By Kelly Brooks-Staub
The Birth Companions program of the Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing has received national recognition for the advocacy, education, and support services it provides to underserved pregnant women in the Baltimore area.
As one of five finalists for the 15th Annual Monroe Trout Premier Cares Award, the Birth Companions program received $22,000 for health education and promotion efforts. “The program benefits mothers, infants, and our Hopkins nursing students,” says assistant professor Elizabeth (Betty) Jordan, DNSc, RNC. Launched in 1997 under the leadership of faculty member Marion D’Lugoff, the program trains nursing students as birth companions who provide free doula care to women throughout Maryland. Today, Jordan runs the Birth Companions Program with instructor Shirley Van Zandt, MS, RN, MPH, CRNP.
“The students partner with mothers before birth, throughout labor, and after birth to provide emotional, informational, and physical support,” says Jordan. “They really get to experience what it’s like to work in the community with very diverse clients, learning different strategies to provide what is needed for the birth.”
Expectant mothers working with birth companions are less likely to have pre-term or low-birth weight newborns and more likely to see improved health care for themselves and their infants, Jordan says. Birth companion students learn to provide culturally sensitive care while addressing diverse lifestyles, health needs, and health care preferences among different ethnic populations.
The birth companions initiative was one of six programs to be nationally recognized as finalists for the 15th annual Cares Award. The Cares Award, sponsored by the not-for-profit hospital alliance Premier, Inc. and its member hospitals, honors exemplary efforts by not-for-profit organizations to improve access to health care for the underserved.