AMARILLO, TX (KFDA) - Due to a shortage, Texas Tech is looking to bring more midwives into the workforce.
In Amarillo, there are only five midwives who assist area women through pregnancy.
Texas Tech has a midwifery program with 25 current students and hopes its online program will encourage more rural students to pursue the career.
About 90 percent of Texas counties are medically under-served and for area women, this can be problematic when they are looking for assisted birth.
Texas Tech hopes by recruiting women from rural communities, they will stay in those rural areas after they graduate.
The midwife schooling is a three year program and the first portion of the course can be done online.
The only problem keeping students in Amarillo is the hands-on certification. Because of the shortage of midwives, there are not enough midwives for students to physically practice with in the Panhandle. This means students wanting to become midwives typically travel to other cities in Texas like Lubbock instead of staying in the Panhandle.
"If we bring out more nurse midwives then more new students will be able to come in and study locally," says Silvia Garbalena-Esparza, a Certified Nurse Midwife.
Garbalena-Esparza says this shortage can be dangerous as midwives can not serve every woman who needs care and some of those women will pursue unassisted births which can be risky.
"There are a lot of women that we have to say no to and it's sad because this is something that they really want and these are some of the women that are deciding still not to go to a hospital and still not to go to an obstetrician and sadly they will have a completely unassisted birth," said Garbalena-Esparza
Though there is a shortage, Texas Tech is already seeing an increased interest in the midwifery program and expects to have about 35 students next semester.
If you are looking for a midwife closest to you or if you would like to learn more about Texas Tech's midwife program you can visit their website.