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Laura Warkentin, Brooke-Lyn Wahoski and Emily Howarth wearing graduation caps and gowns, holding their degree parchments.

Laura Warkentin, Brooke-Lyn Wahoski and Emily Howarth, UM's first midwifery graduates.

UM’s first midwifery cohort graduate alongside latest nurses

June 6, 2024 — 

The first group of UM midwifery graduates entered the profession at the College of Nursing’s spring pinning ceremony on June 4. Three students completed the program and received their professional pins, alongside 91 new nurses.

The event was held at the Pinnacle Club at Princess Auto Stadium. The graduates had their convocation the following day at the Investors Group Athletic Centre.

The bachelor of midwifery program was launched by the College of Nursing, Rady Faculty of Health Sciences in September 2021. There are currently 20 students enrolled, including three Indigenous students. Ten students are expected to graduate next year.

Three female graduates in caps and gowns, wearing red shoes.

The midwifery grads wore red shoes to signify ‘standing out from the crowd’ and advocacy for women’s rights.

“Having this program reduces the need for Manitobans to travel outside of the province to pursue studies in midwifery. We hope to see our graduates working within the province and to see the profession grow,” program director Fleur McEvoy said.

Brooke-Lyn Wahoski, Emily Howarth and Laura Warkentin were the first graduates to wear UM degree hoods for midwifery. They also each wore red shoes, a tradition among midwifery graduates in Canada.

“Red signifies standing out from the crowd and advocacy for women’s rights,” said Warkentin, valedictorian for the midwifery Class of 2024.

Howarth called the program “rigorous but rewarding.” She had previously been working toward an accounting degree at UM, but during the COVID-19 pandemic she felt unsatisfied and started looking for a new career choice. As soon as she discovered midwifery, she knew it was for her.

“We spend a lot of time with our clients and get to build relationships with them, which is amazing,” Howarth said.

Wahoski said she considered a career in nursing before she learned about the program.

“Midwifery wasn’t really talked about when I was growing up. When I heard about the program coming to Manitoba, I thought it aligned with my values and I felt it was the missing piece I was searching for,” she said. “It’s an important line of work and creates a safe space for pregnant people and their families.”

Kareena Ricafort in front of a College of Nursing banner.

Kareena Ricafort

The ceremony was emceed by College of Nursing dean Dr. Netha Dyck. Speakers included MLA Uzoma Asagwara, Indigenous Elder Margaret Lavallee and Association of Regulated Nurses of Manitoba executive director Joyce Kristjansson.

Video greetings were provided by Rady Faculty of Health Sciences dean Dr. Peter Nickerson, UM President and Vice-Chancellor Michael Benarroch and Tracy Mullet, president of the Midwives Association of Manitoba.

An honour song was performed by Dr. Lisa Monkman.

Dyck congratulated the new midwives and nurses, who she said showed great resilience beginning their journeys in the middle of a pandemic.

Nursing graduate Kareena Ricafort said the pandemic was particularly challenging for her. Her father is also a nurse and they had to take extra precautions while she was on her clinical placements.

“We had to seclude ourselves from each other at home. We’d take turns living in the basement and have to use different washrooms, because of the different protocols where we were working. You couldn’t have two people living together working in hospitals,” she said.

Eunice Custodio wearing her graduation cap and gown.

Eunice Custodio

Eunice Custodio, also from nursing, said she is the first of her family to go into health care. She said she felt “even more needed” starting the program during the pandemic.

“You see in the news that nurses and people in health care are the heroes of today’s society, and that’s really quite amazing,” she said.

Jessica Angus was one of eight Indigenous graduates and the first nursing valedictorian from the college’s Mahkwa omushki kiim: Pathway to Indigenous Nursing Education (PINE) program. She will be working in emergency and hopes to one day work in community care.

“I hope to be able to bring everything in together and really represent my community, as being Indigenous as well as female,” she said. 

At the ceremony, the new nursing graduands recited the UM Bachelor of Nursing Pledge, which was inspired by the 1893 Florence Nightingale Pledge and has been adapted by the university.

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