Kitty Ernst is a certified nurse-midwife, a graduate of the Frontier Graduate School of Midwifery (now Frontier Nursing University) and holds a Bachelor’s degree in education and a Master’s Degree in Public Health. For a half century she has been a pioneer in both the field of midwifery and in developing the best care possible for families in pregnancy and birth.  An early president and active member of the American College of Nurse-Midwives, she conducted the first wave of accreditation for nurse-midwifery education programs and developed the first “What is a Nurse-Midwife?” brochure.  As a practitioner, she served families in capacities ranging from public health nurse-midwife in the mountains of Kentucky to the home birth service of Maternity Center Association in New York City and directed the nurse-midwifery education program at Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center.

While starting her own family she began working as a parent educator, teaching some of the first childbirth education groups of the International Childbirth Education Association.  As a field consultant for Maternity Center Association committed to innovation for the sake of healthy families, she developed family-centered maternity care provided by an obstetrician nurse-midwife team at the Salvation Army Booth Maternity Center in Philadelphia.  She designed a project to develop and evaluate a program of Self-Care/Self Help Education Initiated in Childbirth and assisted in planning and implementation of the demonstration Childbearing Center at Childbirth Connection.  She was co-founder of the National association of Childbearing Centers and led the way by inspiring and coaching the many birth centers that followed.

She conducted a national on-site survey of freestanding birth centers and provided consultation for First National Collaborative Study of Freestanding Birth Centers.  As Director of the National Association of Childbearing Centers (NACC) she continued to be a leader in the effort to bring birth centers into the mainstream of health care delivery and helped to institute the Commission for Accreditation of Freestanding Birth Centers.  During this time she also served a term as Vice President of ACNM.  During the 1980’s Kitty became concerned about two issues: the small number of nurse-midwives being educated each year and the fact that the majority of nurse-midwives being educated in large tertiary care centers and the lack of out of hospital experience these graduates were having. To address these issues, she led the design and implementation of the first distance education program for nurse-midwives. This program was later adopted by the Frontier School of Midwifery and Family Nursing. Kitty occupies the first endowed chair in the profession, the Mary Breckinridge Chair of Midwifery.  She is recipient of awards such as the Martha Mae Elliot Award for Exceptional Health Service to Mothers and Children from the American Public Health Association, The Hattie Hemschemeyer Award from the American College of Nurse Midwives, and the Childbirth Connection Medal for Distinguished Service.

She has traveled nationally to most of our states and abroad to Germany, Hungary, Belgium, Russia and Haiti to provide consultation and workshops on the midwifery model of care in birth centers.