A select group of international midwives will soon be able to practise in B.C., due to a new bridging program at UBC.

The provincial government is investing $680,000 into the Internationally Educated Midwifery Bridging Program, which is set to start training its first cohort in January.

UBC launched a pilot of the bridging program in 2015, taking in four students. Moving forward, the program will take eight students per year according to the program website.

Midwifery advocates say the program will help fill gaps in maternity care, especially in rural areas.

"Women are having to travel further than they ought to receive maternity care. Women want to stay in their communities. When women are able to birth close to community, the outcomes are better," said Ganga Jolicoeur, executive director of the Midwives Association of B.C.

Midwives perform 18 per cent of births in B.C, according to the provincial government.

Strict standards

Jolicoeur says graduates of the new program will have to pass the same test midwives trained in B.C. have to take, if they want to work. That shouldn't be a problem, since the new program only takes people who already midwifery training, said Jolicoeur.

Ganga Jolicoeur

Ganga Jolicoeur, executive director of executive director of the Midwives Association of B.C., says the province needs more midwives to meet the demand. (Charlie Cho / CBC)

"It enables us to bring midwives into B.C. who already have their training. In many cases they've already practiced as a midwife."

She added that the students in IEMBP come from a variety of countries that will better represent B.C.'s population.

"The cohort that's coming in January represents women from the UK, the United States, Australia, New Zealand, Iran. We are confident that this program will enable midwives that are coming from other places in the world to come here and represent the population."

But no matter where the students come from, she says the program's tough acceptance criteria is meant to ensure only the most qualified midwives are admitted.

"We want experts and I think this program does exactly that."

To listen to the full audio, click the link labelled: Internationally trained midwives in B.C.