Meet the Midwife: Dean Michelle “Shelli” Collins
Michelle “Shelli” Collins spends her weekends “catching babies.” A certified nurse-midwife and Dean of the College of Nursing and Health at Loyola University New Orleans, she is both an academic and a practitioner. She maintains her licensure and expertise, while staying attuned to technological and medical advances, by working weekends delivering babies for Ochsner Health System at Ochsner Baptist.
“Maintaining my clinical practice as an advanced practice nurse (certified nurse-midwife) makes me a better leader, mentor and professor,” said Collins. “Being able to work with patients regularly in the hospital keeps me grounded and attuned to industry needs as well as better informed to strategize about future programs. It helps me stay current and credible with our students.”
Dean Collins, a certified nurse-midwife who oversees the nursing, counseling, and ministry departments at Loyola New Orleans, this fall welcomes the first cohort of traditional undergraduate nursing students on campus. Nearly 50 first-year students have joined Loyola this semester. Launched during the COVID-19 pandemic, the four-year pre-licensure Bachelor of Nursing program is rooted in ethical decision making, a liberal arts education and the Jesuit ideal of cura personalis, care and education of the whole person – mind, body and spirit.
Created in partnership with Ochsner Health Care System, the new program addresses the ongoing nursing shortage and will help to fill a dire and rapidly growing need for healthcare workers in both the region and nation and provides guaranteed clinical placements within the Ochsner System, helping to ensure that future nurses fulfill their nursing student clinical hour requirements, and are able to graduate and begin their careers on time.
“One of the hurdles for nursing students is often clinical placement, particularly for the necessary hospital clinical rotations. Often, there are not enough clinical site placement opportunities to meet demand and students face long wait times that interfere with their student careers and aspirations. With this collaboration between Loyola and Ochnser, we have removed that barrier,” Collins said. “Partnering with Ochsner gives Loyola nursing students an opportunity to be educated and practice in world-class medical facilities where they will work closely with some of the nation’s finest healthcare practitioners and receive consistent supervision, emerging as practice-ready nurses.”
Dean Collins also oversees Loyola’s award-winning online graduate nursing programs, which span from nurse administrator to family nurse practitioner specialty tracks, rising to the doctoral level, and are ranked among the nation’s Top 50 by US News and World Report. Loyola nursing alumni can be found in hospitals and medical clinics around the nation, whether serving as primary care providers in rural environments or helping patients to receive critical emergency care during the pandemic.
Collins is expanding opportunities for Loyola nursing students at all levels to work in rural communities, with primary goals of keeping healthcare students working in their home communities. A major grant from the Blue Cross Blue Shield Foundation of Louisiana places Loyola nursing students in health provider shortage areas in Terrebonne, Lafourche, and Calcasieu parishes (healthcare shortage areas) and her team is diligently working to find more clinical sites and preceptors for the grant to support.
Collins has served as a media consultant for the American College of Nurse-Midwives, addressing issues from breast cancer screening to the use of nitrous oxide to ease labor pains. Recently, she has addressed issues including the regional and nationwide nursing shortage, racial disparities in healthcare delivery, maternal and child health, and compassion fatigue burnout.
She also writes a blog for National Public Radio (NPR) on PBS’ Call the Midwife. Invited by the popular British show’s Public Broadcasting Affiliate during season 1 to participate as a “modern midwife blogger” she pens 500 words a week, reflecting on the episodes and drawing connections for audiences. It’s a hobby she has enjoyed for the last nine seasons – making the marquis along with one of the most popular shows in Great Britain and America. In celebration of the show's tenth season, she was interviewed by the show's producers who will air that interview in October or November.
As Dean of the College of Nursing and Health, Collins has the unique opportunity of overseeing not only the Nursing, but the Counseling, and Loyola Institute of Ministry programs as well. Facilitating collaboration between and among these three distinct units helps the College of Nursing and Health truly teach with an eye to the mission of “health in mind, body, and spirit”. Forging community partnerships is crucial to the mission of the College, with recent community grants obtained to help with pregnant clients of New Orleans Covenant House, as well as to outfit a play center at Covenant House with trauma informed toys for the resident’s children.
In the works are things like the addition of several advanced practice nursing specialty tracks, summer nursing boot camps to introduce middle and high school students to the nursing profession, dual enrollment opportunities with area high schools, and campus brown bags on health related topics for all existing Loyola students.
“The College of Nursing and Health at Loyola is poised to be a premier provider of undergraduate and graduate nursing not only in the New Orleans area, but in the state of Louisiana” Collins said. “Via the forging of strategic partnerships, like those with Ochsner Health System and Blue Cross Blue Shield Foundation of Louisiana, we will make an indelible positive impression on the health status of Louisiana’s citizens, while doing our part to lessen the severity of the nursing shortage.”