Several MCCN students experienced medical care in an Amish community on September 19 as part of a seminar course led by Mary Yoder, MS, RN, entitled “Amish in Ohio: Culture and Health Care Practices.” The objectives of the course are to examine the history and culture of various Amish communities in Ohio and to learn about family life, genetic diseases and their specific cultural health care practices and challenges.
The class includes an all-day field experience to Holmes County, which is the home of the largest population of Amish in the world with close to 20,000 people. Six counties surrounding Holmes also contain high populations of Amish. The area is a major tourism hub, which enables the average Amish person in Holmes County to earn $30,000 annually.
The first stop was a tour of Mt. Eaton Care Center led by Director of Nursing Dottie Hathaway, RN, MN, former faculty at Malone College. Opened in 1985, the Mt. Eaton Care Center helps Amish and plain Mennonite women to deliver 11,600 babies a year. Dr. Elton Lehman, a family practice physician and “Bill Barb,” a lay midwife who helped Amish women delivery babies, developed a close relationship and helped develop the care center. After many trips to Columbus to speak with the Ohio legislature, they were granted a special state charter for Amish and plain Mennonites to be able to receive care at the facility, since they use nurse midwives to help with childbirth. Local members of the Amish community built the facility, which was completely paid for by the time it was completed.
All midwives who work at the facility are certified nurse midwives since professional midwives are not recognized in Ohio. Mt. Eaton Care Center is open 24/7 and has an RN and nurse tech on duty at all times.
The Amish attitude toward birth is that every child is special. Amish families do not want to know the sex of child ahead of time. The husband accompanies his wife during childbirth, but it is a very private time. Although most Amish mothers are married, there have been six to eight single mothers in the past three years. With single moms, the boyfriend may come along for childbirth, as well as a mother or sister. Visitors come only after the baby is born. During childbirth, mothers prefer no anesthesia and only receive Nubain for pain. The total cost for having a baby at the center is $1,295, which is significantly less expensive than going to a hospital.
During labor, mothers prefer using a birthing ball, which is like a bouncy ball, with different sizes for small to large women. If complications arise, the closest hospitals are in Orrville or Canton, about 16 minutes away.
After childbirth, the mother and baby must stay at the center for 24 hours. Newborns receive testing including PKU, heel stick, hearing screen and CCHD (pulse-oximetry).
On the day that MCCN students visited, five deliveries took place. Students remarked how quiet it was without monitors beeping and with just the sounds of families behind closed doors and infants sleeping.
After departing the care center, the class visited Behalt, the Amish and Mennonite Heritage Center, to gain a deeper understanding of Amish beliefs. The heritage center features a 10-foot by 265-foot circular mural called a cyclorama, which depicts the persecution and martyrdom of the Amish and Mennonite people from an early religious movement in Europe in the 1500s to their eventual migration to America.
The class also visited with host family David and Emily Hershberger in Fredericksburg. The Hershbergers shared what daily life is like on their 80-acre farm, which includes getting up at 4:30 every day to start with morning chores. They farm their land with a team of six very large mules.
During the students’ visit, the Hershbergers provided a meal made from vegetables and meat from their own garden and organic farm. The family also raises cows for organic milk.
The Hershbergers also shared their experience of suffering heart breaking genetic diseases, which are common in Amish communities. They said their strong faith in God and community support has seen them through trying times.