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Midwifery Degrees and Midwife Programs

By an allied health world contributing writer

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What type of degree is required to become a nurse-midwife?

Effective January 1, 2011, a graduate degree is required in order to sit for the midwifery certification exam. Some schools are eliminating their master’s programs and instead offering a doctor of nursing practice degree (DNP).

There are many routes to becoming a nurse-midwife, though the easiest route is to obtain a Bachelor's in Nursing and then go on Midwife Degreeto graduate school for midwifery. The bachelor’s program is four years and the master’s program is another two to three years. However, it is completely acceptable to start with an associate’s degree in nursing or a bachelor’s degree in a field other than nursing and go on to earn a master’s in midwifery.

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Although not a requirement, oftentimes individuals get a double master’s in women’s health and midwifery. This allows for more flexibility when people move from state to state, since licensing laws vary among states, and may in turn make these individuals more marketable. Having a master’s degree in just women’s health allows individuals to do annual exams and infection checks and provide primary care for women, but not deliver babies. A woman's health nurse practitioner would need to take several extra classes in order to become a nurse-midwife, and in some cases, a nurse-midwife might need to take a course with additional gynecology clinical experience in order to become a women's health nurse practitioner.

What types of clinical hours are required for a nurse-midwife degree program?

Midwifery education requires attainment of specific competencies but does not require a set number of specific clinical experiences (such as deliveries) or a set number of clinical hours. These programs are designed to ensure that students attain competencies prior to graduation which could mean attaining anywhere between 500-900 clinical hours. This can depend on what a student comes into the midwifery program with. While most nurse practitioner programs are based on a number of hours, midwifery programs focus more on competencies. The clinical rotations for midwifery education cover the full range of clinical care that midwives provide: prenatal, intrapartum, postpartum, gynecology (including all contraceptive services) and primary care.

Even with extensive clinical experience gained in a master’s program, the bylaws of some hospitals require 20-50 observed deliveries by a physician at that specific hospital. Each hospital is different with regard to these regulations.

Learn more about the midwife salary.

What prerequisites are required to be accepted into a master’s degree program in midwifery?

Obtaining a bachelor’s degree is required and some programs require a BSN (bachelor of science in nursing). There are currently 38 midwifery programs and 23 of these do not require a BSN but rather will allow other bachelor’s degrees outside of nursing and even health care. These programs that do not require those entering to be BSNs are three years in length; the first year being basic nursing and the last two years being centered around midwifery. Those graduating from these programs also become CNMs.

All midwifery programs require a variety science courses as prerequisites for entry. For those enrolling in a CM program, more science prerequisites are required than for those enrolling in a CNM program due to those individuals not having a nursing background.

Some programs require that the individual has worked in labor and delivery for at least one year before they are eligible to begin a master’s program in midwifery, although most no longer have such a requirement. Many universities in which midwifery programs reside have specific grade point average requirements or may require applicants to take the Graduate Record Examination (GRE).

Learn more about the midwife schools.

What type of clinical experience is included in a midwifery program?

All midwifery programs include clinical experience in prenatal care, primary care for women (office visits to provide a full range of women's health care), family planning and contraceptive services, labor and delivery care in hospitals, postpartum care and newborn care. Many midwifery programs are also able to offer clinical experience in birth centers or in homes.

What classes are included in a midwifery degree program?

  • Women’s health
  • Maternal/fetal anatomy
  • Embryology
  • Business
  • Statistics
  • Research classes
  • Pharmacology
  • Intrapartum care
  • Postpartum Care
  • Antepartum Care
  • Newborn Care

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