Nurse Midwife Program and Career Overview

Nurse midwifes are part of a group of highly trained registered nurses called advanced practice registered nurses, or APRNs. The group also includes nurse practitioners and nurse anesthetists. Although APRNs perform many of the same duties as registered nurses, they also are trained and licensed to perform additional duties that fall outside the scope of services provided by RNs.

Nurse midwife education and degree programs

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS.gov), nurse midwives and other APRNs must obtain a minimum of a master's degree from an accredited nursing program. Nurse midwives can choose from many different areas of study for their undergraduate work. Vocational and career colleges typically offer associate level study paths, with students transferring to the university level to obtain bachelor's and master's of science in nursing degrees. Many schools also have programs in place to help RNs with bachelor-level education transition into master's-level study, the BLS says. Some schools have programs in place to help people with years of health care work experience, such those in allied health fields, earn RN certification as well as complete the required APRN core curriculum.

The most common educational path for a nurse midwife is the Doctor of Nurse Practicing (DNP) degree, the BLS reports. However, some nurse midwives choose to pursue doctorate-level education. Additionally, a nurse midwife must earn certification from the American Midwifery Certification Board, a designation that needs to be renewed every five years.

Nurse midwife coursework and areas of study

Coursework for Doctor of Nurse Practicing programs typical builds and expands upon topics RNs have learned through their undergraduate studies. As an example, a university in Nevada's DNP program consists of 39 total units spread out over five semesters, including a summer session the first year. Class content focuses on many key areas that a nurse midwife will use throughout his or her career, including:

  • Analysis of health care organizations
  • Translational evidence for health care systems
  • Management strategies for nursing and health care systems
  • Collaboration, communication and negotiation for the nurse leader
  • Health and public policy for advanced practicing nurses

Other advanced coursework helps prepare nurse midwives for leadership roles in clinical practice, clinical teaching and health care analysis.

Duties and career outlook for nurse midwives

According to the BLS, nurse midwives provide a wide range of medical services to women, including gynecology exams, prenatal care, family planning, and help with labor and deliver of babies. Some also are primary caregivers to newborns. Others provide routine wellness care, the BLS says, including education on healthy living, nutrition and preventing diseases.

According to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, there is a growing demand for nurses to complete Doctor of Nurse Practicing degree programs due to increased complexity of patient care, shortages of trained nursing personnel -- especially those with doctorate-level experience -- and increased knowledge of medical practices.

The BLS predicts the field to grow by 29 percent from 2012 through 2022. The national median annual salary for nurse midwives was $44.37 in May of 2013, the BLS reports. The top 10 percent of nurse midwives earned as much as $57.95 an hour, while the bottom 10 percent took home up to $30.20 an hour.

Sources:

Doctor of Nurse Practicing Fact Sheet, American Association of College of Nursing, January 21, 2014, http://www.aacn.nche.edu/media-relations/fact-sheets/dnp

Nurse Anesthetists, Nurse Midwives and Nurse Practitioners, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, January 8, 2014, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/nurse-anesthetists-nurse-midwives-and-nurse-practitioners.htm

Nurse Midwives, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2013, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes291161.htm

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