Nurse Midwife Education, Schools, and Career Overview
Women throughout the U.S. rely on midwives for personal wellness care and delivery of their babies. The National Center for Health Statistics reports that certified nurse-midwives attended 332,107 births in 2014.
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 midwives provide a wide range of medical services to women, including:
- Gynecology exams
- Prenatal care
- Family planning
- Help with labor and deliver of babies
- Routine wellness care about healthy living, nutrition and preventing diseases
Some midwives also are primary caregivers to newborns.
How to Become a Nurse Midwife
There are strict educational requirements to earning the nurse-midwife or certified midwife designation. According to the American College of Nurse-Midwives, roughly 82 percent of all certified nurse-midwives have completed a minimum of a master's degree program, and beginning in 2010 that level of education became standard for entry into the profession. Nearly five percent have earned doctoral degrees, the ACNM reports.
There are, however, several different paths students can take to become certified midwives or certified nurse-midwives.
Undergraduate programs: Vocational and career colleges typically offer associate-level study paths, with students then transferring to the university level. Although nurse midwives can choose from many different areas of study for their undergraduate work, students interested in becoming registered nurse-midwives should expect to earn a bachelor's degree in nursing or related field.
Graduate programs: Many schools have programs in place to help RNs with bachelor-level education transition into master's-level study. Some schools have programs in place to help people with years of healthcare work experience, such those in allied health fields, earn RN certification as well as complete the required APRN core curriculum.
A common educational path for a nurse midwife is the Doctor of Nurse Practicing (DNP) program. Coursework for these programs typically builds and expands upon topics RNs have learned through their undergraduate studies. Class content focuses on many key areas that a nurse midwife may use throughout his or her career, such as:
- Analysis of health care organizations
- Translational evidence for healthcare systems
- Management strategies for nursing and healthcare systems
- Collaboration, communication and negotiation for the nurse leader
- Health and public policy for advanced practicing nurses
Other advanced coursework is designed to prepare nurse midwives for leadership roles in clinical practice, clinical teaching and healthcare analysis.
Certified nurse-midwife educational programs are accredited through the Accreditation Commission for Midwifery Education (ACME), the officially recognized body for nurse-midwifery education in the U.S. The organization recognizes 39-ACME certified schools.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics recognizes the American Midwifery Certification Board as the national body in charge of midwife certification. The American Midwifery Certification Board test costs $500 as of summer 2018, and examinations are held at a certified testing facility. Certification needs to be renewed every five years, the ACME says.
However, there are other midwifery certification associations in the U.S., such as the North American Registry of Midwives and the National Association of Certified Professional Midwives. The educational requirements for the Certified Professional Midwife designation, given by the North American Registry of Midwifes, are much different from those of the AMCB. Students don't require a degree; instead, their portfolio of work history is evaluated along with proof of graduation from midwifery education and state licensure programs.
Since certification and educational requirements vary from each organization, students should check with their state's nursing board to see which certification is recognized in their home state before enrolling in a program.
Career Outlook and Salary Information for Certified Midwifes and Nurse-Midwives
Certified midwives work in a variety of settings, from birthing centers to patient's homes, the BLS reports. The work can be demanding, and they also must be able to make tough decisions about patient care.
Changes to laws governing advanced practice nursing providers is expected to drive this growing demand for midwifery specialists, the BLS finds. Jobs should be especially in high demand in medically underserved rural areas that lack a highly skilled medical workforce. 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.
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Professional Resources For Midwives
- American Midwifery Certification Board
- North American Registry of Midwives
- National Association of Certified Professional Midwives
- ACNM Compensation & Benefits Survey, American College of Nurse-Midwives, 2010. http://www.midwife.org/ACNM/files/ccLibraryFiles/Filename/000000002053/ACNM_SalarySurvey_2010_FINAL.pdf
- CNM/CM-attended Birth Statistics in the United States, American College of Nurse-Midwives, http://www.midwife.org/acnm/files/ccLibraryFiles/Filename/000000005950/CNM-CM-AttendedBirths-2014-031416FINAL.pdf
- 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
- Step-by-step Midwifery exam process, American Midwifery Certification Board, www.amcbmidwife.org/amcb-certification/application-process