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Midwives play a crucial role in the birthing process by providing counseling and care during pregnancy and after birth. Aspiring midwives can take a variety of routes to this career in terms of education and credentials.
This guide provides a step-by-step guide to becoming a midwife. Individuals wondering how to become a midwife can use our research to inform their journey from student to healthcare professional.
What is a midwife?
Midwives are medical professionals who care for patients before, during and after childbirth. In addition to directly directing the birthing process and recommending other care providers, these healthcare workers educate individuals on reproductive health issues.
A prospective midwife can take several paths to this profession. Possible titles include Certified Midwife (CM), Direct-Entry Midwife, Lay Midwife, Certified Professional Midwife (CPM), and Certified Nurse-Midwife (CNM). Some certifications are uniform across the US, while others vary from state to state. CNM certification is considered the industry standard for midwifery nurses.
role and responsibilities
Before the birth, the midwife educates pregnant women about options for their delivery process in order to set a concrete plan for the day of the birth. A midwife performs physical exams during a patient’s pregnancy while monitoring the health and growth process of the fetus.
Midwives can help with inducing labor or relieving pain after labor has started. These healthcare workers also work with doctors and doctors as needed during pregnancy and childbirth.
After delivery and beyond, midwives continue to provide education and training in areas such as self-care, postpartum care and breastfeeding. Depending on their certification level, midwives in some states can work unsupervised in independent practices where they can write prescriptions and order lab tests.
Midwives do not administer epidural anesthesia. Although midwives can order epidurals for labor, these pain relief methods are performed by an anesthesiologist or anesthetist. Midwives also do not perform Caesarean sections and do not look after people with high-risk pregnancies.
Midwives typically work in hospitals, birth centers and health clinics. Given the unpredictable nature of childbirth, these professionals may work atypical shifts and may need to be on call at nights, weekends, and holidays.
How to become a Registered Nurse Midwife
CNMs require more training and certification than other midwives. The following section examines the requirements for becoming a certified midwife.
Earn a BSN degree
Aspiring CNMs can begin their journey with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN). Midwifery concentrations typically occur at the masters and doctorate levels. Still, prospective certified midwives can use their BSN electives to focus their undergraduate studies in areas such as human anatomy, physiology, chemistry, and microbiology. These courses may meet the requirements for graduate-level midwifery programs.
A BSN degree typically takes four years to complete. Students who already hold an associate degree in nursing or a Registered Nurse (RN) license can complete RN-to-BSN bridging programs, which are typically shorter—just one to two years.
Obtain a maintenance license
All CNM candidates must have an RN license, which they can earn before or after their BSN. We recommend earning a BSN first, as many RN employers now require nursing candidates to hold a bachelor’s degree.
To become an RN, the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN) must be passed.
Gain experience as a nurse
Graduate programs in nurse-midwifery typically require that applicants have gained some nursing work experience in order to qualify for admission. This allows aspiring CNMs to gain hands-on experience with basic nursing practices.
Aspiring midwives gaining RN experience may consider working as OB-GYN nurses to gain exposure to the specialization.
Obtain an Advanced Nursing Degree
To become a certified nurse midwife, you must earn a graduate level nursing degree accredited by the Accreditation Commission on Midwifery Education. This degree can be a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) or a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) with a concentration in Midwifery Nursing. Masters in Nursing programs typically last around 18 to 24 months, although BSN to MSN bridging programs can be faster. A DNP degree can take three to four years to complete.
Earn the CNM certification
The next step in becoming a certified nurse midwife is to obtain the formal credential. The American Midwifery Certification Board (AMCB) administers the CNM designation, which includes a certification exam. Candidates must pass the CNM exam within 24 months of completing their graduate program, and AMCB recommends taking the exam as soon as possible after completion.
Many healthcare facilities require practicing midwives to be CNMs.
Become an Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN)
Most states classify midwives as APRNs and require APRNs to apply for a special state license. Many states require prospective midwives to obtain CNM certification before they can qualify for an APRN license. Other common requirements for APRN certification include RN certification and a college-level nursing degree, which is already required for CNM certification.
Other midwifery certifications
Although the CNM certification is the industry standard for midwives, other midwifery certifications – such as the CM and the CPM – exist and apply different requirements.
For example, AMCB also manages the CM designation, which does not require an RN license. CM candidates still need to complete a college degree and pass a certification exam. However, only 10 jurisdictions currently recognize the CM certification.
The CPM certification does not require an academic degree, but does require completion of an accredited midwifery program. Alternatively, the North American Registry of Midwives may provide credentialing through a portfolio review. This status is only available in 35 states and Washington, DC CPMs typically assist with home births and work in specialty birth centers.
Salary and career prospects for midwives
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that CNMs earn a median annual salary of $112,830 — about $67,000 more than the national average for all occupations. The BLS forecasts steady 7% job growth for midwives from 2021 to 2031.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about becoming a midwife
What skills do midwives need?
Midwives need to be patient, caring individuals with observational skills and a keen sense of empathy. Your work can be associated with stressful scenarios that require you to keep calm for yourself and your patients.
Can I become a midwife without being a nurse?
Yes – depending on the type and level of midwife you wish to become. Certified nurse midwives must hold an RN license. Certified midwives do not require a nursing license, but cannot practice in many states. Other midwifery roles may not require an RN license and also have a relatively narrow scope.
How long does it take to become a midwife?
Certified nurse-midwives can expect to spend seven to nine years completing the required training and earning the necessary credentials.