Nursing Career Path: What Is a Nurse-Midwife?

Nursing Career Path: What Is a Nurse-Midwife?

For registered nurses, the options to further our careers are numerous. Some nurses find themselves taking on administrative roles, while others return to school to seek future certification and specialization. 

One potential career path for nurses looking to advance their career by going further with their education is nurse-midwifery. This specialization involves working in women’s reproductive care. A nurse-midwife educates new and current parents on infant care, ensuring mothers and their infants are well while in the hospital while providing hands-on training for skills like breastfeeding. 

A Certified Nurse-Midwife (CNM) has several options of where to look, including choosing to solely participate in in-home births. This career path is for those who enjoy working with parents and helping to ensure their children are delivered safely and properly cared for. If you’re interested in pursuing this nursing career path, here’s what to know. 

What Is a Certified Nurse-Midwife?

CNMs are advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) who are licensed to work in reproductive health care for women, including labor and childbirth. 

They can work in a variety of settings such as private practices or birth centers, but a majority of them work in hospitals, both public and private.

Nurse-midwives maintain patient-centered care and focus on the health and wellness of the women, addressing individual needs that arise. CNMs perform exams, provide prescriptions, educate and counsel parents, and attend the birthing process. 

Additionally, they advocate for the best and most current practices to ensure patients are receiving the most effective care during their stay.

What Does a Nurse-Midwife Do?

The number of responsibilities of a nurse-midwife vary depending on location and the nurse’s experience. If a CNM works in private practice, they will likely take on more responsibilities than someone working in a public hospital. However, the work shares many common responsibilities throughout the profession.

Day-to-day responsibilities include tasks like using scientific evidence in their practice, providing care to vulnerable patients, counseling parents, guiding them to making informed decisions, advocating for the patients’ rights to self-determination, and collaborating with other medical professionals.

One of the roles of a CNM is also an educator. New mothers may not be familiar with the processes of giving birth or what to expect when their baby arrives. 

The CNM provides new mothers with guidance and training in terms of the birthing process, complications that could arise, and after-birth processes such as breastfeeding. CNMs also educate new parents on how to take care of their child once leaving the hospital. 

Alongside education, CNMs run tests on the mother to check her health and perform exams both before and after giving birth. The CNM is present during the birthing process to help the mother stay calm and address any needs that arise. They also provide care to the mother and her baby once the baby is born.

Nurse-Midwife Versus OB-GYNs Versus Doulas

As nurse-midwives are advanced practice nurses, they have a fair amount of autonomy in their practice, much more than a registered nurse who isn’t an APRN. That might make you wonder what the difference is between CNMs, OB-GYNs, and doulas.

Nurse-midwives provide holistic care to the mother and the infant, assisting in education and training before and after birth. 

An OB-GYN typically works with non-traditional births, such as those involving mothers who have concerns in regard to health or safety to themselves or the baby. OB-GYNs are also the ones who perform C-sections, if necessary, to ensure a safer delivery.

On the other hand, doulas are more similar to nurse-midwives than OB-GYNs, but they’re not involved in any of the medical care of the mother or baby. During labor, the doula helps to facilitate a healthy and calm environment by focusing on the emotional needs of the mother and by ensuring there’s communication between the mother and the medical staff.

Education and Skill Requirements for Nurse-Midwives

Obtaining the proper licensure to practice nurse-midwifery can take around 6-10 years, depending on the educational programs you enroll in and the results you obtain from the certification exams. 

In order to become an entry-level nurse-midwife, a registered nurse needs to get a minimum of a master’s degree in certified nurse-midwifery, which includes clinical practice. There are also many nurses who choose to continue their education and pursue a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) or a Ph.D. 

Since 2019, there have been 38 Accreditation Commission for Midwifery Education (ACME) programs in the United States to provide several pathways to earning degrees. These program paths include the following options:

  • A bachelor’s degree (BA/BS) to a Bachelor of Science in Nursing program
  • A Master of Science in Nursing/Master of Public Health (MSN/MPH) program
  • A Doctorate of Nursing Practice degree program.

Which path you take is up to you, your needs, and your previous experiences and degrees. Another aspect to consider before choosing a degree is that there may be more possibilities of obtaining a higher salary with a higher degree.

Like any job, the salary and job growth projection depend on how much experience an individual has and where they’re located. It also depends on the facility they work in, such as a public hospital, private practice, or a birth center. 

The median salary for a nurse-midwife is $93,047, with entry-level nurse-midwives earning around $87,415 and more experienced nurse-midwives earning around $105,237.

How to Become a Nurse-Midwife

The first step to becoming a CNM is to become a registered nurse by graduating with an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in nursing. Then in order to practice as an RN, the requirement is to pass the NCLEX-RN exam. 

Once an RN, you’ll need to focus on gaining as much experience as you can. Typically a year or more is required before applying to higher education. In order to get into a graduate-level program, you’ll need to provide evidence of practice in the field.

The next step is to apply for a master’s or doctorate program that specializes in nurse-midwifery. You’ll become an APRN after graduating from the program and taking the certification exam offered by the American Midwifery Certification Board to become a Certified Nurse-Midwife. 

CNMs take on important roles before, during, and after the birth of a child. They’re advocates for safety, education, and training for new parents and their new babies. 

The work of CNMs can decrease a patient’s hospital stay and make it run more smoothly, which is beginning to make the demand for CNMs increasingly higher. However, before you make the decision of which career path to follow, you should consider the time it’ll take to earn the degrees, certifications, and licensure, as well as the day-to-day responsibilities of a CNM. 

But if you’re passionate about working with mothers and their newborns, this may be the right job for you.

Michelle Paul

Michelle Paul is an RN Content Specialist at Clipboard Health. She has worked with a variety of patient demographics, ranging from young adults in foreign countries, to elderly residents in skilled nursing facilities, to healthy blood donors in her community. Her experience in content creation gives her a unique perspective on communication within the healthcare field.

Leave a Reply