One of the advantages of a career in nursing is that it allows those who wish to choose an area of specialization many different opportunities. One of the most popular is becoming a certified nurse midwife.
Nurses who work in midwifery help women before, during and after pregnancy. They deliver babies and handle medical emergencies or complications that occur during labor.
They also act as a primary caregiver throughout a woman’s pregnancy. They advise expectant mothers on wellness, including information on diet and exercise. They conduct gynecological exams and provide care for newborn children.
It’s a challenging profession that is expected to grow in the coming years.
What Does a Certified Nurse Midwife Do?
Certified nurse midwives focus on providing care for pregnant women, as well as newborn infants. Their wide-ranging work includes monitoring the physical, psychological and social well-being of the expectant mother throughout the pregnancy, birth and after the baby is born.
Nurse midwives provide a variety of care, the details of which can depend on where they work. However, their job duties typically include the following.
- Performing gynecological exams on expectant mothers to ensure they remain healthy throughout the pregnancy
- Offering family planning services and preconception care to women who wish to get pregnant
- Providing support during labor and childbirth
- Educating parents about what to expect when raising a child
- Writing prescriptions
- Providing a detailed education on best practices for good nutrition and exercise
The majority of nurses who work in midwifery are certified nurse practitioners, according to the American College of Nurse Midwives (ACNM). Nurse midwives attended 332,107 births in 2014 alone, the most recent year such statistics are available. Overall, they attended about 12% of all vaginal births in the country.
Nurse midwives can have a tremendous positive impact on expectant mothers. According to ACNM, nurse midwives decrease the need for a cesarean birth, decrease infant mortality rates, decrease the risk of a preterm birth, increase the chances of successfully starting breastfeeding and also decrease the costs to both patients and insurers.
Job Growth & Salary
Certified nurse midwives are in high demand. The number of births in the United States continues to grow, and those who work in midwifery provide an essential service to expectant mothers.
The number of nurse midwives is projected to grow 21% in the period between 2016 and 2026, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
More than half will work in either hospitals or a doctor’s office. They will attend the vast majority of births (about 94%) in hospitals, but nurse midwives also work in birthing centers and in private homes.
Nurse midwives made a mean annual salary of $102,390 in May 2016, as reported by the BLS. However, salary often is dependent on geography and other factors, and candidates should conduct their own research.
The following are the top five states that employ nurse midwives, as well as the 2016 mean salary in each state, according to the BLS.
- California – $132,950
- New York – $101,190
- Georgia – $96,730
- Massachusetts – $112,290
- Maryland – $86,870
However, there are states that do not employ as many nurse midwives but salaries are among the highest in the country. That includes Iowa ($125,650), New Jersey ($112,370) and Oregon ($108,240).
How to Become a Certified Nurse Midwife
Nurses who move into specialties all must attain higher levels of education, clinical training and certification. The following steps are typically required to become a nurse midwife.
Become a Registered Nurse (RN)
All nurse specialists start by first becoming a registered nurse (RN). This often requires earning a four-year degree from an accredited nursing degree program. To become a certified RN, which is required by employers and states, RNs must pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN).
Once working as an RN, those who wish to break into midwifery can seek experiences that allow them to work in this area and determine if it’s a good career path for them. That’s an important step, because getting there will require extensive, further education.
Earn a Master’s Degree
Many schools, such as Jacksonville University, now offer a variety of online degree programs to attain a master’s degree and post-graduate certificates in a number of nursing specialties. Those wishing to become nurse midwives will need to attain a master’s degree in a program accredited by the Accreditation Commission for Midwifery Education.
Education will include classwork specific to pregnancy and the birthing process, as well as physiology, anatomy and pharmacology. Nurses may also receive clinical training at a hospital or physician’s office.
Upon completing the program, nurses must earn accreditation through the American Midwifery Certification Board.