If you are a registered nurse and you are passionate about helping women, then becoming a nurse midwife could be a great next career step for you.
Nurse midwives are registered nurses who have continued their education at the postgraduate level and specialized in midwifery, allowing them to look after women throughout pregnancy and menopause, as well as helping them to monitor their health throughout the rest of their lives.
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What is a nurse midwife?
Certified nurse midwives (CNM’s) take a holistic approach that considers lifestyle factors and physical ones to the care of women from adolescence until menopause. They provide primary care, as well as looking after contraception and general gynecological health.
Nurse midwives carry out a range of duties from caring for women trying to conceive, looking after them throughout their pregnancy and after their birth by providing advice, carrying out exams, ordering tests, and diagnosing problems. They will perform regular examinations for women throughout their lives to ensure their health and wellbeing, and they provide support and medical expertise for women who are going through menopause.
In many ways, the role of a nurse midwife is quite similar to the role of a gynecologist; however, there is a difference in that gynecologists have completed a residency program and are able to perform surgeries, which nurse midwives are not. The midwife will also do more work with lifestyle and education than a gynecologist would.
Nurse midwives will often work as part of a team that comprises gynecologists and other medical professionals so that care is provided from a cross skilled team that compliments each other.
Nurse midwives also differ quite substantially from gynecologists because of the way that they approach their work. Midwifery has a strong focus on education and health counseling, empowering women through education and allowing them to make decisions about their body and their child that are right for them.
Midwives often work in the community to help strengthen bonds between women so that people are left better able to support themselves and have a greater sense of resilience from the sense of community that they have been given.
A lot of the role of midwives is to work closely with the women in their care and advocate for them, help them speak up and ask for what they need, and help them be heard by the wider medical community.
The holistic approach that midwives take puts them in a great position to provide a unique viewpoint in discussions around medical policy, whether in individual organizations or at the state and country level.
How to qualify as a nurse midwife
To become a nurse midwife, you must first be a registered nurse, and you must also hold a BSN (Bachelor of Science in Nursing). You can then undertake nurse midwife training at postgraduate level. If your degree is an ADN, or you have come from an area outside of nursing, you will need to take an educational route that also fulfills the requirements of the BSN qualification.
There are a wide variety of online nurse midwifery programs available, which makes it easier than ever to qualify as a nurse midwife without having to disrupt your career. A huge part of nurse midwife training is a clinical placement where you can gain valuable experience of the role, so it’s important to look for a course that provides the right support for this.
The four types of qualification route to becoming a nurse midwife are:
- Accelerated BSN to MSN program. These programs are designed for people who do not hold a BSN, and it allows you to fulfill the requirements of the BSN at the same time as getting your masters.
- MSN program. If you have your BSN, you can undertake an MSN program which will give you the clinical experience and qualification needed to begin work as a nurse midwife.
- DNP program. This is the highest level of nursing qualification that you can get, and it’s designed for people who want to attain advanced clinical experience in nurse midwifery with detailed scientific backing. DNP level qualifications will equip you for management-level roles and develop leadership skills that you can apply in education, community health, policy reform, and clinical practice.
- Post masters certificate in CNM. If you already have an MSN, you can take your post master’s certificate to allow you to become a nurse midwife.
When you are choosing your qualification, it’s essential that you think about the direction that you want to take your career in so that you can weigh up the time and expense against your expected salary.
The median salary for a nurse midwife is $105,030 per year, but salary expectations vary depending on the organization that you work for and the area of the country that you live in. Some organizations may also take into account your level of qualification when they are assigning salaries, so it’s worth researching this with healthcare organizations in your area when you are choosing your qualification route.
The top 10% of nurse midwives earned $140,944 in 2021, and the lowest 10% earned $95,084.
There is an 11.6% growth in the employment of nurse midwives predicted between 2019 and 2029, which should mean an additional 800 jobs being created.
This increase occurs as more and more women want a drug and intervention-free childbirth experience, and they want more one-on-one time with their healthcare provider throughout pregnancy and birth. Midwives put mothers firmly at the center of their pregnancy and birth experience, quite different from the medicalized approach. In addition, mothers are encouraged to educate themselves about pregnancy and birth and therefore make informed decisions about their own care. This, in turn, can make the pregnancy and birth process much less stressful and lead to more natural births and fewer caesareans.
The number of doctors specializing as obstetricians is also plateauing, and so midwives are being looked to more and more to provide the care that expectant mothers need.