If you want to earn a master’s degree in nurse-midwifery, one of the highest-paying master’s degrees, you need to cultivate the right educational foundation as an undergraduate student. Midwives, and particularly nurse midwives, are healthcare professionals who need a strong foundation in a variety of academic disciplines. Studies in nursing are crucial for aspiring nurse midwives, and studies in science, women’s studies and sociology and psychology are important for credentialed midwives of all kinds.
If you want to be a Certified Nurse-Midwife (CNM), you definitely need a nursing background. Most applicants to a graduate program in nurse-midwifery have a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree. Registered nurses who qualified for their RN credential through an associate’s degree or a diploma can look for “bridge” programs that build on their existing knowledge of nursing and allow them to skip over the BSN and go straight to graduate school. The minimum degree you need to become a nurse-midwife is a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN), according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics.
In an undergraduate program in nursing, you will study the foundations of professional nursing and the nursing model in practice. Students in a BSN program learn about nursing management and care of different types of patients, including adults, children, people with psychiatric mental health issues or chronic health conditions and – most relevant to aspiring midwives – mothers and newborns. Clinical experiences make up a big chunk of a nursing student’s education, because you need more than textbook knowledge to be a good nurse.
Not all formally educated midwives are nurses. If you don’t have a nursing background, you can still become a Certified Midwife (CM), but your scope of practice might be somewhat smaller. For example, you may not be authorized to prescribe medication, according to NPR.
The field of nursing emphasizes holistic patient care, but it’s still built solidly upon a foundation of science. If you want to be a midwife, and especially a nurse midwife, studies in science are essential. The American College of Nurse-Midwives strongly encourages aspiring midwives to take college classes in chemistry, biology, microbiology and anatomy and physiology during their studies. These laboratory science courses provide a base of knowledge for understanding how medications affect the body and interact with each other, how the different systems in the body work, how diseases progress and how the human body functions.
Math courses, such as algebra and statistics, are also crucial, according to the American College of Nurse-Midwives.
Midwives are all about women’s health issues, so it makes sense that a background that includes formal study in the various issues that affect women would be beneficial. Minoring in women’s studies, or at least taking a couple of courses in the interdisciplinary subject, can give you new insights into these issues. Coursework in women’s studies can include anything from family life and human sexuality to women in politics, history, business management and literature. Many classes categorized as women’s studies fit into the disciplines of sociology and anthropology and may include courses that focus on gender roles in society and on the sociology of marriage and family.
A minor in women’s studies often includes just one or two required courses, which can sometimes be chosen from a list of acceptable options, and four or more elective courses. By choosing electives that interest you and relate to your career plans, you can tailor your minor course of study to your needs. s
Sociology and Psychology
Holistic, whole-patient care is a hallmark of midwifery. Midwives are known for providing more emotional support to pregnant and laboring mothers than physicians are known to offer. Although midwives don’t work in the field of mental health specifically, having some knowledge of the social pressures mothers face and the psychological processes and challenges at play is valuable.
Students of sociology learn about the formation and function of social groups, the dynamics of social relationships, and social trends and issues. A midwife who studies sociology may be more informed about health care disparities among different racial, ethnic and socioeconomic groups and be able to minimize disparities and improve access to care in her own practice. Studying psychology, or the science of the mind, thought and behavior, can help midwives better assess mothers’ mental state and whether to refer patients to a counselor, a psychologist or a psychiatrist with the specialized knowledge to treat mental health issues.
While as many as 50 to 75 percent of new mothers experience some level of “baby blues” after birth, as many as 15 percent of mothers develop postpartum depression (PPD), according to Cleveland Clinic. Postpartum depression can be debilitating and affect bonding between mother and baby.