What Degree Does a Nurse Midwife Need?

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If you’re interested in helping mothers bring their children into the world, you might want to become a nurse midwife. The path to this highly rewarding job begins with the credentials and experience of a registered nurse (RN). Also, you’ll have to attain an advanced degree and an additional certification. Then you can prepare for the exciting responsibilities of work as a nurse midwife.

An Advanced Degree in Nursing

As an RN, you will already have completed a rigorous undergraduate nursing education and gained a professional nursing license. An aspiring nurse midwife needs maintain a minimum overall GPA of 3.0 but may need an even higher GPA in their undergrad natural science courses. The time and energy it will take to earn an advanced degree will depend on what education you have already achieved. There are more programs for nurses who already have a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree than those for students with an associate’s degree in nursing (ADN) or a diploma, according to U.S. News & World Report.

For many students, the path to an advanced practice registered nurse (APRN) role is the Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Some students choose a different path and instead enroll in a doctoral program, such as a Ph.D. in Nursing or Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree program. This could be a result of the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) proposing that APRNs be required to attain a doctorate degree rather than a master’s degree. The MSN degree still remains popular today, but that degree may be phased out in favor of doctoral nursing programs because of the AACN’s position.

A full-time master’s degree program in nursing typically consists of 18 to 24 months of study, which results in many students taking longer to fit their studies around their current work schedules, according to the AACN. Some of the graduate-level courses you will take involve advanced anatomy, physiology and pharmacology as well as coursework in family planning and prevention of family and social violence. If you choose to pursue a DNP to stay ahead of the curve, you will still be taking classes focusing on midwifery and women’s health. These courses will help you prepare for aiding women through childbearing and instruct you on what to do if something goes wrong. You will learn how to do home births and also have to complete your clinicals, many of which offer experience both inside and outside of the hospital. The American College of Nurse-Midwives recommends that you check with your program to ensure that the option to complete home birth clinicals is available, if that is something that interests you.

Even men can pursue this career path and make up about 2 percent of current certified nurse-midwifes, according to the American College of Nurse-Midwives.

An American Midwifery Certification Board Certification

Once you have completed your graduate or doctoral education in nurse midwifery, your next step to career advancement is to earn an American Midwifery Certification Board (AMCB) certification. There are two options available to students, the Certified Nurse-Midwife (CNM) or the Certified Midwife (CM) credential.

While both certifications require a master’s degree, only the CNM certification requires you to have an active RN license. However, the CNM does open more doors because obtaining this certification makes you licensed in all 50 states as well as the District of Columbia and all US territories. The CM certification is only licensed in five states; Delaware, Maine, New Jersey, New York and Rhode Island, though Delaware also requires a permit to practice. CMs are also authorized to practice in Missouri.

Only CNMs are licensed in all 50 states, DC, and all 16 US territories.

The Work of a Nurse Midwife

The duties of a nurse midwife in terms of childbirth go beyond just helping with labor. Nurse midwifes provide many services to women, including gynecological exams and prenatal care. They may also be called upon if there is an emergency situation during labor, which could involve providing assistance to a surgeon during a Cesarean section and even repairing lacerations themselves. This responsibility may seem daunting, but it’s all part of being a nurse midwife.

Nurse midwives provide other services that involve the regular life of their patients. They may provide regular wellness care and promote healthy lifestyle choices. A nurse midwife might be the primary care provider for newborns and women. Their duties could go beyond caring for women and children because they might be called upon to help their patient’s partner with sexual or reproductive medical issues.

The big responsibility of a nurse midwife comes with a big salary — $100,590, according to the BLS.