Discover the Path to a Certified Nurse-Midwife Career

What is a certified nurse-midwife?

If you’re considering a career in women’s health, becoming a nurse-midwife can be a rewarding experience.

Nurse-midwives are advocates for women. They provide a unique level of care, including reproductive health and support during pregnancy and childbirth, as well as postnatal care. The full range of services provided by a certified nurse-midwife (CNM), includes primary care; gynecologic and family planning services; preconception care; care during pregnancy, childbirth and the postpartum period; and care of newborns.

Among the areas nurse-midwives focus on in their model of care are health, wellness and prevention, minimal interventions and personalized care.

In addition to providing physical examinations and prescribing medications, nurse-midwives admit, manage and discharge patients, interpret laboratory and diagnostic tests, and issue medical devices.

Being a nurse-midwife means serving your community through health promotion, disease prevention and wellness education. CNMs work in a variety of care settings, including ambulatory care clinics, physician offices, community and public health systems, homes, hospitals and birth centers. Patients are cared for at a range of life stages, from adolescence to menopause and beyond.

Nurse-midwives often provide health counseling, according to the Midwives Alliance of North America. Their work also involves antenatal education, ensuring expectant parents are well-prepared for the challenges of pregnancy, childbirth and parenthood. New parents also have access to breastfeeding support and education through their nurse-midwives.

Healthy job outlook

The good news? Certified nurse-midwives are in demand.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates along with nurse anesthetists and nurse practitioners, employment opportunities for nurse-midwives are projected to grow 26% from 2018 to 2028, much faster than the average for all occupations. U.S. News & World Report ranks nurse-midwife at No. 82 among its 100 best jobs in the U.S. and No. 23 in best healthcare jobs.

With a maternity healthcare provider shortage, according to the American College of Nurse-Midwives’ Midwifery Education Trends Report 2019, nurse-midwives can play a powerful role in addressing the maternity care shortage in the U.S.

“The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists puts the current shortage of OB-GYNs at 6,000 to 9,000 (nationwide), a number that is expecting to balloon to 22,000 by 2050,” the report states. “The maternal healthcare provider shortage is not going to impact just rural areas, but also major cities in the U.S.”

Where are CNMs needed most?

There are an estimated 6,250 CNMs in the U.S., earning an average salary of $106,910.

Where can nurse-midwives earn the most money and find a wide range of opportunities? CNMs earn the most in California, with an average hourly wage of $67.30 and an annual salary of $139,990. Other states listed by the BLS with the highest published employment, location quotient wages include:

  • New York: $52.96 hourly, $110,150 annually
  • Georgia: $52.71 hourly, $109,640 annually
  • Pennsylvania, $46.50 hourly, $96,710 annually
  • Florida: $42.34 hourly, $88,060 annually

Getting started

Pursuing your nurse-midwife career begins with earning a master’s degree in nursing and meeting certain requirements. These can include one year or more of work in a labor and delivery unit as an RN, a current RN license and a satisfactory Graduate Record Examination score.

Nurse-midwifery requires a BSN from an accredited institution, followed by a master’s degree in midwifery.

Certified nurse midwives are certified by the American College of Nurse-Midwives. A variety of programs exist to help you meet this goal, including RN to MSN, a bridge program that is a fast track to an MSN degree for nurses who hold an associate degree in nursing.

Direct-entry programs allow the possibility for students with a bachelor’s degree in a non-nursing field to earn an MSN. And MSN programs for nurses who already hold a BSN offer classes on advanced practice nursing, antenatal and postpartum care and other women’s health topics. Finally, doctoral programs are an option for CNMs wanting to advance their careers and achieve leadership roles. Many programs offer the flexibility of online courses.

Tuition reimbursement and signing bonuses are becoming a common perk that hospitals and health systems offer as part of recruitment efforts, so look for jobs that will support you advancing your degree.

How much does it cost?

Average cost of nurse-midwife programs is about $500 per credit, with between 30 and 80 credits needed to become a CNM. A cost example for one university is $34,240 for an MSN, $43,335 for an MSN and DNP and $9,095 for a companion DNP. Depending on your needs, bridge programs can sometimes be a more affordable and faster way to becoming a nurse-midwife.

A variety of scholarships are available for nurse-midwife programs, including several from the ACNM. Scholarships also are available from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and other agencies.

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