According to the American College of Nurse-Midwives (ACNM), midwifery practice is “the independent management of women’s health care, focusing particularly on pregnancy, childbirth, the postpartum period, care of the newborn and the family planning and gynecological needs of women.”
The ACNM’s Core Competencies for Basic Midwifery Practice include the fundamental knowledge, skills and behaviors expected of a nurse-midwife practitioner. As such, this is an excellent place to start if you’re looking for information on the nurse-midwifery profession and what nurse-midwives do. Some of the professional responsibilities of Certified Nurse-Midwives, as defined by the ACNM, include:
- Applies knowledge, skills and abilities in primary care, the preconception period, the perimenopausal/postmenopausal periods, the antepartum/intrapartum period and the period following pregnancy
- Evaluates the need for immediate intervention and/or consultation, collaborative management, or referral with other health care team members as dictated by the condition of the woman, fetus, or newborn
- In partnership with the woman, develops a comprehensive plan of care that is supported by a valid rationale, based on correct interpretation of the subjective and objective data and includes therapeutics as indicated
The ACNM also defines the competencies for master’s-level midwifery education that includes the outcomes students can expect after completing a graduate nurse-midwifery program. Like the ACNM’s Core Competencies for Basic Midwifery Practice, these learning outcomes are helpful in answering the question, what do nurse-midwives do? Some of the competencies that graduate should be able to demonstrate after completing a master’s degree in nurse-midwifery include:
- Evaluate and utilize research to provide high quality, evidence-based health care, initiate change and improve midwifery practice for women and newborns
- Participate as an effective team member to enhance team function and promote positive change in the health care of women and newborns
- Utilize information systems and other technologies to improve the quality and safety of health care for women and newborns
Complete a graduate nursing program
The first step toward becoming a Certified Nurse-Midwife is to enroll in a graduate degree program. According to the ACNM, a master’s degree is the baseline educational requirement for certification and entry into clinical practice as a CNM. In a statement on degree requirements for entry into midwifery practice, the ACNM writes, “The professional competencies and analytical skills developed and fostered in the course of graduate education contribute to the profession and to the success of the graduates themselves.”
Earn CNM certification and/or state license
After completing an online graduate nurse-midwifery program, the next step toward practicing as a Certified Nurse-Midwife is to obtain CNM certification through the American Midwifery Certification Board (AMCB). The North American Registry of Midwives offers a similar credential, the Certified Professional Midwife (CPM), the AMCB CNM is the only nurse-midwife certification accepted in all 50 states. The AMCB CNM is also considered the “gold standard” in nurse-midwifery education because of its educational standards and experience requirements.
Another reason to get certified, according to the AMCB: “Most states require AMCB certification for licensure, and many institutions require AMCB certification to grant practice privileges.”
The Midwives Alliance of North America (MANA) provides this list of midwifery laws in each US state. Check to see what the licensing requirements are for nurse-midwives where you live or work.
If you’re interested in becoming a Certified Nurse-Midwife, you may also be interested in becoming a Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner (WHNP). While CNMs tend to focus on providing medical care to pregnant women, women of childbearing age and newborns, WHNPs focus on the general and reproductive health of women across the lifespan.
Online Master’s of Nursing programs in either specialty area (nurse-midwifery and women’s health) reflect the differences between these two nursing professions. For example, nurse-midwifery programs might focus more in-depth on neonatal care and the birthing process, while WHNP programs may include more courses on contemporary issues in women’s health.
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